Salman Falah Salman moved to Stillwater under a work visa less than a year ago to open a second branch of his construction company.
Salman, a 54-year-old Iraqi man, planned on making a life for himself and his family when he moved from the United Arab Emirates to the United States six months ago. He rented a house, furniture to fill it and a car to get himself to jobs and his son to school.
But when his wife and children went to visit the country, also called the UAE, on Jan. 12 after the couple’s newborn grandchild became sick, he didn’t expect them to be possibly barred from coming back. Salman said his wife and children were in the U.S. on tourist visas and he was waiting for them to be added to his visa.
When President Donald Trump’s executive order curbing immigration and travel was signed Friday, Salman was faced with the decision of abandoning his business or the possibility of being indefinitely separated from his wife.
“I told my wife to take the kids for 15 days to see how everything goes. … I thought everything would be OK, back and forth,” Salman said. “Now, the situation has changed. I cannot bring (my wife). She cannot come back.”
People who made lives for themselves in the United States found their lives being potentially uprooted after Trump issued an executive order Friday.
The order calls for a three-month ban on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia — all majority Muslim nations — entering the United States. It also puts a halt to a refugee program for at least four months.
The ban prompted international chaos and confusion regarding the status of green card holders and lawful permanent residents.
The White House, scrambling to respond, later said the ban would not affect those people “going forward.” However, Monday people in those categories were still reportedly being detained or denied entry to the country.
Salman has decided to close his new business, sell his belongings and go back to the UAE. But first he needs to sell his car and furniture. Monday, he canceled the lease on a house his family was renting.
“To be honest, I’m not going to stay because (Trump’s) acting the wrong way,” Salman said. “I’m Muslim. I’m from Iraq. I don’t know what we did to be banned, either.”
The move back is disheartening, Salman said. He studied Stillwater’s market for almost a year before opening the branch, and thousands of dollars went into the move.
“It’s tiring,” Salman said. “I packed up everything and go, started with company account. … No point.”
‘Not a ban on Muslims’
In view of Trump’s order affecting seven Muslim-majority countries, many are calling it a Muslim ban that unfairly targets people practicing one religion.
Trump said last week the order would give preference to people who belong to a religious minority in their country and have been persecuted because of it. In an interview, he said that was intended to give preference to Christians, which critics have cited as evidence that the order is, in fact, a Muslim ban.
On the campaign trail, Trump several times said he would temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S.
In an interview on Fox News over the weekend, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Trump asked him how to legally implement a Muslim ban.
Members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation were united in their support of Trump’s order Monday and said the executive order isn’t a Muslim ban. Some members did express concern about how the order was implemented.
“However imperfect or uneven the initial implementation of President Trump’s order, the reaction against it has been all out of proportion to its intent and impact,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-4th District said in a statement.
“Critics have described the order as a Muslim ban. It is not. It does not impact over 40 Muslim-majority countries,” Cole said. “Some have claimed the order is illegal. It is not. While the courts will ultimately rule on this matter, it appears that the President is acting within the law and the recognized powers of the presidency.”
U.S. Sen. James Lankford said although the order isn’t a ban on Muslims, the action “has some unintended consequences that were not well thought out.”
“As leaders, we have a responsibility to secure the homeland,” Lankford’s statement says. “The executive action issued Friday is a 90-day pause and re-evaluation of the screening process for individuals traveling from seven war-torn nations and a 120-day pause for the refugee resettlement program.
“It is not a ban on Muslims or a permanent change in immigration policy.”
Mimi Marton, director of the Tulsa Immigrant Resource Network at the University of Tulsa College of Law, told The Frontier that she believes Trump’s executive order is indeed directed at Muslims.
“In his campaign promises President Trump specifically said, ‘I am going to put in a Muslim ban,’” Marton said. “So, however much credit you want to give him for it not being an order out of Islamophobia, it is a ban on Muslims from those countries.”
Marton noted that under U.S. law, individuals seeking relief from discrimination do not have to prove that the alleged discrimination is being committed against every member of a class.
“The response of, ‘Well, geez, it didn’t name 40 other countries’ really isn’t the point,” she said. “It is directed only at countries that are Muslim majority, after an election of a president who specifically promised a Muslim ban.
“So when you take (in) the whole picture, and the totality of the circumstances, as lawyers say, it looks and smells like a ban based on religion and that is something that is so vile to the Constitution.”
The executive order goes against the country’s core values in another way, Marton said, by reducing to 50,000 number of refugees the country will accept this year.
“Unless you are 100 percent Native American, the chances are really high that your grandparents came over here seeking refuge from something, whether it was starvation or persecution,” Marton said. “So it’s a little like lifting up the ladder after I jump in the life boat.”
One of Marton’s major concerns about Trump’s executive order is that it could leave many Americans with the impression that security measures aren’t currently in place to screen refugees entering the country.
“It seems to be based on the assumption that there were no regulations, procedures and protocols in place for screening folks coming in from other countries,” Marton said. “And that is absolutely untrue.”
The order has caused unrest in the country’s largest airports as hundreds of people were detained by customs agents and others were sent back.
A federal judge in Brooklyn late Saturday granted a nationwide temporary stay on part of Trump’s executive order — halting the removal of refugees and people stuck at airports.
The ACLU and refugee relief organizations filed the action in federal court Saturday on behalf of Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq, both Iraqi citizens. They were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security told news outlets people detained after the order over the weekend have since been released. However, attorneys advocating for detainees have said that couldn’t be verified because DHS has yet to provide a list of those detained.
Allie Shinn, American Civil Liberties Union Oklahoma director of external affairs, said they haven’t seen anyone detained at an Oklahoma airport, but they are continuing to monitor the situation. She encouraged anyone who knows of someone being detained to contact ACLU.
