Sterling Heights, MI to Muslims: You Can’t Build a Mosque Here

The American Islamic Community Center has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Sterling Heights, MI for not allowing them to build a new mosque within the city. The irrational and racist fears of a town that is 85 percent white further exemplifies the denial of basic human rights towards those of the Muslim faith. This happens to 2nd and 3rd generation Muslims, as well as those who may be seeking asylum in the U.S.

Far too many people think that someone shouldn’t be allowed in this country because of their faith. They think that refugees are being let in by the tens of thousands, with no screening being done. In fact, while President Obama has stated he’ll allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country, it’s not like all of them will just come off a boat in New York Harbor and be set loose. There is a rigorous, thorough and highly technical process in place to vet refugees and immigrants of all kinds. But opponents use faulted logic to justify violating someone’s First and 14th Amendment rights.

The refugee screening process

The resettlement process for refugees that’s laid out by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extensive, and that’s an understatement. In fact, the DHS is just one of SIX government agencies that participate in the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). All of this is readily available on DHS’s website, and their U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) division handles the literal mountains of paperwork that those seeking asylum must file. Here is the process, summed up by the USCIS; apologies in advance for all the acronyms:

  • Registration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which then refers cases to USRAP based on their vulnerability and eligibility assessment.
  • A Resettlement Support Center conducts a pre-screening interview and background checks. They handle file preparation, data storage and out-processing activities; basically all of the paperwork that most all of us would be unwilling to do.
  • The USCIS reviews background check results, conducts biometric checks (fingerprints) as well as the eligibility interview. They interview every single refugee that applies for admission, and the officers holding these interviews are all experts and very experienced in refugee law, fraud detection and security protocol. They even have enhanced screening for the Syrian refugees that everyone is so concerned about. No one gets into the country without first being vetted by these guys.
  • After this, they clear the I-590 form that all those seeking refugee status must fill out, and again, no one is approved until all security checks are cleared.
  • The RSC then processes cases for approved travel, including medical exams and sponsorship by a domestic resettlement agency.
  • All refugee travel information is screened on flight manifests by the TSA prior to boarding.
  • The U.S. Customs and Border Protection makes the final determination on whether an applicant is to be permitted entry to the United States.

On average, it takes 1-2 years before a refugee can be allowed into the country. If you had to take a breath from exhaustion from just reading that, imagine actually having to go through it. What does all of this have to do with the American Islamic Community Center’s lawsuit? It’s the willful ignorance of many citizens in regards to another persons rights, and allowing fear to dictate their intentional disregard for the law.

constitutional rights

The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The 14th Amendment says, “…No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The AICC clearly has a case to make on these grounds alone, and despite the rhetoric of a certain sentient cheeto that happens to be running for president, there are those in politics who are fighting to uphold the Constitution for everyone.

The Freedom of Religion Act of 2016 was submitted by Donald Beyer (D), the representative from Virginia’s 8th congressional district, and it states that no one shall be denied access to the U.S. based solely on religion. It seeks to include this provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act, and although it has very little chance of passing this year, it very well could next year once the election is over.

All those of the Islamic faith in Sterling Heights, MI want is a place to convene with fellow parishioner’s, read from a book of faith, examine their religion and pray for well-being; just like almost EVERY OTHER RELIGION on the face of this place planet. Mosque’s are not a place to recruit or house terrorists, they are not being used for brainwashing, and there is certainly no “war against Christianity.” Muslims just want the exact same rights that are afforded to everyone else, the rights legally afforded to them under the Constitution.

Unless you are a Native American, you are a descendant from immigrants as well. It’s important to remember that whenever you think the rights afforded to your ancestors should be denied for others. The hatred being directed toward those of the Muslim faith is despicable, and those who do so will end up with the Ku Klux Klan on the wrong side of history.

B. Clausen

A graduate of the University of Kansas, Brian Clausen is the U.S. news reporter for Dopplr. Before joining the team, he created digital content for large companies.

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