Honorable William J. Haddad’s remarks to the Press on February 6, 2017 at the Chicago Bar Association on behalf of Chicago Muslim and Arab American Organizations United to Address the Negative Effects of President Trump’s Executive Order Banning Travel to the U.S.
My name is William Haddad. I’m a retired Circuit Court Judge in Cook County/Chicago, Illinois. I am proud to be here both as the founding president of the Arab American Bar Association and as the Chairman of the American Middle East Voters Alliance— the two groups who organized this conference.
Arab and Muslim Americans have grave concerns over President Trump’s Executive Order of January 27, 2017. This order bans immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim nations, with a conspicuous exception for “religious minorities”. Many see this exception as “code” to exempt Christians, and give them special consideration.
Last December, Trump proclaimed that he was “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims coming to the United States.”. Columbia law expert Jamil Greene says that “Trump’s public statements prior to and after issuing the order indicate its discriminatory intention”. Many fear that this “partial ban” is a prelude to ordering a wholesale ban on Muslims.
No one disputes the President’s authority to control immigration where there is a rational basis. However, not even the President has the authority to control immigration solely on the bases of religion and ethnicity, utterly without due process of law. Attorneys and legal scholars throughout the United States and here in Chicago have challenged this Presidential Order. One of them is the Governor of the State of Washington, Jan Inslee, who declared last Friday that: “No one is above the law — not even the President”.
Let me outline the four controversial issues relating to this Executive Order.
1) Is there a rational basis for the ban?
Many see a travel ban against Muslim refugees and immigrants as a solution for a problem that clearly does not exist. The CATO Institute tells us that “The annual chance of being killed in a terrorist attack committed by refugees is one in 3.6 billion…[and] your chance of dying in a terrorist attack committed by an illegal immigrant is one in 10.9 billion a year.”
2) How has campaign rhetoric “stirred the pot”?
Many see such a ban as a political ploy to fulfill negative campaign rhetoric from 2016, which demonized Muslims. Robert Reich, former secretary of law, wrote in the New York Times that campaign hate rhetoric has created “a climate of hate and fear…fomenting animus toward Muslims”, and that it is a significant cause of recent hate violence against Arab and Muslim Americans.
For example, in Tulsa a Catholic immigrant from Lebanon was murdered after he was called a “filthy Arab”. Three Muslim dental students, two of whom were wearing hijabs, were murdered execution style in North Carolina. In Quebec, six Muslims were murdered while praying in their Mosque. In Menomonie, Wisconsin a Saudi student was beaten to death. Most of the hate violence focuses on places of worship or on women and girls wearing hijabs. Weapons of choice include anything from guns, baseball bats, trucks and cars, machetes, and firebombs, to rocks, eggs, feces, and animal parts.
Hate crimes against Muslims are currently 5 times greater than before 9/11, and they are on the rise. The FBI says there was a 67% increase of hate crimes against Muslims in 2016. This can hardly be a coincidence considering all of the negative campaign rhetoric against Muslims in 2016, rhetoric that continues into this new year. Therefore, many feel that the President’s travel ban, which has ignited protests and chaos throughout the county, comes in the midst of a plethora of hate violence fueled by negative rhetoric demeaning Arab and Muslim Americans.
3) Does the ban violate the Constitution and the Rule of Law?
Legal scholars throughout the country have voiced concerns that President Trump’s ban is a blatant violation of the First Amendment, which guarantees that government shall not favor or disfavor any religion. Religious freedom is not just for some of us at a prayer breakfast, but for all of us, any time and everywhere.
There is concern that the President’s travel ban violates constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment. The first immigrant-refugees who came to America were the Pilgrims in 1620. They fled religious persecution, and the first thing they wrote was the Mayflower Compact. It guaranteed “just and equal laws” for the “civil body politic”.
Immigration Act of 1965:
There is concern that the President’s travel ban violates the Immigration Act of 1965 and our treaties. This Act prohibits discrimination based upon nationality. Additionally, our international treaty obligations, namely the Geneva Convention, requires all signatories to accept refugees.
4) The Contributions by Arab and Muslim Immigrants to United States
There are over 3 million Muslims in the United States. In the Chicago area, we have about 250,000 Arab and Muslim Americans with 16 churches for our Christians, and over 50 mosques for our Muslim sects.
