It has been an extraordinary two weeks for refugees headed to the United States and their supporters as the president and courts battle over whether or not to ban people from seven majority Muslim countries.
Church World Service, an interfaith organization that helps resettle refugees, said it is “heartened” by the latest appeals court ruling that halts, for now, President Donald Trump’s executive order to ban travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The United Methodist Church is a member of Church World Service.
“We celebrate these court orders, and will continue to do all we can to ensure that refugees have access to life-saving protection — no matter where they’re from or how they pray,” said the Rev. John L. McCullough, a United Methodist elder and president and CEO of Church World Service.
“Refugees are already the most vetted individuals to enter the United States, and we are heartened by the outpouring of support we have seen for resettlement in communities across the country. We will not rest until this executive order is fully reversed.”
The unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco upheld a Feb. 3 ruling by Federal District Judge James L. Robart. The federal district judge had suspended key parts of the ban while constitutional challenges went forward. The travel ban, which prompted confusion and protests at airports across the U.S., was one of the first executive orders issued by Trump in January.
The appeals court refused to reinstate the ban, saying the Trump Administration had not shown evidence that anyone from those countries had committed terrorist acts in the United States.
However, the fight isn’t over yet, said Rob Rutland-Brown, director of United Methodist National Justice for Our Neighbors, an organization that offers free legal counsel to refugees and immigrants.
“While this is a victory for both American values and justice, we know that an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is likely,” he said.
“NJFON is guided by a vision that all immigrants should be warmly welcomed with open hearts and minds. Thus, we are very pleased with the court’s decision. It ensures that, for now, people’s freedom to travel will not be stripped away based on their country of origin or their religion.”
In 2016, the Justice for Our Neighbors network served 175 clients from the seven countries involved in the travel ban, Rutland-Brown said.
Harriett Jane Olson, the top executive of United Methodist Women, said she looks forward to the order's constitutional review. She said her group sees welcoming the sojourner as a key part of living out the Christian faith.
"We remain committed to the fact that we are all God’s children, and as Christians, we are especially charged to receive and protect persons driven from their homes by crises — war, violence, natural disaster — which is the plight of the refugee," Olson said. "We stand with refugees and immigrants seeking livelihoods, safety and family unity."
Immigration restrictions are a concern for Methodists across the Atlantic as well.
Facing a ban to accepting unaccompanied minors, the Methodist Church in the United Kingdom joined with other faith groups in stating the well-being of children should be first priority.
“It is not a question of the management of resources, but rather a matter of political will. The way that we treat the most vulnerable is a sign of what we aspire to be as a society,” said the Rev. Roger Walton, president of the Methodist Conference.
Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.