Protester Aida Mackic has spent the majority of her life, 21 years, here in the U.S. She emigrated from Bosnia and is now an American citizen. Yet, something like the Trump administration's revised travel ban still stirs up strong feelings for her.
“This (ban) does hit home. What if it was my country (that was one of the six that the ban is imposed on)? I know Bosnia’s not part of the six (countries) but I can relate on a personal level,” said Mackic, who works with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Friday evening, Mackic and about 15 other protesters gathered on the sidewalk across from the red level baggage claim area at Tampa International Airport to call out the toned down travel ban that the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to put into effect Thursday night.
Most of the protesters were with local activist and advocacy groups like People Power, the Pinellas County chapter of Women’s March, St. Petersburg Community Protection Coalition and CAIR.
“I think it’s absolutely important to speak up against this new Muslim ban, even if it is revised and they do think this will help in any way. I think it’s important for us to stand and tell them (the Trump administration) this is not okay. It goes against what our constitution states,” Mackic said. “You cannot isolate a group of people based on the religion that they follow or where they are from. And choosing specifically those countries absolutely sends a message that this is a Muslim ban.”
On Monday, the Supreme Court decided to allow a more tame version of President Trump’s travel ban on six Muslim majority countries in the Middle East and Africa, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Iran, to go into effect. This comes along with the Supreme Court saying the lower courts that previously blocked the ban completely went too far in doing so.
Travelers from those countries with valid Green Cards and current visas will not be affected. Those without either, including refugees, will now be required to prove that they have a “bonafide connection” to the U.S. to enter the country. “Bonafide connection” as in cases like college and university students or people who have “close family” living here, such as parents, spouses and siblings. Oddly enough, the State Department guidelines do not make exceptions for grandparents, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, fiances and other relatively close family members.
“I’m concerned that this Muslim ban is hurting the people who need to emigrate the most. These are people who are trying to flee their war torn country, who have gone through all the background checks needed to get their visa. They are just in a waiting position and now the door is closed to them. So these are people who are basically homeless with no place to go,” protester Wendy Snyder said.
Snyder, who is with People Power Pinellas County, reiterated the age-old idea of the U.S. as a country made up of immigrants.
“The Unites States has traditionally been a place that welcomes immigrants and now they’re not allowed. And why is that?” Snyder said. “Donald Trump called it a terrorist ban but it’s not. No one who has killed anyone in the United States since 9/11 had any ties with any of the six countries.”
Another protester, Sarah Robinson, echoed Snyder’s words.
“We’re a nation of refugees. Everyone of us unless you’re 100 percent Native-American. And whether your ancestors chose to come here or they were brought here, we are a nation of immigrants. For us to turn our values on their heads and close the door is not what our country is about,” Robinson said.
Snyder’s sign, a screenshot of a Mike Pence tweet, highlighted a totally contradictory statement from late 2015 that then-governor Pence made about banning Muslims from the U.S. during the Republican primary, before the party warmed up to Trump.
“Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional,” Pence wrote.
For Robinson, the ban and its effects hit home, not out of experience but in a more broad way.
“As a human being, I’m very disturbed by it (the ban),” Robinson said. “I’m not personally affected but I feel like we’re one big human family. ”