We are proud of our contributions to this country. Consider for a moment if famed Houston heart surgeon Dr. Michael Debakey’s ancestors were “banned” from immigrating here. Thousands of lives would have been lost without his artificial heart.
Also, we have the famed NASA scientist Farouk El Baz, who trained NASA astronauts for the moon landings. What about groundbreaking advances in physics and chemistry provided by Nobel prize winning American scientists, Ahmed Zewal and Elias Corey?
There would be no “Mothers Against Drunk Driving” without Candy Lightner, the grandchild of a Lebanese immigrant. And how many lives on the road would have been lost without the advocacy of Ralph Nader?
Arab and Muslims immigrants and their children have served and fought for this country in every war of the last century. Four star Army general George Joulwan was our NATO commander. James Jabara was the first “jet ace” in Korea. His aviation skills saved countless American troops in Korea. Let’s not forget Medal of Honor winner Michael Monsour, who gave his life to save fellow Navy Seals in Iraq. Also, we have Captain Humayan Khan, who lost his life when he charged a suicide car-bomber in Iraq, saving the lives of hundreds of soldiers targeted in a nearby mess hall.
The President recently commemorated in the media the 31-year anniversary of the contribution of the crew on the Space Shuttle Challenger. Let us be reminded that one of those crewmembers, known as the “first teacher in space” was Christa McAuliffe, the daughter of an immigrant from Syria.
Finally, there is a man named “Amos Yakhoob Kairouz” whose stage name was Danny Thomas. He is the founder of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, which to this day has a Board dominated by Arab Americans. St. Jude’s has reversed the mortality from childhood leukemia from 95% to 5%, saving thousands of children. If Danny Thomas’ parents were banned as immigrants, there would be no St. Jude’s, and so many children would have needlessly died in the dawn of life.
In conclusion make the following calls upon our government and our communities:
- A Call to Law Enforcement
We ask that law enforcement here and around the country, to please continue to work hard to enforce the Rule of Law, to protect the lives and property of Arab and Muslim Americans at this turbulent time. We congratulate Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart for recently establishing a “Hate Crime Hotline”.
- A Call to Lawyers and Judge
To my colleagues in the legal profession and in the judiciary, we ask that you stand by your oath of office—to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution in these chaotic times. The American Bar Association recently unanimously adopted Ethics Rule 8.4g which essentially prohibits attorneys from knowingly harassing minorities. Let us do more than that. Let us protect courageous judges who stand up for the Rule of Law, even where they are marginalized as only a “so-called judge”, or accused of being unqualified or incapable of hearing a case because of their ethnicity (like when the President accused a judge of being biased because of his Mexican-American ethnicity). Our entire profession must stand with the judiciary in these times.
Regardless of our “politics”, the legal profession can all take pride in the examples set by volunteer attorneys from these very bar associations, and by the immigrants standing here today. We can take pride in attorneys like Washington State’s Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, who won a temporary injunction last Friday that put a nationwide halt of enforcement of the Muslim travel ban. AG Ferguson said of Judge Robart’s ruling “[t]he Constitution Has Prevailed”. Another prominent attorney in Washington State is its Governor, Jan Inslee, who just last Friday declared unequivocally that:
“No one is above the law — not even the President”
- A Call to Arab and Muslim Americans
- To our Arab and Muslims citizens, know this—lawyers and judges will stand by your Constitutional rights and the Rule of Law. Please know that no President, no Congress, can usurp the authority of the United States Supreme Court, not since 1803 when Chief Justice John Marshall declared its power, and not since 1937 when the President tried to “pack the court”. Do not fear or lose faith in the judicial process. The courts will ultimately protect you.
- Finally, I encourage Arab American and Muslims to exercise their Constitutional right to redress your grievances through peaceful assembly and political action. I encourage all of you to “step up, step out, and stand up” for your rights as American citizens. In fact, this conference would not have been possible without the hard work of our political action committee—The American Middle East Voters Alliance of Illinois. It is the first Arab-American political action committee in the history of Illinois.
We must continue to participate in our government, as is our right, and we cannot be discouraged by setbacks. This is the time to act; the time to stand up for one another.
Judge William J. Haddad (Ret.)
Chairman of American Middle East Voters Alliance
An Illinois Political Action Committee