Disclaimer: I am a white female American who grew up in a middle class home. I have never experienced homelessness, a cruel regime, fleeing from a war torn country, or having my siblings murdered by my own government. I have not experienced nor can I relate to some of the intense stories that the people who are seeking refuge have experienced. I have no reason to speak for these people with any true empathy for their pasts. But, while I have not struggled anywhere near the amount of hardships that some of these people have, I know that the same people who are seeking refuge, along with the people who have already been living in the United States legally for at times more than a decade, the people who are temporarily banned from entering the United States for the simple reason of their mothers going into labor in a different country than I, these people, these fellow humans, were born of the same Creator of the universe as I. It is my duty to love my neighbors. This is what I am called to do, and this is what I want to do.
As you have been informed by your Twitter feeds, Facebook feeds, news channels, newspapers, etc., President Trump signed an executive order that mandates a temporary ban on not only new refugees, but also on people who have already legally been living in this country who come from a set of specific countries throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa. There has been a back and forth between people who are for and against this ban, advocating for and against its constitutionality, morality, and effectiveness. But, this executive order is not wrong for just one of these reasons, but all.
If this order was only a temporary ban on accepting refugee applications, there would be distress, there would be anger, but it would be constitutional. If it was an order to stop new applicants, which would allow people who have already been vetted, people who have already been legally living in the country to travel with ease, it could allow for time if the vetting process needed to be changed. But even this would leave many people who are fleeing war torn countries without the ability to come to America for upwards of a few additional months. Such a plan, if there was a way to keep the refugees in a safe place until they could apply to stay in America, would still be the cause for a moral debate, but it would at least be constitutional.
But this is not what happened. There have been people detained at airports who have legally lived in America and were just out visiting family. People were detained who were refugees to this country. There were people who finally had hope to live in a country that is known for being the land of the free, and then had to be detained for up to 24 hours before being released to the land they once hoped for. And, not all of the visitors were allowed in — some were reportedly deported.
There were children kept from their mothers, detained for hours. There were people who have legally lived in this country for upwards of a decade, one of them who even worked for the U.S. military, who were detained. The only reason for their detainment was the fact that their mother went into labor in a different country, a country of predominantly Muslims, a country that was eventually torn apart by an evil or failing government.
The countries on the banned list are not even countries whose citizens carried out deadly attacks. According to CATO, 17 people from the 7 countries banned were convicted of planning or carrying out terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, but killed zero people. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, a country who is not banned, accounts for 12.3% of the terrorist attacks and over 78% (2,369) of the murders from foreign-born citizens from terrorist countries from 1975-2015. Thus this ban may not only be morally void and unconstitutional, but also ineffective.
Last semester, I went to class with people from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Russia, Columbia, and other countries across the globe. This week, I will go to class with many of the same students as last semester. Some are directly from the countries affected, some are from countries that are not, but with such an executive order, who knows if they will be next? This ban could interfere with them visiting their family on break, or even going on our school’s Spring intensive to Mexico. They would be able to get into Mexico, but they wouldn’t be able to get out. Imagine the irony – Mexico, the nemesis of Trump, the country we are building a wall to keep out, is fine with welcoming US citizens and international students, yet the US, specifically our president, is not. Imagine how many people might be on missions trips, class trips, or family vacations – people who may have even lived in America for years, but cannot re-enter the country to go back to their churches, their families, their schools. This is affecting people everywhere. My school is extremely diverse. Some of my friends aren’t here on anything but a student visa because they wanted to study in the land of the free to learn about the unique democracy that we supposedly have. Imagine the irony. Students who came to study in a free nation cannot exit it without the fear of not being able to re-enter. This repulsive irony is simply a disgust to American democracy and a disgust to humanity.
When I go to class this week, I will be surrounded by people who have been directly affected by this ban. Under President Obama, there were laws that directly affected me. There was the Affordable Care Act, and while being a hot mess and filled with flaws, it at least helped some people. Even though the Affordable Care Act both hurt and helped people close to me, it was at least a law that I never had to question its morality. It was one of the only laws over the eight years of President Obama that directly affected me or my family and friends. But now, just over a week into his presidency, President Trump has directly affected my friends, my neighbors across America, and people across the globe. It wasn’t a new policy that was passed by congress, or a constitutional halt of new refugee applications; it was an extremely poorly written executive order, and with the swipe of a pen, our President banned some his own people and took away hope from many others.
I care about the safety of our nation. I care about keeping our nation safe so that refugees can come in and live without fear. I care about keeping my neighbors safe, my family safe, and my friends safe. But this executive order bans the people who have already been living here legally and labels all refugees from some predominantly Muslim countries as potential terrorists. This executive order, despite whatever intentions may have been had, does not keep America safe. This executive order is a travesty. I do not know what policies will keep America safe while helping those in need and while still being constitutional, but this is not it. This is not how we protect our nation, this is not how we protect our constitution, and most importantly, this is not how we love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.