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NASW STATEMENT: President Trump’s immigration executive order is inhumane, de facto ban on Muslim immigrants

A woman protests President Trump's immigration executive order outside San Francisco International Airport. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

A woman protests President Trump’s immigration executive order outside San Francisco International Airport. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) opposes President Donald Trump’s executive order Protection of the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States over concerns the order acts as a de facto ban on Muslim immigrants and was enacted in an inhumane and insensitive manner.

Trump’s executive order, which was announced on Jan. 27, requires the government to review the feasibility of suspending the Visa Interview Waiver Program. This program allows travelers from 38 countries to renew travel authorizations without an in-person interview.

Trump’s new executive order suspends entry of all refugees into the United States for 120 days. More controversial, the executive order indefinitely ends admission of refugees from Syria.

It also bars individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — for 90 days.

To put these changes in perspective, the executive order reduces the number of refugees to be admitted into the United States in 2017 to 50,000, less than half of the previous level of 110,000 authorized by the Obama Administration .

On its face, the Trump executive order on refugees could be construed as an anti-terrorism policy that many Americans would find acceptable. However, for several important reasons, this action has become controversial and to many a counter-productive departure from the county’s previous refugee policies.

NASW’s opposition to the Protection of the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States Executive Order is largely rooted in the imperative to preserve the long-standing American value of protecting human rights of the many vulnerable populations in the world.

It also conflicts with this nation’s value of being a haven for those fleeing oppression and violence regardless of country of origin or religious beliefs. There are several parts of the announcement and implementation of the executive order that NASW finds objectionable.

Of greatest concern is the fear the executive order is a de facto “Muslim ban” and fulfillment of a Trump campaign promise to implement “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

The fact that the seven countries targeted in the Trump refugee executive order are predominately Muslim reinforces the perception that this was more about keeping a campaign promise to “ban Muslims” than an act to prevent terrorism.  Indeed, reliable data indicate that since the inception of a national refugee program, not a single American was killed in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee.

A second area of deep concern for NASW is the wholly unacceptable, insensitive, and inhumane way this policy was implemented, resulting in confusion, inconsistency and rampant chaos at airports across the country and the world.

The hastily implemented policy forced immigration officials to deny entry of men, women, and children traveling to the United States from the targeted countries, creating unnecessary and undue hardships for travelers from these countries, with even individuals with valid “green cards” prevented from entry.

NASW applauds the thousands of protestors who inundated major airports nationwide to show support for and solidarity with the refugees who were at risk for denied entry. We also applaud the many volunteer attorneys who worked to put a temporary halt to implementing the executive order.

There is a certain irony to the fact that the country is currently honoring the late Fred Korematsu, a Japanese American who was a hero in fighting against the internment of native born and immigrant Japanese by the U.S. government during World War II.

Korematsu did not end his fight for immigrant and refugee rights after the internment camps were closed. During the remainder of his life, he was an outspoken champion for the rights of Muslims and other foreign-born Americans.

As stated by his daughter Karen, “Fear is ignorance. We continue to be a land of immigrants. That’s what America means to the world. If we don’t set the right example, we can’t expect the world to follow suit – especially when we are talking about civil and human rights. As my father said, and I say, this isn’t just a Japanese American story. This is an American story.”

NASW’s opposition to the Protection of the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States Executive Order is largely rooted in the imperative to preserve the long-standing American value of protecting human rights of the many vulnerable populations in the world.

Our national priority should be to find ways, within reasonable national security policies, to welcome refugees — not  deny them sanctuary.  We should also be reminded that many of the refugees from Muslim countries became displaced because of wars in which the United States has participated.

For more information contact NASW Social Justice and Human Rights Manager Mel Wilson at mwilson.nasw@socialworkers.org.

36 comments

  1. Thank you, NASW, for speaking out on this issue. I am proud to be a Social Worker and a member of NASW.

  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/us/politics/refugee-muslim-executive-order-trump.html

    Full text of the order is via the web link above. There are action items for improving the processes for accepting/vetting refugees in the content, including requirements for updated computer software/equipment and transparency of information to the public.

    http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/30/key-facts-about-refugees-to-the-u-s/

    Article from the Pew Research Center containing data regarding numbers of refugees admitted to U.S. since 1980.

