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Islamophobia and Xenophobia

Despite the Trump State Department’s vocalized commitment to religious freedom and human rights, it is clear that the rhetoric does not match the reality. The new entities the administration has created and the events it has hosted, such as the new Commission on Unalienable Rights and the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, belie its true nature. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has a history of making deeply problematic Islamophobic remarks, befriending extremist anti-Muslim hate groups and embedding these discriminatory views into national and global policy. During Pompeo’s tenure, the State Department has drastically reduced the number of refugees admitted to the United States, blocking Muslims in particular. Between 2016 and 2018, the number of Muslim refugees resettled in the U.S. decreased by 91 percent.

In January 2020, the State Department issued a concerning rule to deny U.S. visas to pregnant women from largely non-Western countries. The administration has said that the rule is an attempt to crack down on the unproven “birth tourism.” The new rule, which is medically unenforceable, has drawn ire from medical professionals who are concerned that the State Department is trying to charge medically untrained immigration officers with the task of adjudicating people’s pregnancies. The National Immigration Forum has said the rule continues to advance the administration’s narrative “that children of immigrant parents are not as good as children of parents from the U.S.,” while DHS Watch has called the rule’s “racial disparities…extremely concerning.”

Meanwhile, the Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, has used his position to protest the jailing of a far right-wing activist who founded an extremist organization that put on violent demonstrations against Muslims in the United Kingdom. Federal positions ostensibly created to defend all people’s religious freedom are actively being used to discriminate against and terrorize Muslims and those otherized by the State Department’s immigration policy. This is unfortunately in line with the Trump administration’s Islamophobic, xenophobic agenda.