In reaction to the Supreme Court upholding the Muslim travel ban Catholic Charities of Buffalo hosted a press conference to speak out against U.S. immigration policy. Members of local refugee, Muslim and Arab organizations spoke on June 28, calling the ban anti-American.
On June 26, the Supreme Court passed a 5-4 decision to uphold an executive order limiting refugees from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States. Chief Justice John Roberts has stated that the justification for the ban were a proper exercise of the president's foreign policy authority.
In welcoming the speakers and media, Dennis Walczyk, CEO of Catholic Charities of Buffalo, said, "We are well known in Buffalo and Erie Country as a very welcoming community. On behalf of everybody here, in our respective roles and organizations, we try to live that way."
The upholding of the ban made Walczyk and the others feel they needed to speak out. Catholic Charities is committed to protecting, strengthening and empowering individuals in need. "(The ban) goes so much against the grain of what we're about and what were trying to do; not only as a community, as organizations, but as a country," he said.
Walczyk stated clearly, "Restricting access to the United States for those seeking a better life for themselves and their children is wrong regardless of the means to realize it. Whether through and executive order upheld by the Supreme Court that restricts travel from mostly Muslim countries or a policy that separates families and detains them indefinitely at the border; wrong is wrong. Anything other than a condemnation of these policies is an affront to our common human decency and our Catholic faith."
The ruling has devastating effects for the community in Western New York. The Yemeni community, in particular, had hopes of being reunited with family in their homeland that have been suffering from war, starvation, political corruption and displacement.
Mohammed Abdullah, from Yemen who now lives in Buffalo, told how he is caught between a rock and a hard place as he must work in Buffalo to make money to support his family in Yemen, yet working prevents him from spending time with his family.
Dr. Khalid J. Qazi, founding president and senior advisor of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York compared the decision to other historical Supreme Court decisions that "sanctified official racism and prejudice." Dred Scott v. Sandford of 1857 declared slaves to not be citizens of the United States and could not sue in federal courts. The 1944 Korematsu v. the United States case upheld the decision to relocate Japanese aliens and Japanese-Americans into detention camps.
"As you have heard in actual live testimony, this has created havoc in many families. Not only havoc, but angst, anger and rage in Muslim families inside our boarders and outside our boarders," Qazi said.
Speaking in favor of the Muslim community, Eva Hassett, executive director for the International Institute of Buffalo, said, "This Court decision does not make us safer. Muslims are our friends, our families, our neighbors and co-workers. They are part of our communities and contribute to our lives. America and its constitution stand for religious freedom for all. Everyone is afforded freedom of religion. Everyone means everyone. No exceptions."
Catholic Charities of Buffalo is a member of the Western New York Refugee and Asylee Consortium. Other groups present at the press conference include Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services of WNY, Muslim Public Affairs council-Western New York, and the New York Immigration Coalition.