    The countries listed were recommended by the Obama administration and have been cited as the national origins of terrorists who have attacked Paris and Belgium, and inflicted crimes on many people in several countries, including the U.S. These crimes include rape and murder.

    • Beth,
      It is a relief to know that there is someone other than myself that looks at the FACTS and has a mind of their own. As much as I appreciate and love what the NASW has done and does for our profession I do not agree carte blanche. Kudos to you for standing up for the truth and your beliefs, even though it is contrary to what the organization believes.

    • Beth, thank you for that courageous post. The governing body who issue the NASW has forgotten that the primary national priority is the security of the American citizens. President Trump’s ban was temporary until our national security system was strengthened. Furthermore, did NASW seek a vote among its members regarding this position before issuing a political statement on behalf of its members? A membership vote , which a democratic organization in a representative government ,would view as imperative to preservation of American values. Lastly, I am deeply concerned regarding the the position implying this temporary ban was hastily proposed and implemented when additional research would shown that national security issues were identified and developed during the campaign trail. Secondly, the applauding of ” protestors” (aka rioters) destroying property, beating innocent people, causing innocents to be stranded, terrifying people, and harm because they disagree with another viewpoint is stating that NASW no longer is an organization supporting law and order.

  3. I am shocked at such an executive order by a president. America is a land of immigrants and the freedom to pursue ones dreams here free of religious or political persecution is what made this country great. A president who focuses wrath and targets the weakest in society be they religious or political minorities is legitimizing injustice, supremacy and racism. It is very much what Hitler did in Europe, blamed one part of society for all the problems.

    • Patricia,

      In 1979, President Carter issued a similar order banning travel from Iran until the hostages were freed. In 2011, President Obama issued the same type of order banning travel from Iraq based upon concrete terrorist threats.

      If you read the text of the order from the link in my previous post, you will see this is a temporary travel ban that requires U.S. officials to QUICKLY develop ways to vet and safely process people from the identified countries to enter the U.S. It calls for updated computer screening software, upgraded terrorist detection processes and absolute transparency of data regarding persons entering the U.S.

      If the government can’t safely investigate the hundreds of suspected potential terrorists on the “watch” list, how can we currently screen more incoming immigrants? Also, what’ wrong with our government trying to help the refugees stay in their own countries, by addressing the problems leading to them becoming refugees? Why bring them to the other side of the planet where they don’t know the language and will rely upon taxpayer-funded resources until they assimilate to our culture?

      What do you mean by Hitler blaming one part of society for all of the problems? How did you come to the conclusion to compare this Executive Order with Hitler’s regime? Have you considered this Executive Order may actually be designed to get action to help these immigrants while keeping us safe?

    • Patricia Lind, as I read your response it seems to me that you are making a generalized statement without having a complete understanding of all the issues at hand. Perhaps in part due to the NASW’s ongoing efforts to push in my opinion their skewed agenda of liberal propaganda. As professional’s we all have a responsibility to become informed with regard to ALL of the facts and issues surrounding a policy, executive order, or other any other agenda set forth by the President and his administration, before turning to self-righteous indignation. It is irresponsible to select pieces and parts of statements or legislation to support a self-fulfilling platform, as the NASW has elected to do in recent months.

      “Immigration Reform.” This is the issue! The President signed an executive order to place a ‘temporary’ ban on immigrants for a 90 day period while the administration devises a better and more effective ‘vetting process’ to reduce the risk of “RADICAL Islamic Terrorists – ISIS” who have infiltrated our country in the recent past and have made no secret of their plan to continue efforts to do so. As others have already noted, this is based on a recent study by the “Obama Administration” in which they identified the countries that were ‘known to be’ harboring, aiding and abetting terrorists. The President’s number one duty is to protect the citizens of THIS country. The information that was established by the Obama administration and current (intel) that we clearly are not privy to for national security reasons. AND… Trump’s response should be no surprise when considering that this is why the American people elected him!!! Of course, this is where the liberal agenda goes on their rants about the fact that our President lost the ‘popular vote’ by 2 million (whatever the number). This is irrelevant because we use an electoral college system that has been effective and in place for over 200 years. It is designed to assure that each state has an equal say in an election. Essentially, take California out of the mix (Trump never campaigned there in the general election and Clinton won by over 4 million votes) and the popular vote would be a non-issue in this past election. If this were to be changed, and instead base elections solely on a ‘popular vote’ there would literally be only a few very populous states that would control the outcome of every election. Not exactly equitable, right?

