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Chicago civil rights advocates slam U.S. Supreme Court’s travel ban ruling

CAIR-Chicago's Executive Director Ahmed Rehab speaks at a press conference following the Supreme Court's decision on upholding the travel ban. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

Civil rights advocates in Chicago decried a new “culture taking over America” Tuesday after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from several mostly Muslim countries.

And they said they are not done challenging what they called blatant religious bigotry.

“This is a battle between two sets of values,” CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said at a press conference following the court’s decision. “Two political cultures in this country. I’m not talking about Democrats and Republicans.”

Rather, Rehab described a battle between people who believe in religious freedom and a group that believes in “fear mongering, scaring people mostly based on race and religion.”

Video by Eliza Davidson

“Muslims can’t defend themselves alone,” Rehab said. “Latinos can’t defend themselves alone. Members of the LGBTQ community or any community that is facing a particular discriminatory policy or rhetoric can’t defend themselves alone. We have to work together.”

Rehab leads the Chicago office of the country’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization. He said the group would again provide legal assistance to travelers at airports, at least until the full effect of Tuesday’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision is known.

Trump called the decision a “tremendous victory” and “moment of profound vindication.”

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, insisting that presidents have substantial power to regulate immigration. He also rejected the challengers’ claim of anti-Muslim bias — and civil rights advocates in Chicago blasted him for it.

Gregory Abdullah Mitchell, executive director of The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, speaks at a press conference following the Supreme Court’s decision on upholding the travel ban. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times
Gregory Abdullah Mitchell, executive director of The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, speaks at a press conference following the Supreme Court’s decision on upholding the travel ban. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

“We must look at all the facts,” Abdullah Mitchell, executive director of The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago.

Sarvin Haghighi, who said she is originally from Iran, appeared at CAIR-Chicago’s press conference Tuesday. She said she was caught up in the first version of Trump’s travel ban and needed a week to get home to Chicago. She said her parents can’t visit her.

“I’m telling you, this is not passing,” Haghighi said. “So stop saying ‘this shall pass,’ because we really need each and every one of you to fight with us.”

Syrian/American Activist Amal Kassir speaks at a press conference following the Supreme Court’s decision on upholding the travel ban. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times
Syrian/American Activist Amal Kassir speaks at a press conference following the Supreme Court’s decision on upholding the travel ban. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

Amal Kassir, a Syrian-American, said she lost 11 members of her family last year to bombings she attributed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. She said Trump’s travel ban prevents her family from escaping to the United States.

“It’s quite frankly inhibiting the safety of people,” she said. “And shutting down the American dream.”

Contributing: AP