Supreme Court decision troubles area immigration advocates

  • The sun flares in the camera lens as it rises behind the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, Sunday, June 25, 2017. The court is expected to decide within days if the Trump administration can enforce its travel ban. (AP Photo/J. David Ake) J. David Ake

Published: 6/26/2017 11:19:30 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Area immigration experts say the Supreme Court’s decision Monday to reinstate parts of President Trump’s ban on immigrants from six majority-Muslim countries will have consequences on the local level.

Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, executive director of Catholic Charities Agency, a refugee resettlement program in Springfield, said the news was unexpected. Many immigrants from the six countries were “in the pipeline” she said to be resettled in the Pioneer Valley but now their journey is on hold indefinitely.

The court won’t hear full arguments until October, but until then, Trump’s ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen can be enforced if those visitors lack a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

The administration has called for the 90-day ban to allow for a full review of screening procedures for immigrants from the six countries.

A 120-day ban on refugees also is being allowed to take effect on a similar, limited basis.

Buckley-Brawner said that all of the immigrant families the agency works with come from refugee camps where they have been displaced from their country of origin for years.

“If you understood their stories, you would understand why this is so upsetting to us,” she said.

Catholic Charities has resettled several immigrant families in the Pioneer Valley this year under the shadow of the travel ban, though none of them came from the six targeted countries.

She said that listening to the experiences of those who are affected by the ban is important, “so we don’t talk from fear but speak from a place of understanding.”

In the meantime, she said, the agency will continue to serve as many immigrants as possible. “We will always be here to help those who come,” she said.

Immigration lawyer, Joseph Curran, said he sees the reversal of the appellate court decisions, which blocked the ban in its entirety, as an indicator that the Supreme Court might side in favor of the travel ban.

He sees the ban as part of a larger effort by the Trump administration to put barriers in front of immigration. Curran said the Trump administration has fostered a new attitude toward immigration — “a culture of ‘no.’”

“You don’t see those rules written anywhere but you definitely see this change in attitude,” he said.

Ali Kasemkhani, an Iranian immigrant and Northampton dentist and filmmaker said he was against the ban, as it puts more limits on an already strict immigration system.

He noted that immigrants are an essential part of America.

“People bring culture, food, dance, art with them” he said. “They can add more to the salad bowl, not less.”

He did say that the immigration system could be reformed and that there should be screenings for each person who applies for a visa. “It’s got to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Kasemkhani sees the ban as a ploy to increase racial tensions and further divide the country.

“We have racism going on here, let’s not fool ourselves,” he said. “If you want to make America great again, let’s all unite together and move forward”

Mostly, he said he worries that the ban will create more animosity toward immigrants from the six countries.

“You’re calling 70 million people terrorists,” he said. “For Iranians to get visas to come to the United States it’s like going through the gateways of hell because we are associated with terrorism.”

Gov. Charlie Baker and state Attorney General Maura Healey have both released statements against the ban. Healey, who wrote an amicus brief for the case, said, “I look forward to continuing this important fight in the Supreme Court.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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