Hundreds of travelers — college students returning from breaks or research trips, families who’ve sold everything to start a new life, refugees escaping despotism — were detained or turned away as a result of President Trump’s executive order. This order does more to ignite division, xenophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments than it does to keep this country safe — no refugee accepted into the U.S. has committed a major act of terrorism since 1980.
The order, officially named “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” but simply referred to as the travel ban, was signed Friday and has already been met by protests at airports across the country. It includes a 120-day suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees and a 90-day visa suspension for anyone arriving from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
The seven banned countries were chosen because the Obama administration identified them as “the most watched countries harbouring terrorists.” However, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and all attacks since then have not been committed by anyone from these places. Other countries could be added to the list later, said current White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to BBC.
Each of these countries has a Muslim majority, which lends to the argument that this is an anti-Muslim ban. The only exception to the ban is for religious minorities, like Christians in Syria, whose refugee claims are prioritized.
The order was signed within the first few days of Trump’s presidency, with little warning for those overseas. Confusion around who the ban would affect and to what extent has left the public on the receiving end of contradictory comments from White House officials like Priebus, who said at one point the order would not affect green card holders, even though initially it did. Since Friday, 100-300 individuals have been detained.
By refusing entry to entire nations, we fuel the migrant crisis, alienate those in need and do nothing to protect our country from terrorism. Most recently, acts of terrorism like the Orlando, Charleston and Fort Lauderdale shootings were committed by U.S. citizens. If this ban had been in place then, it would have done nothing to save lives.
America’s unwillingness to extend values of freedom and justice across an ocean is shameful and this executive order perpetuates a blatant disregard for human life and wellbeing. This order screams an anti-Muslim message on the global stage.
Despite religious contention, the ban against all Syrians is illegal according to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which states no person can be “discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth or place of residence.”
This executive order, like the president’s tweets, come without checks and balances and without much forethought or research.
Thousands have protested against it, with over 40 demonstrations on Sunday alone. Courts in at least five states, including California, are challenging its legality, and 16 state attorneys general issued a joint statement, calling it “unconstitutional, un-American and unlawful” and vowed to fight it in court.
Because this order has already posed significant damage to the lives of hundreds and threatens tens of thousands, America must rely on people power to demonstrate, protest and demand an end to this executive order.
We must do more as a nation to prevent terrorism in our own backyards, just as we need to do more in pursuing an end to institutionalized racism, xenophobia and failing mental health systems. And instead of demonizing foreigners and those in desperate need, we must prepare our nation’s political and economic framework to withhold the migrant crisis we find ourselves in.
Times are changing and the U.S. needs to maintain global stability. We must continue to apply pressure in public and legal spheres every day until the order is repealed and demand better, more inclusive immigration policy.