Khizr Khan, a Gold Star father who prominently opposed Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric during the 2016 presidential campaign, went to Capitol Hill on Thursday to denounce the president’s controversial travel ban.
“The malice of Donald Trump is evident,” Khan said at a news conference. He was joined by several Democratic lawmakers, who introduced a Freedom of Religion Act in response to the president’s executive order temporarily banning refugees — as well as citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries — from entering the United States.
“It is time for patriotic Americans to regain control of this government, the House and Senate,” said Khan, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen from Charlottesville. “Both sides, Republicans and Democrats, are patriotic Americans. This is the only way we will endure this shameful period of this administration.”
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is the lead sponsor of the religious-freedom bill, which he said would prohibit the use of faith-based litmus tests to ban immigrants, refugees and international visitors trying to enter the country.
The legislation failed last session, but Beyer said Trump’s executive order demanded its reintroduction.
“Let’s not mince words: This ban is the culmination of xenophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric by President Trump and makes us less safe,” said the congressman, who went to Dulles International Airport last weekend to demand that those affected by the ban be allowed into the country.
“Trump ignores the very real, human consequences of this action.”
Bill co-sponsors who also spoke were House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.).
No Republicans are co-sponsors.
The White House says that the travel ban is designed to give the United States time to improve its security-screening processes and that the ban is not aimed specifically at Muslims.
“These [countries] were identified because their governments lacked the ability to properly screen. . . . It has nothing to do with religion,” Michael C. Short, a White House spokesman, said Thursday. “It’s patently false, misleading, and they should knock it off.”
Khan, who is Muslim, first entered the spotlight at the Democratic National Convention in July, when he held up a pocket Constitution during his speech and wondered aloud whether Trump had ever read it.
Khan’s son, a U.S. Army captain, was killed in Iraq in 2004 while protecting his unit from a suicide bomber.
After the convention, a Democratic activist from Tennessee started an online fundraising campaign to try to persuade Khan to run for office.
Asked Thursday whether he had decided to do so, Khan answered, “Not yet.”