      I would also add that NO non citizen has the “RIGHT” to come to this country. It is a privledge. No more than you would have the right to live in or even visit any other country as you please. Every country has the right and duty to protect its borders. Whether we agree with the President or not, it is his responsibility to assure the safety of this country. Also, keep in mind that we have always had LAWS in place to punish those who illegally enter our country. Should we not be bound by laws? Should we pick and choose who obeys them and who doesn’t? If so, who decides? Or, should we just do away with laws all together and welcome anyone and everyone who wants to cross our borders?

      It is disheartening to see how many people are attempting to minimize the problem of terrorism this country has faced, or the crimes against US citizens committed by illegal immigrants. I wonder how the families of the 911 victims would respond to such statements. These people lost their parents or spouses due to the hatred of radical Islamic terrorists who infiltrated our country to carry out horrendous attacks, against US citizens who were simply going about there day, going to work to support their families. What of those flying on the hijacked planes with their children – on their way to visit family and instead watched as their planes flew into buildings killing them and others? I wonder how those children felt whose parents went out to a company Christmas party in San Bernadino, but never returned because radical Islamic terrorists infiltrated this country, posed as their ‘friends/co-workers’ in order to shoot them to their death at a party. I wonder how the mother of Kate Stinely would respond to such statements when her beautiful daughter was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant that had been deported five times but managed to keep coming back because he knew he could hide in the so-called “Sanctuary City.” Are we really more concerned about protecting the “rights” non citizen’s than we are about protecting the lives of our own people?

      What have we as a society evolved into when we refuse to demonstrate any empathy or respect for our own people? I pray I never have to experience the pain of loss and horror that these people have experienced, and I certainly would not wish it on anyone, but I guarantee there would be a lot less people minimizing these problems if they lost their child, parent, spouse, or loved one. I am bewildered by the fact that so many social workers refuse to open their minds to all sides before going on these tirades against our current President. As social workers we seem to be unwilling to open our minds to see all perspectives, yet we are supposed to be trained to be compassionate to ALL people, regardless of race, religion, political beliefs, etc…. Why is that not being promoted? Why is the NASW promoting division among people? While the NASW and other liberals are worried about keeping the President in check, I wonder who will act to keep the NASW and others in check?

      We are not even following our own Code of Ethics. Section 2.01 RESPECT ‘for all professionals’ – the NASW is diminishing the very values we as a profession are supposed to represent.

      Lastly, I find it incredibly disturbing watching liberals throwing around the term “Hitler” to exemplify our current President. There is absolutely NO comparison and anyone who actually believes that foolishness needs a history lesson. Read Mein Kampf, Hitlers autobiography outlining his political ideology and his plan to openly exterminate the Jews, then come back and try to persuade us of such comparisons. Perhaps visiting a Holocaust Museum would provide some even better prospective. These comparisons make great headlines but the slogans that roll off the lips of these liberals trivializes the horror of Nazi concentration camps and the life altering anguish of those who survived them such as Eli Wiesel. I urge you to read Night his excellent autobiography of what ACTUALLY took place in Nazi Germany under Adolph Hitler before throwing the term Nazi around.

      What is even more fascinating is watching the liberal media promoting this type of propaganda, and advocating the belief that anyone who disagrees with them (and refuses to attack our President) is somehow got to be a xenophobe, homophobe, racist, bigot and every other colorful term being used to describe the ‘non-followers of their political correctness.’ But of course if Trump is the Fuhrer than those that follow must be his Nazi’s! REALLY??? Who I ask is actually being marginalized? I suggest it is a time for all of us to do some serious reflecting as to what is really going on here. Instead of bantering about emotionally laden terms full of vitriol, hate and prejudice can we not reason together and at least listen to each other respectfully. Last I checked that was what we were taught as social workers.

