Chicago-area Muslims and Arab Americans are anxiously waiting for details on an executive order signed by President Donald Trump Friday that includes a temporary ban on immigration from seven predominantly-Muslim Middle Eastern and African nations.
Trump signed the executive action that he said is aimed at keeping “radical Islamic terrorists” out of the United States. The order would block entry for citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, while blocking refugees from all nations for 120 days. Refugees from Syria would be blocked indefinitely.
According to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, nearly 25,000 Cook County residents have immigrated from those countries.
“In the Chicago area, the communities that would be most affected would be the Yemenis and the Iraqis, both have significant communities,” said Dr. Louise Cainkar, an associate professor of sociology and social justice at Marquette. “The Syrian community, which is kind of a historic, long-standing community, also with the addition of Syrian refugees. Any family reunification for these communities would be stopped, which is a negative thing.”
Experts said it’s still unclear how the order will be enforced. Their concern is it could not only impact future immigration, but further negative perceptions of immigrants and a rise in hate crimes against Muslims.
“When you hear about a ban from Muslim countries, I think what really concerns the community is, unfortunately, the negative label Muslims are being labeled as,” said Nareman Taha, co-founder and director of Arab American Family Services. “I think it will impact all of us as immigrants in this country, how we perceive each other and interact with each other.”
Taha said some residents are concerned about traveling to the Middle East to visit family. On Friday, the Council of Islamic Organization of Greater Chicago advised anyone with an immigrant visa or green card not to leave the country.
“A lot of us want to connect with our family that live back there, and there is a lot of travelling that takes place,” Taha said. “But at this point, you’re hearing a lot of people say we don’t want to leave, what if they won’t let me back in, what if I can’t get back in.”
Cook County residents from countries where immigration could be banned
With around 11,000 residents, Cook County has the fourth-largest Iraqi population behind San Diego County in California and Macomb and Oakland counties in Michigan.
Around 4,800 people born in Syria live in Cook County. While that’s second-most in the nation, it’s about half of the 11,000 estimated to live in Los Angeles County. Since 2012, Chicago has resettled 765 Syrian refugees, the second-highest total in the country.
About 4,500 Cook County residents were born in Iran, a relatively small figure compared to other large cities. Los Angeles County has by far the nation’s largest Iranian community, more than 100,000 people, prompting Trump to dub the area “Tehrangeles.”
Cook County has about 1,000 residents born in Yemen, less than a tenth of Wayne County, Michigan, home to Detroit.
Libya, Somalia, Sudan
Each of these African nations have around 1,000 immigrants living in Cook County. The country’s largest Somali community is in Minnesota.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Chris Hagan is a digital reporter for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at @chrishagan.