Rep. Justin Amash has never hesitated to speak out against his own party, including President Donald Trump, which he did throughout the election and has continued to do since. When the president issued his recent executive order restricting travel from specific majority Muslims countries, Amash declared significant parts of that order unlawful. “It’s not lawful to ban immigrants on basis of nationality,” Amash said.
But for Rep. Amash, whose mother is a Syrian immigrant and his father, a Palestinian refugee, this subject hits home in ways that go beyond legality.
“I’ve had both of those aspects in my life — the immigrant aspect and the refugee aspect,” Amash told the Washington Post in an interview Wednesday. “I believe it’s important that we remain a welcoming country, that people feel they have the opportunity to come here and start a new life.”
The Post reports, “Amash is one of six lawmakers of Arab descent suddenly thrust into the spotlight thanks to a heated national debate over Trump’s executive order banning entry into the United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world.”
“But of the group’s five Republicans, Amash is the only one who fully opposes Trump’s order, despite widespread criticism of the policy and the way it has been applied to people from the Middle East,” the Post notes.
Though the libertarian-leaning congressman has long pushed for a more inclusive Republican Party, he is no stranger to what appears to be attacks on his heritage and even his family.
Hawkish Republican Congressman Devin Nunes of California once called Amash “al-Qaeda’s best friend” something many considered not only a criticism of the Michigan congressman’s foreign policy and civil liberties positions, but a racially-tinged slam against Amash’s ethnicity.
“I’m an Arab-American, and he has the audacity to say I’m al Qaeda’s best friend in Congress? That’s pretty disgusting,” Amash said in a 2014 radio interview about the controversy.
Rep. Amash now says his family is worried about the current political environment since Trump has taken office.
“My father became a refugee in 1948. They lived in [Ramallah, Palestine] until 1956 when a pastor and his wife from Muskegon, Michigan sponsored my dad’s family to come to the United States,” Amash told the Post. “They arrived in New York City like a lot of immigrant families and started a new life here. Now, my parents have a son in Congress. It’s really the American Dream.”
Amash said his parents “obviously very concerned” about Trump’s recent immigration and travel restrictions, also telling the Post: “Historically, our party has been welcoming to immigrants and refugees. My parents came here and became Republicans!”
“They felt good about this country and felt good being Republicans!” Amash said.