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Immigrants' Rights

The Trump executive order is not just unconstitutional; it’s also bad for business.

The following piece was written by ACLU of Massachusetts executive director Carol Rose for WBUR’s Cognoscenti.

If there is a silver lining to President Trump’s now-stayed order excluding people from seven majority-Muslim states, it’s the force of the pushback: Americans and our courts are understanding more clearly than ever that we cannot take our fundamental freedoms for granted.

Those rights propel the free flow of people and ideas, which is particularly important to an innovation economy like ours in Massachusetts. Complacency is not an option as we witness a president trying to put himself above the Constitution and the law. More than ever, Massachusetts political and civic leaders need to take actions to protect our freedoms.

Last week’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ensures that the rights of immigrants — both green-card holders and visa holders — will be protected at least while the courts determine whether the Trump administration’s efforts to discriminate against people based on their religion is consistent with the Constitution. While the legal battles in the Trump era are being fought on the national stage, we also need to reinforce our fundamental freedoms at the state level.

When the liberties of immigrants are under assault, the very health of the Massachusetts economy is at stake. Let’s remember what drives our success as a worldwide leader in science, health care, technology and research: We are a magnet for the best talent in the world. Trump’s executive order detained some of our professors and graduate students who were traveling internationally before the courts stayed the ban.

Trump’s discriminatory attack on select majority-Muslim countries amounts to a broader swipe at immigrants everywhere. When you take away the rights of even a few people, the effect is felt by millions, including the many immigrants who come to the United States seeking a better life, and in turn enrich our communities, businesses and economy with their creativity, culture and intellect.

Massachusetts benefits greatly by training students and scholars from all over the world. Many international students pay full tuition, for example, which subsidizes our thriving colleges and universities, and enables more in Massachusetts to attend college at lower rates. International students and scholars often return to their home countries with an understanding and appreciation of American values and people, which bolsters our influence worldwide. The relationships they form with American students and faculty often form the basis of future global partnerships as well as friendships, which is important for both business and for diplomacy.

Immigrants also make up a disproportionate share of the scientists, engineers, and Nobel laureates in America. Since Massachusetts has the highest per-capita number of technology and science workers of any state, we have the most to gain by ensuring an open and inclusive society. By targeting immigrants, the administration puts our global universities, hospitals, scientific research centers and startups at risk. The Trump executive order is not just unconstitutional; it’s also bad for business.

So, what can we do? First, let’s reinforce our system of checks and balances, and acknowledge the importance of courts in enforcing the Constitution and standing up to the other two branches of government. We at the ACLU believe that an independent judiciary is one of the most important tools for preventing the Trump administration from violating the Constitution and illegally grabbing power. And that holds not only in this case, but in countless other future executive orders we expect to challenge, involving religion, LGBTQ equality, access to health care, racial justice and the environment.

Second, we need Massachusetts residents to stay engaged and active. Courts pay attention — as they should — when balancing the “public interest” in making their rulings. But state legislatures are designed to reflect the public interest — it’s their No. 1 job.

We in Massachusetts can and must move to adopt state-based protections of our fundamental liberties. A bill currently before the state Legislature, the Fundamental Freedoms Act, would prevent state and local authorities from assisting the federal government in the creation of discriminatory “registry” systems, which the Trump administration has vowed to enact. The bill would also prevent government surveillance of people based solely on their protected, political speech — including the folks who participated in Boston Women’s March for America and the recent #NoBanNoWalls rally at Copley Plaza. After all, dissent is patriotic.

The Trump administration’s assault on civil liberties is everyone’s problem. Our freedoms and our prosperity are deeply intertwined, and we must step up — together — to protect them.

To read this article on Cognoscenti, click here.
To learn about the ACLU of Massachusetts’ case against President Trump’s ban, click here.
To urge your legislators to support the Fundamental Freedoms Act and other legislation supported by the ACLU Freedom Agenda, click here.

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