  4. Does the NASW believe that the United States of America has a right to self-determination to be a sovereign nation? Does the NASW believe that the lawful citizens of the United States of America have the right to be protected?

  5. I am proud of the NASW’S stand for fair and equitable treatment for all.

  6. The issue is not whether we have the right to protect ourselves or not. The main issue is how we are going about it and treating people. No one is saying we should protect ourselves.

    Thank you NASW!

  7. I would hope that all Social Workers, in their commitment to evidence based policies and practices, are aware of the insignificant threat refugees pose to national security. We cannot help Consumers overcome their irrational fears if we subscribe to the same exaggerations and fictions.

    • Patrick,

      What do you mean by “insignificant threat”? How many murders committed by how many terrorists signifies a “significant” threat? Have you considered the threat includes those atrocities committed in Paris, in Belgium, in Germany and other European nations with porous borders?

      Do you lock your door at night? Is it discriminatory to do so, if an impoverished person, drug addict, mentally ill person or other human being wants to break into your house?

    • Patrick- I taught a college level course for two your on the Psychological Profile of a Terrorist. I highly recommend you dive into research or take a college course yourself before making that statement. I do not want to live in a state where the politicians think like France or Germany. I highly recommend tuning into the documentaries put out by Britain.

  8. Thank you NASW for challenging these hurtful and divisive actions. I appreciate your representation.

  9. Thank you NASW!

  10. I could complain
    “It’s inhumane.”
    Human rights is threatened again!

  11. Obama and Carter banned immigration from Iraq and Iran collectively. Trump was inspired by those two past presidents and set his policy involving the 7 countries based on their policies. I applaud Trump’s stand in trying to keep our citizens safe. I suggest giving this current president a chance and support his efforts.

  12. Here is a letter that I’ve sent to my city council; good to have the support of NASW’s position statement! Tony

    Dear [Richfield Minnesota City Council]:
    This is a letter of encouragement to you and the rest of the council and city administrators to continue your leadership in matters related to immigration and newcomers to our city. We support all that Richfield can do to welcome and protect refugees, visa-holders, and any residents or travelers here who are being affected by executive orders, travel bans, and other immigration policies of the administration of President Trump.

    To the extent that human rights are in jeopardy, the city’s Human Rights Commission may serve as a resource and advocate for people directly suffering discrimination based on religion, nationality, country of origin, etc. The commission can also assist city staff, especially police, in preparing to respond to new federal initiatives implementing potentially unconstitutional and certainly un-Minnesotan directives.

    Thank you for your attention, compassion, and courage as public servants and elected representatives.”

    Anthony and Kathy Bibus, Richfield, Minnesota

  13. I agree also that the implementation of this policy in an ill-planned, dogmatic matter that did not involve the necessary officials and departments in its planning who would have to implement this order resulted in being done in an insensitive and inhumane manner.The chaos and confusion which erupted made this an unnecessarily hurtful action on the part of our government. It speaks to an underlying belief system that is dogmatic and unknowledgeable (or uncaring) about the impact of their decisions.Thus I echo the statement of a BBC correspondent that it made our government look like the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” acting thoughtlessly and dogmatically to “prove” to their political base that they will take action on campaign promises. Thank you NASW for your contribution to this dialogue.

