Since colonization, America has been a place where different cultures come together and blend into a single society. It has been dubbed the “Melting Pot” and “Land of Opportunity.” It has been a home for those who had no home, a refuge that welcomed all, a place to build a new life. That is why President Trump’s refugee ban has saddened many people. One of the most disturbing changes is the fading of empathy in our country, which, if unchecked, may spread to the rest of the world. The immigration ban violates the founding principles of our country.
Many political cartoons concerning Trump’s presidency have featured the Statue of Liberty crying, sometimes holding an Islamic child in her arms. The Muslim religion is Trump’s most widely known target, his scapegoat. While the official claim is that Trump and his officials have chosen these countries because they were deemed “high risk,” one cannot help but wonder if it is because they are Muslim. As Jeremy Diamond mentioned in a article for CNN, “Trump’s latest executive order: Banning people from 7 countries and more,” minority religions from these countries are allowed entry into the country. Essentially, this means that all non-Muslims are allowed into the U.S. This, if not direct proof of discrimination against Muslims, is at the very least highly questionable. Their religion isn’t the sole reason why citizens of these countries aren’t being admitted into the U.S, however, I believe that it is a contributing, and possibly the most important, reason for their exclusion. And, as the First Amendment to our Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This clearly states that one religion cannot be preferred in the United States. This was reinforced in the Supreme Court’s 1982 case, Larson vs. Valente, where they firmly stated that “the clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.” For this reason and others, the appeals court has already found Trump’s ban unconstitutional for legal immigrants already in the U.S. or on their way.
Political journalist, Mark Joseph Stern from Slate has stated that Muslims from these countries hoping to make their way into the U.S. without a visa would have a good case if they wanted to challenge the ban as unconstitutional before the courts. If they have a strong legal case, one must ask: why is there a ban in the first place? Well, there is, of course, an answer to that, but it is one that leaves doubts where there should be answers.
Jerrold Nadler, U.S. Representative for New York’s 10th congressional district, stated in an interview with CNN, “The various people who have, in fact, committed terrorist acts in this country, from 9/11 on, none of them came from any of the seven countries that are the subject of the president’s executive order.” In fact, your chance of being killed by a refugee terrorist in the U. S. is one in 3.64 billion. The chance of being killed in a terrorist attack by illegal immigrants, another group of people Trump claims that he is “protecting” us from, is one in 10.9 billion. According to Politifact, a political fact-checking website, “Not a single refugee, Syrian or otherwise, has been implicated in a terrorist attack since the Refugee Act of 1980 set up systematic procedures for accepting refugees into the United States…” Additionally, Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, showed The Atlantic, an online news site, a list he had compiled of foreign-born persons who committed or attempted to commit a terrorist attack, including their country of origin and how many people they killed. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are at the top of that list, and yet aren’t included in the ban, possibly because Saudi Arabia is such an important economic partner of the U.S. Syrian refugees have never even attempted a terrorist attack, yet Syria is included in the ban. I’m not at all trying to say that Egyptian and Saudi Arabian citizens should be banned from the U.S., just trying to call into question Trump’s motive behind the ban on the specific nations he targeted.
George Washington, once said, “Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.” As we can clearly see, Trump’s claim of issuing the ban to protect America, and to help it, may be covering up simple bigotry. And, as stated before, the Constitution prevents the government from doing anything disrespectful to religion of any sort. Trump’s hate towards helpless refugees and immigrants is puzzling and lacking a real reason. F.D.R. himself, a former president of the U.S.A. and one of the most well-loved, stated, “Remember, remember always, that all of us, you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
In this article, I have made several logical claims as to why this ban goes against the very fabric of our flag. Now I would like to leave you with my last argument, this one based not on research but on empathy. Hopefully all of you have seen at least a few photos or read something about the Syrian refugees and the difficult, hand-to-mouth lifestyle they lead. What perturbs me most about this disturbing ban is the hardness of heart it displayed. At such a tumultuous time in our world’s history, we must remember that we are all human no matter the color of our skin, our language, or our religion, and that borders between countries shouldn’t separate us, nor cut off our love and ability to feel. This we must keep in mind, even when it seems the rest of the world has forgotten. I leave you with the words of Emma Lazarus, expressed in the famous poem she wrote for the Statue of Liberty, which you can now view on a plaque inside of it. I believe these words symbolize what once was, and hopefully will come to be again, America’s attitude towards foreigners. “Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/ The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/ Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me/ I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
By Rosa Sofia Kaminski