This past weekend, I was glued to my social media feeds as the news about President Trump’s executive orders prompted protests across the country. Here’s the quick and dirty for those of you who are a little confused: Trump signed executive orders that bars citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Sudan) from entering the US, halts immigration from Syria, and will give preference to Christian refugees. They were to go into effect immediately, which caused chaos at airports as people from those seven countries were detained and protesters filled airports across the country. This is known as the Muslim Ban. I donated the little money I had to give to the ACLU, and while I was heartened that so many of my friends took to the streets in opposition to this policy, I couldn’t help but feel terrified about the road this country is heading down.
The United States has never been perfect, and to act like any of this nonsense started with Trump is absurd. As a black American whose ancestors came to this country in chains, I’m reminded of that nearly every single day. There are glaring problems with race, ethnicity, and overall “otherness” that this country has made great strides in defeating, but this is a turn for the worst. This country hasn’t always been kind to its immigrants, even though we like to say we are. Take a look at the way the Irish and the Italians were treated when they first rolled up; but nevertheless, America is one of the most diverse places on the planet, a place where immigrants have eagerly wanted to call home for ages. We take pride in our diversity when it best suits us, but when we really have to show up, we fail. This executive order–otherwise known as the Muslim Ban due to its purpose of protecting Americans against radical Islamic terrorists–is coupled with a fear that Muslims (particularly refugees from Syria) are going to harm our way of life this country.
It’s not the first time the US has responded appallingly to refugees: A ship full of Jewish refugees from Europe was turned away in 1939; many aboard were later killed in concentration camps during the Holocaust. There was blood on our hands then, and there’s blood on our hands now if we’re condemning people who simply want to escape a dangerous situation to return to the country they’ve been escaping in the first place.
But it’s not just the nasty spirit behind this executive action that deserves our disgust; it’s also the fact that it’s a logistical nightmare.
- This ban has led to people who legally live in the united states–including green card holders–who happen to have been born in, say, Iraq, Iran, or Somalia, from entering the United States. That means anyone who lived in Ohio who went on vacation out of the country for a little bit cannot come back now because…they were born in Somalia. How is that tackling terrorism?
- The last time a major terrorist attack from a foreign entity happened on American soil was on 9/11. The terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. One would think that if you’re serious about tackling terrorist threats, you might focus on the country that the 9/11 terrorists were from. Saudi Arabia isn’t on the list of banned countries. Why is that? Could it be because Trump has business ties in Saudi Arabia? Other foreign policy interests in that country? I don’t know, but something about that doesn’t smell right.
- People have consistently pointed to growing terrorist attacks in Europe as justification for this “Muslim Ban.” Except, many of the terrorists involved in the oft referenced attacks–like the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris– weren’t refugees. They weren’t even from the Middle East. Nope, they were actually French and Belgian born. So, if people committing some of the most heinous terrorist acts are actually European, shouldn’t someone who is serious about importing terrorism ban people from France, Belgium, Germany, etc?
- Did I mention that this is a logistical nightmare? There’s a story about a woman who was born in one of the seven countries who simply had to come to the US to make a connecting flight who was detained. She wasn’t even staying in the US! What if you’re a Christian from Sudan trying to enter the country, and the government doesn’t see you as a threat because you’re not Muslim? This order is far too broad and won’t even do what it’s meant to do!
- The average American is more likely to be killed by another American than by a Syrian refugee or an immigrant from any one of the banned countries. History has shown that I should be more afraid of Kyle from the burbs stealing his dad’s rifle and shooting me while I’m at the movies, than of Mohammad who recently arrived from Syria. And again, the executive order is mostly just interfering with people who are trying to reunite with their families, going back to school, going home, etc. Tell me, do you think this child is a national security threat?
Here’s one of the people who have been detained under Trump’s order to fight against terrorism.
He’s 5. pic.twitter.com/KYbM4nYRDZ
— David Mack (@davidmackau) January 29, 2017
Above all else, the executive orders feel inherently unconstitutional because they discriminate on the basis of religion. As I mentioned earlier, the orders include an explicit appeal to refugees of minority religions, with an obvious preference toward Christians in the region (given how much Trump loves talking about Christians being murdered by religious extremists, even though Muslims are victims of that violence more than any other group). The first amendment protects religious freedom, so an executive order blatantly putting people of a specific religion on the back burner has constitutional violation written all over it, not to mention the fact that the orders also discriminate based on ethnicity and nationality. Um, yikes.
I think there’s also room for concern about the overall empathy–or lack thereof–that many have for this so-called Muslim Ban. How can anyone claim to love this country–and its constitution–but think it’s acceptable our country to restrict people of certain religions from coming here? Why is it that some of the most vocal people supporting these discriminatory bans claim to be Christian in their Twitter bios, when Christianity is supposed to encourage people to provide shelter to those who seek it? Why are so many who claimed to only be against “illegal immigration” see zero problem with people legal immigrants–green card holders–being turned away at airports, just because they’re from one of the seven countries? I saw so many right wingers commenting that those very people should go back to where they came from. Hm, it’s almost as if this isn’t about the legality of immigration at all, it’s just about people not wanting anyone non-white to come into the country.
Make America Great Again? More like Make America White Again.
Yes, there have been some minor victories: The ACLU filed a lawsuit which made a federal judge in NY to place a temporary hold on some of Trump’s executive order, many people have been freed from customs limbo to cheering crowds, and politicians of all stripes–Republicans, Democrats, even politicians in other countries–have come out to express their disgust for the Muslim Ban. But none of these little victories should bring much comfort; this isn’t over yet, not by a long shot.
If you are reading this and thinking, “People are overreacting, this is just a matter of national security” then I have news for you: You’re on the wrong side of history. Time and time again, history has shown that those who turn their backs on the marginalized, those who scapegoat immigrants because they’re afraid, are the villains in the history books. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, nearly every single one of them is just like us. They’re students who want a good education, they’re parents who want the best for their kids, they’re angsty teenagers who are sad that their crush hasn’t texted them back yet, they’re girls taking selfies, they’re boys getting zits. They have their cousin who makes racist jokes, their homophobic grandpas, their traditionalist aunties, just like everyone else does. There are some who claim Islam and do awful things in its name…but they are a small fraction out of literally billions of people. If we don’t decide that every white person is a threat after a white person commits mass murder, why do we assume that every Muslim is a threat because a small fraction of members of their religion commit acts of violence? This is just one question more people should ask themselves.
You might have wondered how people during the Holocaust just sat back and did nothing while Jews were targeted. You might have wondered how people could just allow Jim Crow to devastate the lives of black Americans. You could have wondered all of these things at some point, but if you’re currently unmoved by how this country is demonizing Muslims, congratulations, future generations are going to look back on this moment and wonder how someone could have been like you.
Oh, and by the way:
How do you feel about the ban? Do you have friends or family who support it? Tell us in the comments!
Treat this as the national embarrassment it should be.