  14. I am concerned about this stance. First of all, when a professional organization takes a stance, we are taking a side which means we are discrediting the opposing view. I do not think that is in line with our ethics. We are to empower people, all people. Importantly, this is not a Muslim ban but rather a TEMPORARY ban on countries from which Former President Obama’s security advisors (CIA, NSA, Military, etc.) have stated that there is a high threat of infiltration of terrorists with the refuges and immigrant populations. President Obama even implemented a ban on Iraqis at one point. I am happy President Trump listened to those key advisors who along with him are not wanting to ban people but realize that the vetting process needs to be shored up first. I was happy he was willing to listen to them even before he had his own people in place. This seems reasonable and logical to me. Secondly, if it were a Muslim ban then we would be banning almost 40 other countries’ citizens because those countries are predominantly Muslim. This ban is on countries who are proven harbors for terrorists. Thirdly, former Presidents have placed bans on various countries and group for decades – Carter, Clinton, Obama – for examples. The first job of the President is the security of the governed. I have been appalled by the hostile, hateful reaction to this President. As social workers, we must respect the office even if we do not completely agree with or like the person. As social workers, we have to realize that half the populace supports him and it is our ethical duty to respect their right to differing opinions. I keep wondering if the same actions and tactics that are being used now were used by those who opposed President Obama what NASW’s reaction would have been. I am also completely confounded that social workers, of all people, do not understand that as a nation we are a Democratic Republic with republic being the noun. We, of all people, should understand that complete democracy leads to complete loss of freedom for all eventually. Social Workers by ethics have a duty to consider all sides of issues and be supportive of each and every person’s right to respectfully express and fight for their passions. I am not seeing much respect. I could not believe the debacle the Women’s March turned into. As social workers, we should have been speaking out loudly against the way a noble and needed cause was turned against some people and was turned into a mob fest. I was so embarrassed by this event and did not see one word from NASW against the hateful crass disrespectful exchanges that took place. Our country and professions like NASW have stooped to a new low when they will not abide by their own ethics. Additionally, if we as a group have become a political lobby organization, then we no longer are a professional organization. I believe NASW needs to reconsider its identity and be honest with itself, members, and others. If a political lobby group then fine but do not pretend to be a profession.

    • NASW is in the tank with the Democrats and not being a responsible organization.

    • I would like to acknowledge that I as an ordinary citizen clearly do not have access to information on our national security. Others who do have already weighed in with their legal briefs to the 9th Circuit Court. At issue for me is our ability as citizens of this country to have differing perspectives without the immediate limitations in understanding created by labels like “liberal” or “radical right” or “leftist”. These labels promote immediate biases that prevent true dialogue.

      We as social workers are ethically bound to promote respect, dialogue and understanding of differing viewpoints and cultures. The RIGHT to differing opinions and to protest when harm is being done to others is inherent in a democracy. NASW has always engaged in lobbying efforts with those rights in mind.

      • The Judges in the 9th circuit are ideologue activist judges. They don’t have access to information on our national security and trying to take away the power from President Trump. These judges are saying that people who never entered the USA have the same rights as American citizens. So, don’t cry if there is more terrorism in the USA .

  15. Thank you NASW for taking a stand for humanity. I applaud you and will always be a supporter for cause that are inhumane and non judgmental. This is a ban based on religion regardless of how it is framed it only affects Muslims from some countries so it is immoral in my opinion. One can always justify the reason for being inhumane. Remember slavery was also legally wrapped in religious values while thousands of black people were killed as society turns a blind eye. So yes this is not ok with me and I am happy NASW is speaking out. Keep up the good work NASW

  16. I applaud NASW for taking this position. I am sorry, Beth, but you are wrong when you state the Obama Administration’s position the way that you do. I encourage people to look for an article by Glenn Kessler in The Washington Post that provides detailed information on what the Obama Administration did and the differences between those actions and the recent Executive Order. The article is entitled, “Trump’s claim that Obama first ‘identified’ the 7 countries in his travel ban.”

    I almost must express my horror at the lack of mention by the people supporting the Executive Order about the pain and anguish and destruction the order wrought on people’s lives – people that held green cards, people who had already been extremely vetted by this country for entrance, people who had sold all their belongings and were ready to come to the United States after having been extremely vetted, and found themselves stranded in airports, kicked off of planes.

    I almost must express my horror at the lack of attention to context – the hateful, bigoted spirit of the Trump Administration – and the lack of attention given to all sorts of evidence that such actions do not make us safer, will not make us safer, will never make us safer.

    Thank you, NASW. Thank you, Sally Yates who defied the Trump Administration to do the right thing, knowing that she would lose her job. Thank you to the brave judges who have stopped the order, at least temporarily. Thank you to all Americans who stand up for refugees and immigrants. Thank you to all the people who have rallied in airports and in the streets. And again, thank you, NASW.

