April 4, 2018
News Press Release

ZOA Files Amicus Brief Supporting Pres. Trump’s Sept. 2017 Immigration Proclamation

U.S. Embassy Closures and Lack of On-the-Ground Presence in Affected Countries, Due to Terror and Violence, Prevent Proper Vetting from Those Nations

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein and Director of Special Projects Liz Berney, Esq. released the following statement:

On February 28, 2018, the Zionist Organization of America filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the Court”) brief with the United States Supreme Court, in Trump v. Hawaii, Docket No. 17-985, in support of Proclamation No. 9645, Presidential Proclamation Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats, 82 Fed. Reg. 45,161 (Sept. 27, 2017),  (the Proclamation).  ZOA’s brief can be viewed on the Supreme Court’s website here

Topics addressed in ZOA’s brief included the following:

The Proclamation does not constitute or effect a “Muslim ban” and does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause.  The Proclamation suspends entry from eight countries (Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Chad, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela) that do not share adequate information with the United States and/or that present other risks.  Our calculations based on the CIA World Fact Book and Pew Research Center population studies, demonstrate that only a tiny fraction (8%) of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims are potentially affected by the Proclamation.   This percentage is further reduced by the Proclamation’s many exceptions and exclusions. A real “Muslim ban” would include many more than six of the world’s 50-plus majority Muslim nations. 

U.S. embassies are closed in five of these six affected Muslim majority countries, due to terrorist attacks and violence, leaving America without the on-the-ground presence that is the hallmark of adequate vetting. 

The six Muslim majority countries affected by the Proclamation are marked by combat zones and infested with terrorist groups and sympathizers.  Three of the affected countries (Iran, Syria and North Korea) are U.S. designated state sponsors of terrorism.  

Nationality-based restrictions were appropriate during the Iran hostage crisis and embassy seizure; they are just as appropriate today. 

U.S. embassies are closed in five of these six affected Muslim majority countries, due to terrorist attacks and violence, leaving America without the on-the-ground presence that is the hallmark of adequate vetting. 

Iran never returned the United States embassy that the Iranian regime seized in 1979.  The U.S. “embassy” in Iran is now “virtual” (a website).   The U.S. Embassy in Libya has remained closed, after its evacuation amid militia fighting in July 2014.  It also previously suspended operations after the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi and murder of the U.S. Ambassador and three other Americans.  Syria is a war zone: The U.S. Embassy in Syria suspended operations on February 6, 2012, and is still closed.   The US Embassy in Yemen has been closed, and all consular services have been suspended since February 2015, when Iranian-sponsored Houthis seized Yemen’s capital, Sana’a.   Thousands of Houthi supporters marched through Sana’a shouting the Houthi/Iranian slogan: “Death to America, Death to Israel.”   The U.S. also does not have an Embassy or any other diplomatic presence in any part of terrorism-infested Somalia.

Factors such as ISIS’s seizure of Syrian passport blanks, passport-making machines, and identity information in 2015, which gave ISIS the ability to make fake Syrian passports,  also impede America’s ability to vet Syrian immigrants.

Iran’s anti-American attacks did not cease after the 1979-1980 hostage crisis.  Iran currently holds American hostages today.   The Iranian regime continues to view America as the “Great Satan”: Hundreds of thousands of Iranians still chant “Death to America” during annual rallies.  Based on a seven-year investigation, sparked by the 9-11 Commission’s recommendations, the Southern District of New York (federal court)[1] found that Iran’s top officials, government entities and proxies including Hezbollah: commencing in the mid-1980s, devised, planned, provided pilot training for and otherwise assisted the 9-11 attacks, and attacks on U.S. embassies and the U.S.S. Cole.  Especially pertinent here, Iran/Hezbollah coordinated the 9-11 hijackers’ acquisition of passports and visas and facilitated their travel.  In 2011, Iranian agents plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in a crowded Washington DC restaurant, which could have caused numerous American casualties.

Iran and its proxies continue to spread terror in other nations affected by the Proclamation, including Yemen (where Iran backs the Houthis), Syria, and Latin America.   Iran collaborates with North Korea on missile and nuclear development. 

Numerous experts, including top officials in the former Obama administration, repeatedly explained that the absence of a U.S. on-the-ground presence makes adequate vetting impossible.  Thus, the Trump administration’s multi-agency review properly found information deficiencies regarding terror-supporting and terror-plagued nations where the U.S. has no embassy, diplomatic relations, or presence. 

The danger posed by terrorists infiltrating into the United States in immigrant streams has been dramatically demonstrated by migrants’ terrorist attacks in Boston, San Bernardino, Orlando and Manhattan – and in Paris, London, Brussels, Cologne and elsewhere, in the wake of ISIS and other terrorists infiltrating with unvetted migration pouring into Europe.

The Proclamation’s vital purpose exemplifies our most fundamental, overriding value of protecting American lives.

U.S. immigration policies during World War II toward Jews who posed no danger to Americans, who were fleeing for their lives from the Nazis, are not analogous to today’s circumstances.  Past dissimilar situations do not warrant admitting into the United States persons who cannot be properly vetted.

Jewish/Judeo-Christian and American values oppose admitting persons into the United States who cannot be properly vetted and who thus endanger U.S. citizens.  

The ZOA described its interest in this issue as follows:

The Zionist Organization of America is the oldest pro-Israel organization in the United States, founded in 1897 as the Federation of American Zionists.  Supreme Court Associate Justice Louis Brandeis was an early president of ZOA.  ZOA is dedicated to protecting the safety, rights and survival of the Jewish people, pro-Israel community and fellow American citizens, and promoting strong U.S.-Israel relations.   ZOA educates the public, and participates in court and administrative proceedings, Congressional hearings, and media publications.

ZOA is a leader in combatting anti-Semitism. ZOA assists Jewish, pro-Israel and neutral students on U.S. college campuses who are attacked and threatened by radical groups.  ZOA also maintains contact with Jewish leaders throughout Europe regarding the frightening increase in radical groups’ physical and other attacks against Jews, Christians, women, homosexuals and others, in the wake of extensive unvetted immigration into Europe from terrorist haven countries.  ZOA President Morton A. Klein was a keynote speaker at the 2014 International Center for Combatting Anti-Semitism conference in Belgium. 

ZOA also works to combat the threat posed by Iran and its proxies – the major entities affected by the Proclamation. 

ZOA’s knowledge and experience can provide important insights and background for the Court.

In addition, ZOA officers, staff and members include direct descendants of Holocaust survivors, victims and refugees.  ZOA President Morton Klein is the son of Holocaust survivors, and was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany.  ZOA Director of Special Projects (counsel for the brief) Elizabeth Berney’s father was a German-Jewish refugee (who then joined the U.S. Army to fight the Nazis).  Her great-grandmother and other relatives were passengers on the infamous 1939 SS St. Louis voyage.

In light of this background, ZOA is concerned that the Proclamation’s opponents are making false analogies to Jews’ World War II experiences; ignoring the real dangers that the Proclamation seeks to address; falsely calling the Proclamation a “Muslim ban”;  and distorting Jewish/Judeo-Christian and American values to press for admitting persons into the United States today who cannot be properly vetted, and who endanger U.S. citizens.

[1] See Havlish v. Bin Laden, Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, 03 Civ. 9848(GBD), Dkt #294 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 22, 2011); See also Iran Planned/Funded 9/11, ZOA Staff, Dec. 8, 2015, (Havlish findings summary).