Thousands of concerned Americans rushed at least 49 airports across the United States in protest over the weekend. The catalyst was an executive order by President Trump and the detaining of Middle Eastern immigrants by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Before you make your homemade sign, memorize the words to “Imagine” by John Lennon, and rush San Antonio International Airport, let’s review all the facts.
On 27 January, President Trump issued an executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” In 2,858 words, he mentions flaws with the State Department’s policies of properly scrutinizing visa applications, which contributed to the attacks on 9/11. Furthermore, he outlines and orders certain actions to take place. Actions which have led many, who haven’t read the Executive Order, to consider it a ban on Muslims. The reality is there is no #Muslimban.
Questions do remain, even after careful reading of the order. Was this morally wrong? Was this an Illegal action? Was this Un-American? The simple answer is No, No, and No. This was a substandard roll-out of a poorly articulated order that was, at best, ambiguous. It was implemented far too snappishly, and without prior notification to those departments tasked with enforcement. What happened at the airports was a direct result of this.
Before we allow our emotions to get the better of us, it’s important to look at the historical perspective of such an action. This is not uncommon in U.S. history; select groups of individuals have been barred entrance dating back to 1881. For historical perspective:
President Arthur banned everyone from China.
President Franklin Roosevelt banned Jews.
President Teddy Roosevelt banned all self-proclaimed atheists.
President Truman banned Communists.
President Carter banned Iranians.
President Reagan banned HIV positive individuals from entering the U.S.
Quite literally, the United States has a history of banning individuals on the premise of -in order- nationality, ethnicity, religious affiliation, political affiliation, and medical condition. Why? To secure the safety of the citizens of the United States from threats abroad.
If this recent example were truly a slight at the spirit of American values, then where was Sen. Chuck Schumer’s moral outrage in 2011, when refugees from Iraq were significantly reduced for 180 days? Where was the mainstream media’s outright disdain of Presidents Arthur, FDR, Teddy, Truman, Carter, and Reagan? Where was Hollywood as people were being rejected on the basis of belief and ethnicity?
As media outlets, including MSNBC and FOX, continue to debate the semantics of how to refer to last week’s executive order, their advocacy journalism has generated much contention – and confusion – without doing much outside of spreading partisan rhetoric.
So what does it actually say? Despite what many have heard about the Executive Order, nothing in it mentions permanent lawful residents, students, temporary workers, or persons who have already been vetted by the State Department. In fact, it specifically permits many specific categories of people to enter the country from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia. Individuals who qualify are those holding “diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas”.
The executive order has essentially created a temporary injunction on travel for a period of 90 days for these seven specific nations, and for specific reasons. Countries which were designated by the Obama administration as posing “significant threats” to the United States. The nations included are current territories of the de facto Caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and where known terrorist training centers exist.
Were this truly a Muslim Ban, as reported, then the list would have included the more than 40 other Muslim majority countries spanning the globe. It does not. In fact, nearly 90% of the world Muslim population remains unaffected by the order despite the opportunistic outrage.
Protests, like those we have seen, are an important opportunity for the American public. They are vital to our Democracy. Yet, when executed with haste and ignorance, they become trivial, and worse – harmful to that very Democracy. Opinions that are most valuable are those predicated on an understanding of the situation and not on misguided outrage. Ignore the ill-conceived celebrity Tweet, trending Facebook meme, or click-bait headlines from the Huffington Post or Breitbart. United we stand, and divided we fall.
So, now the dialogue is open. Let us hear from you on what you agreed and disagreed with in the comments below.
-Note on the Author-
James is the son of a Moroccan-born immigrant to the United States, who after 29 years legally obtained her citizenship in 2009.