S.54 – The Protect American Families Act

2/2/17 – The Democrats Play Offense

A lot of what has gone down in the House and Senate so far has been Democrats (sometimes) trying, and failing, to stop Republicans from advancing their legislation. We’ve seen it with regulations enacted by President Obama to protect streams and keep guns from the mentally ill. We’ve seen mostly cosmetic opposition to his cabinet appointments, with chances for success ranging from hardly at all to relatively frisky.

But now, we have an honest-to-goodness Democratic initiative to keep track of. S.54 – The Protect American Families Act. To my knowledge, this is the first high-profile proactive bill introduced by a Democrat this session.

The rationale for the legislation begins with then-candidate Donald Trump’s famous proclamation of December 7, 2015:

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.

For what was, and still is, a pretty unambiguous statement – total and complete, after all, mean the same thing – the administration has gone through great pains in the last week to portray the president’s follow-through as somehow cut from a different cloth as his original statement. His executive order from last week:

  • Stopped refugee admissions into the United States for 120 days, despite the hoops refugees already have to go through just to get into the system.
  • Stopped refugee admissions from Syria indefinitely.
  • Stopped entry to the country from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for all persons, not just refugees.
  • Gave entry priority to Christians over Muslims.

All of this is broadly in line with what he proposed during this campaign. And why not? We were told, after all, that he’s a man of his word.

So, seeing that Trump does what he says, and considering another campaign promise was to create a national registry of Muslims, Democrats have pre-emptively filed legislation to prevent that from happening.

 The chief sponsor is America’s boyfriend, Cory Booker of New Jersey, who, along with Senators like Kirsten Gillibrand, has made a name for himself as one of the faces of Trump opposition in the Senate. The reasons for such a bill should go without saying, but Booker released a statement as to why he introduced it, so let’s hear it from him:

“Forcing people to sign up for a registry based on their religion, race, or national origin does nothing to keep America secure. It does, however, undermine the freedom of religion guaranteed by our Constitution and promote the false notion that people of certain faiths and nationalities are inherently suspect. Our legislation would block Donald Trump and subsequent administrations from infringing on religious liberty by creating an immigration-related religious registry.”

This isn’t the first time America has flirted with a national registry of “enemies” born out of paranoia and vague promises of “safety.” The last time we did it was shortly after 9/11, when President George W. Bush established something called the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System. The program required males from “certain countries” (if you know what I mean) to register with immigration if they were over the age of 16. NSEERS failed to catch a single terrorist and was dissolved by the Obama adminsitration in 2009.

So far, prospects look bleak. Despite Republicans expressing boilerplate disapproval when Trump proposed his registry, they also tut-tutted his Muslim ban proclamation in 2015 before falling in line behind the reality of it in 2017. It will be hard to imagine any Republicans getting on board, but, again, things that I’ve had a hard time imagining happen with regularity these days, so I’ll keep an eye on it. S.54 will get it’s own page on the site and will be updated as often as necessary as it advances or fails.

Regardless of what happens, it’s important that Democrats learn a lesson from the GOP’s time in the legislative wilderness and continue to fight for their ideals and values and our country’s norms rather than just playing defense. This is a good place to start.

Protect American Families Act (S. 54) – GovTrack.us

“S. 54 — 115th Congress: Protect American Families Act.” http://www.GovTrack.us. 2017. February 2, 2017 <https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/s54&gt;

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