  17. NASW should stop listening to CNN along with many of the media h has lied about the election, the Trump supporters and President Trump. NASW should be educating the members with the truth and not spread the propaganda. However, this is asking too much because this organization is in the tank for the Democratic party which is now the party of the Leftists/Progressives/Communists. George Soros , the leftist billionaire pulls the purse strings .
    The order is based on security reviews conducted by President Barack Obama’s deputies.The seven nations named in Trump’s executive order are drawn from the Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015. The 2015 “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015” named Iraq, Iran, Sudan, and Syria, while its 2016 update added Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. – it does not act against an “entire religion,” it names seven countries.These are countries that have a history of training, harboring, exporting terrorists.
    President Trump did not use the words Muslim ban or Muslim countries. He said the order applies to all citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. It does not specify Muslims. The indefinite hold on Syrian refugees will affect Christians and Muslims alike

    As for Barack Obama, he did indeed ban immigration from Iraq, for much longer than Trump’s order bans it from the seven listed nations, and none of the people melting down today uttered a peep of protest. Obama took 6 months to review screening for 1 country. Trump will take 3 months for 7 countries.Obama had fairly low caps on refugees during the worst years of the Syrian civil war. He didn’t throw open the doors to mass refugee admissions until his final year in office. Depending on how Trump’s review of Syrian refugee policy turns out, he’s doing little more than returning admissions to normal levels after a four-month pause for security reviews.

  18. Did some of you forget to read the part in our Code of Ethics where it says we respect our colleagues? Some of your (misspelled) comments were disparaging. Yes, we will at times have differing opinions, however, the way some of you are speaking is not at all respectful. I found NASW’s statement to be very much in line with our code of ethics. I would encourage you to reread it. Thanks to the hard, thoughtful work of NASW.

  19. NASW needs to stop making political statements. Last I heard, we are a professional organization representing social workers – who have all kinds of opinions and political leanings. This is inappropriate and divisive to the organization. The cognitive distortions and hyperbole being used by leaders at NASW suggests they need some CBT!
    If NASW wants to make sweeping endorsement (or non-endorsement) statements, please canvas your membership first. Your statements do not present me. I would rather you spend leadership time voicing concern about the social work profession; increasing the respect for scope of practice; working on supporting social workers in places (i.e. hospitals) where their work is being done by non-social workers, and so many issues that face all of us as social workers.

  20. It is unacceptable that NASW is taking a political stand. NASW should not get involved in politics. NASW should assist Social Workers obtain better working conditions, assist with advocacy for Social Workers, pay out student loans (social workers are poor) etc. I am shocked that it is politics as usual, even on the NASW site.

  21. I’m very pleased to have the NASW issue such a statement. I am quite concerned at the social workers who have biased views and wonder why are they in this field. I worry about your ability to work with diverse population and not have your bias values and beliefs seep through. This field in my belief is being there to support anyone and everyone not to have a moral value on who deserves our help and who does not. Everything that we as social workers do is political. If you don’t know that then most of you have failed policy class or you never took it. Go back to our polices and procedures. Nothing was ever written in stones.

    I believe the individuals who have a negative view you need to go back to Social Work 101 and figure out why you are here…..if you can’t please change jobs. I was also under the impression that we have an ethical obligation to ensure that we serve our clients regardless of our religious, political or personal view, we don’t allow these to affect us, some of the responses are making me doubt that we truly understand the code of ethics as well as we should. The world does not need any more racist or bigots disguised in the helping profession. We have enough of that!

    • Itedal,

      I’ve taught the state-required, 3-hour Ethics course for NASW for over a decade. I have served on Chapter and National Ethics committees for NASW for many years.

      What do you mean by “any more racists or bigots disguised in the helping profession”?

      How did you come to the conclusion that I need to “figure out why you are here” (meaning the Social Work profession in which I am degreed, licensed and have 37 years’ experience)?

      Have you considered that there is diversity of thought within our profession? Have you considered there are multiple sides of the debate that are worthy of, at least, consideration?

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