Since the early 1900’s, our Lady Liberty has expressed America’s stance on immigration with Emma Lazarus’ words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” For decades, this phrase has helped represent our nation’s legacy as a “melting pot,” a legacy that is currently being threatened.
On March 6, 2017, Trump signed a revised Executive order (EO), putting a 120-day suspension on new refugee admissions, while also banning citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, and dropping the annual ceiling for refugee admissions by more than 50,000. He calls this an act of national security, protecting us from terrorists, yet, when you look at the facts, in the past 16 years there has not been a single fatality on U.S. soil by extremists with backgrounds from the targeted countries.
I could go on discussing the flawed reasoning behind Trump’s stance on refugees and immigrants. Including, his depraved indifference towards the welfare of others, and how this act goes against the 1965 Immigration & Naturalization Act and the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees. However, as I see it, the most significant risk in shutting our doors to so many is the potential gains Trump is voluntarily eroding from our country.
The U.S. has immigration embedded in its history and roots, experiencing major waves of immigration during the colonial era, the first part of the 19th century, from the 1880s to 1920, and continuing today. Although some were welcomed in, several did not have such luck and faced closed doors similar to the ones refugees and immigrants from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen are facing today under Trump’s presidency.
In 1882, Congress passed the only law in U.S. history that prevented immigration and naturalization on the basis of nationality, The Chinese Exclusion Act, prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers. This act resulted in families being torn apart, businesses shutting down, and the oppression of innocent immigrants for almost 80 years. Over a century later, in June 2012, the House of Representatives apologized for this Act and the consequences that came from it. In 1936 a ship carrying 937 Jewish refugees arrived in America and was denied entry and forced to return to Europe. This led to hundreds of the passengers being murdered in Auschwitz. Decades later, in September of 2012, the U.S. State Department held a special ceremony, also apologizing for this act and its consequences. Fast forward to 2017 – people from these six Muslim-majority countries are asking for a hand that Donald Trump ruthlessly refuses to give, based on their national origin, race, and religion. Shall we sit back and watch history repeat itself? Sit back and wait another few decades to apologize for this act?
Thomas Jefferson, Joseph Pulitzer, Madeline Albright, Jerry Yang, Gloria Estefan, Hans Bethe, Hannah Arendt, Elie Wiesel, Barack Obama, Albert Einstein, Andrew Jackson – to name a few of the thousands of influential Americans who are refugees themselves or have a history of immigration in their family. What if America told them all to go home? The EO Trump has signed is already showing catastrophic consequences by banning potentially influential Americans, or already successful ones, from coming into the United States. Across the U.S., more than 15,000 doctors are from the Muslim-majority countries covered by Trump’s travel ban, along with several scientists, teachers, musicians, students and more.
Realistically, every country has the right to decide who they wish to open their borders to, however banning so many from entering the United States may cause far more harm to our country resulting from missed potential and opportunities, than it will benefit or “protect our country.” After all, Chinese immigrants were a huge contribution in advancing our nation, building the First Transcontinental Railroad, participating in setting up California’s agriculture and fisheries, and much more. There is so much evidence supporting the positive influence refugees and immigrants have had on our nation, and there is little accurate evidence supporting the damage they have done. So, what are the basis for Trump’s claims? When will so many Americans stop standing behind Trump, denying entry to thousands of refugees and immigrants, and learn that odds are one day we will be thanking them?
Donald Trump, is this how one makes America great again? Your current wife is an immigrant. Your own mother migrated from Scotland. Your grandfather came to the U.S. (illegally) from Germany in 1855. And now, you, the son and grandchild of immigrants, have made it far enough to become the leader of our country. Realize the potential damage you are doing by isolating our country from so many refugees and immigrants looking for safety, yearning to start a new life for themselves and their family while contributing to our country – no different than the woman who gave birth to you.
Pulitzer-prize winning historian, Oscar Handlin, once said “I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America. Then I discovered that the immigrants were American history.” So, take a second to ask yourself what would happen if we had for the past centuries banned groups of immigrants and refugees like you are doing now, where would our country be? What would be left of America?
The answer is nothing. Simply put, we would not be the United States of America. Not only do we owe it to them – we desperately need them.
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