Shinn said several people viewing the order as a “down payment” to an actual Muslim ban have reached out to ACLUOK. As time goes on, Oklahoma is likely to see legal issues stemming from the order, she said.
Community leaders come together
At the Islamic Society of Tulsa, community leaders came together for a press conference Tuesday afternoon to address Trump’s executive orders.
Rev. Chris Moore, senior minister at Fellowship Congregational United Church of Christ, started the conference by thanking Mayor G.T. Bynum and law enforcement leaders for committing to protect Tulsans regardless of their immigration status.
After Trump issued an executive order Jan. 25 instructing his Secretary of Homeland Security to engage local law enforcement agencies across the nation about enforcing federal immigration laws, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said he doesn’t believe enforcing immigration law is part of his department’s mandate.
Earlier in January, Jordan had told The Frontier that his department wasn’t “in the business of enforcing federal immigration laws.”
“I don’t want anyone to be a crime victim in this city and be afraid to call the police,” Jordan said at the time.
Bynum posted to Facebook, saying he had consulted legal and policing experts and Trump’s order doesn’t call for for a change in practices the city already has in place.
“As your mayor, it is so important to me that law-abiding Tulsans know they can call our police when they need help. I want our immigrant community in Tulsa to feel safe, feel welcome, and feel this is a place of opportunity for future generations of their families. That is the kind of city we are focused on building.”
Community leaders representing 10 organizations spoke at Monday’s press conference. Not only did they express gratitude for city and county officials, they also voiced concerns.
Sheryl Siddiqui, Islamic Council of Oklahoma chair, said the executive order stunned many community members.
“Muslim-Americans who have made the country their home by legal means and others who came legally for safety or to better themselves through education and employment were shocked to find themselves suddenly labeled that they were potential terrorists,” she said.
Rebecca Marks-Jimerson of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of Tulsa said the city has always stood with its community. She called for people to remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality.
“We have come too far to turn around,” she said. “We will not turn back, so we push forward with our community, the Tulsa community, in making the dream and continuing the dream, and we will not stop.”
Moises Echevveria, president and CEO of Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice, said Americans often look back to dark periods in the country’s history and wonder how they would have responded in that time.
“We don’t have to wonder anymore,” he said.
Aliye Shimi, associate director of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministries, said her organization is “gravely concerned” Trump’s order oversteps his authority.
“His actions affect permanent residents who are legally living in the United States to travel back and forth internationally, but who are now caught up in an ill-conceived plan to restrict Muslims,” she said.
“Beyond the legally established permanent residence, Mr. Trump’s actions that ban or temporarily ban Muslims and Muslims alone, appears to be a religious test for due processing and rights available to others faith traditions.”
Shimi’s husband is Syrian and his family is trapped in the country, she said in an interview with The Frontier.
“So if we have any hope of trying to get our family out, this ban has banished that hope,” she said.
Her children won’t be able to see their grandparents, cousins, aunts or uncles, Shimi said.
“We had family members who were on their way here, and now we told them they won’t be able to come in so don’t even attempt, otherwise you’re going to be detained,” she said. “They’re probably not going to even allow you to get on a plane to come.
“There goes all that ticket money and that visa money.”
Shimi urged people to send letters to lawmakers denouncing the order.
“Let us stand united and affirm to the world that we are the nation which was built on the commitment to welcome the tired, the poor and those who yearn for freedom,” she said.
Andrea Walker, a member of the city of Tulsa Human Rights Commission and Compassionate Tulsa Committee, agreed with the importance of the community coming together.
In June 2015, Tulsa elected to become designated as a “Compassionate Community.” Then-Mayor Dewey Bartlett called on the Human Rights Commission to created the Compassionate Tulsa Committee, a committee encouraging and recognizing acts of compassion in Tulsa.
“So what this means is Tulsans honor the sanctity of every single human being without exception and treating everybody with absolute justice, equality and respect,” Walker said. “This means that our diversity is recognized as our strength to treat others the way we want to be treated.”
Walker said the Islamic Society of Tulsa often embodies those traits.
“It is in that name that I express my sadness for the potential pain that this group may be feeling, and I am grieved by the idea that you all may potentially be separated from the people that care about, the people that love and the people that matter to you,” Walker said.
“I just want you to know, you’re not alone. You’re part of this community. You are Tulsans. We care about you and when you hurt, we all hurt. Remember that.”
Rabbi Daniel Shalom Kaiman of B’Nai Emunah said his family came to America seeking opportunity, freedom and equality.
“But it would seem today those values are under threat,” he said.
Kaiman talked about times when Jews had to hide their faith.
“They were forbidden from publicly signaling their religious identity, they were forbidden from observing Jewish rituals,” he said. “Community leadership knew it needed to respond, but it did not know how.”
Toby Jenkins, executive director of the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center, said Trump’s claim that his order is to protect America is disingenuous.
“When every day on the streets of our city we can continue to kill our neighbors because of gun violence and because of other issues that are affecting our society, if we really wanted to make America safer we would address some of our own domestic issues instead of suggesting that individuals from a particular faith, or from one part of the country or refugees seeking asylum here in our country, that they were the problem,” Jenkins said,
Jenkins said the executive order is wrong and must be rescinded.
The Islamic Society of Tulsa, 4620 S. Irvington Ave., is holding a letter-writing campaign from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.
People can write to legislators and ask them to discourage the executive orders or write letters of support.
“It’s a campaign in which people can come participate, write letter of thanks to the many officials who have stated support and write letters to legislators encouraging them to continue with that support and perhaps even give more support,” Moore said.