On January 5, 2017, nine Democratic senators filed a bill blocking the executive branch from registering people based on religion, race, gender, age, national origin or nationality.
“Contrary to the President-elect’s beliefs, America’s diversity is not a threat — it is, in fact, our greatest strength,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) was quoted by The Hill as saying. He added that “if our incoming President ever attempts to create a discriminatory database of Americans, let this be our warning shot: we will fight him every step of the way and in every way we can.”
The partial text of the bill says:
This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Protect American Families from Unnecessary Registration and Deportation Act of 2017’’ or the ‘‘Protect American Families Act.’’
(1) the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, or any other Federal department may not create or implement a law enforcement or national security program that requires, or has the effect of causing, people to register or check in on the basis of religion, race, age, gender, ethnicity, national origin, nationality, or citizenship; and (2) consistent with the prohibition under paragraph (1), no Federal funds may be used to create 16 or implement an immigration registry or check-in program.
Jordain Carney of the Hill recalled that Trump floated a database to track Muslims in the U.S.during the campaign, telling NBC in November 2015, “I would certainly implement that.” Asked last month if he was rethinking his proposals to require Muslims to register or to ban them from entering the U.S., Trump told reporters, “You know my plans all along, and I’ve been proven to be right.”
In December 2016, President Obama permanently dismantled the regulatory framework behind the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System (NSEERS). NSEERS was introduced following the 9/11 terror attacks, but was suspended in 2011 after heavy criticism by civil rights organizations. NSEERS required certain non-citizen males over the age of 14 from 25 countries to be registered and fingerprinted. With the sole exception of North Korea, every one of the 25 countries on the NSEERS bulletin was Muslim or Arab.
Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) told the Hill Thursday that the legislation from Democrats would stop Trump or other administrations “from infringing on religious liberty by creating an immigration-related religious registry.”
Introduced by Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ), the Protect American Families Act is cosponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
The Hill pointed out that the Democrats could face an uphill battle to clear the legislation through the Senate. They’ll need 60 votes to pass the legislation, including at least 12 Republicans.
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, Friday urged all Americans “who value religious freedom and oppose all forms of discrimination to contact their state’s senators and ask that they support the Protect American Families Act, which would prohibit creation of immigration related registry programs that classify people based on religion, race, age, gender, ethnicity, national origin, or nationality.”
The CAIR also urged voters to thank the senators who are co-sponsoring the legislation.
The Protect American Families Act is a preventative measure against president-Elect Donald Trump’s pledge to establish a registry of Muslim travelers to America based on their religion and national origin.
“Religious freedom and freedom from discrimination are fundamental rights central to the very idea of being an American,” Sen. Booker said. “Forcing people to sign up for a registry based on their religion, race, or national origin does nothing to keep America secure. It does, however, undermine the freedom of religion guaranteed by our Constitution and promote the false notion that people of certain faiths and nationalities are inherently suspect. Our legislation would block Donald Trump and subsequent administrations from infringing on religious liberty by creating an immigration-related religious registry. Throughout our history, the United States has been a beacon of hope for those seeking religious freedom, and has taken significant steps forward to advance civil and human rights. We must ensure this legacy lasts forever into the future.”
In a letter to Senator Cory Book, Samer Khalaf, the president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) welcomed the introduction of the bill and said the “ADC takes this opportunity to request your support of the “Protect American Families Act” and stand against government sanctioned discrimination. The Protect American Families Act will prohibit the institution of a federally-funded registry that is facially discriminatory and targets individuals based on race, national origin, religion, and/or ethnicity.”
The Protect American Families Act will signal that state-sanction violations of our civil rights and civil liberties will not be legitimized. The Protect American Families Act will help protect the constitutional and inalienable rights of all, Samer Khalaf said adding:
“Draconian and invasive policies that single out individuals based on national origin, religion, ethnicity or other identifying factors do not make us safer. Rather, these policies dilute and divert valuable government resources while alienating entire American communities.
“During this past election cycle, elected officials have floated policy ideas of instituting a registry targeting immigrants from Arab or Muslim countries. As shown throughout American history, mechanisms can be manipulated to discriminate against immigrant and ethnic communities, and to judge people by how they look, where they came from, or how they pray. We look to the dark episodes in our nation’s past with dismay and regret, and we said never again. You must say never again by supporting the Protect American Families Act.”