Our Opinion: State steps up in opposition to immigrant ban

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No one's freedom is secure if the freedom of any one group is threatened, and Massachusetts is proudly stepping up on behalf of that principle. Elected officials, business leaders, academics and religious leaders have different specific concerns about Trump administration executive orders on immigration but they are united in the common cause of opposing them.

Joined by leaders from the business, academic and health communities, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced at a press conference Tuesday that the state would join in a federal lawsuit opposing executive orders temporarily banning refugees and immigrants from seven countries (Eagle, February 1). The lawsuit argues that the ban discriminates against people based on religion and nation of origin in violation of the U.S. Constitution and is in violation of due process laws.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are two UMass Dartmouth professors who were detained when they attempted to fly back to Massachusetts over the weekend, but more broadly the attorney general said the ban hurts the state's ability to recruit students, workers, researchers and other professionals from abroad. Representatives from state businesses and the Massachusetts Hospital Association spoke about how the ban has already affected them adversely. Officials at Williams College and MCLA are taking steps to protect students, staff and faculty placed at risk by the immigration order, with MCLA President James Birge declaring that "If it comes to the point where we have to take legal action to protect our students from the federal government we're prepared to do that."

The Most Reverend Mitchell T. Rozanski, bishop of the Springfield Diocese, has joined fellow Catholic clergy as well as Protestant and Jewish faith leaders in condemning the executive orders (Eagle, February 1). In a statement, Bishop Rozanski wrote that the "welcome of immigrants is an integral part of our history as a country and is a core value of our own Catholic teachings," adding "we cannot allow ourselves to be frightened unnecessarily into conceding the principles of either our nation or our faith."

The bishop made it clear that the diocese would not abandon plans to welcome refugees to settle in Western Massachusetts. We are confronted with the question as to how this order will affect the plan to resettle refugee Syrian families in the Berkshires. While this effort is grounded in the same moral issue the bishop addressed, immigration presents concrete benefits to our community, among them increased diversity and a potential reversal of population decline.

Muslims deserve the same welcoming shore as our neighbors and ancestors encountered, and people fleeing terror should not be branded as potential terrorists or be singled out as threats because of their religion. The administration's claim that the orders are not a ban on Muslims is undermined by the president's statement that the executive order was designed to stop "radical Islamic terrorists," which it is unlikely to do.

The administration's ban will do more damage to innocent people and to our nation's principles the longer it is in place. The citizens of Massachusetts and their civic, political, religious and business leaders must continue to join others across the nation in keeping the pressure on the White House until the ban is lifted and healing can begin.

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