I am an immigrant from a Muslim-majority country. The act of journeying from poverty or oppression to seize something better in a foreign nation is not simply courageous; it is a desperate last resort. My parents risked everything—their education, their livelihood, their family, and their happiness—to come to the United States for the possibility of opportunity.
They were never given a guarantee, nor did they ever assume one, but they saw potential in the United States that they realized their home country simply did not have—largely a result of a damaging colonialist and imperial history (if only we were concerned about illegal immigrants back then!). For this reason, the “temporary” immigration ban is not simply unfortunate—it is unethical.
I understand that American democracy stands as a beacon of hope for other nations to one day follow. However, those nations that lack the stable government we are privileged to have are struggling through the aftermath of a destructive history—one that has largely been influenced by Western powers like the United States.
An immigration ban of the sort proposed by President Donald Trump does little but stigmatize those nations and their people further. It villainizes innocent civilians whose only mistake was being born in an underprivileged country. The justification for this ban is that it uses protective measures to avoid any and all future terrorist measures. Ignoring that the ban does not actually target the countries that have produced the greatest number of terrorists, it essentially works on the principle that if we remove all potential for danger, danger will not happen.
Baby-proofing America is perhaps best left for helicopter parents, not presidents. The rhetoric used to support the ban is hypocritical when compared to the Trump administration’s other policies. By this logic, guns should be banned, especially when gun violence causes a thousand times as many American deaths as terrorist attacks do. Clearly, guns are a greater threat to American safety and democracy than “radical Islam”. JFK died from a bullet wound, not a suicide bomb, after all.
The ban also unjustly bars the immigration of individuals who have already been approved for visas—many of whom have already undergone a thorough and lengthy vetting process. Many of these people have lived in the United States for several years without any cause to warrant their expulsion from this country. Many people who work at and attend Harvard run the risk of never being able to return if they decide to visit home.
This ban is simply a political maneuver that seeks to provide a trophy for the current administration in their attempts to keep unrealistic campaign promises at the expense of defenseless populations. Like a shiny object dangled in front of a puppy, executive orders like the ban do little but distract us from our actual issues. Let's also not forget that it simultaneously ostracizes an entire religion through discriminatory language.
Fortunately, the need for much of this conversation becomes null and void after the judicial rejection of the ban. The federal court’s ruling on the order and its reinstatement designates it as an unlawful act, so to continue to advocate for it ultimately denies our system of checks and balances. While the court avoided confronting the religious discrimination that underlay the initial motives for this ban, to pretend that these policies don’t target specific populations is both naive and dangerous.
It takes us down a possible path to repeating history—similar arguments of protecting the safety of Americans led to Japanese internment camps. While I doubt that we will and hope that we do not repeat this mistake, I worry that by not acknowledging the parallels, we run the risk of getting close enough to cause irreparable damage. This ban not only ostracizes foreigners, but also Americans like myself, who see it as a rejection of our identity and as ignorant of our civil rights.
I hope to remind us all of who we are, what we fundamentally believe in, a moral task that should not be so difficult to understand. Trump’s immigration ban may not have been heartless, but it surely was not selfless, nor does it propose a rational solution for the issues it seeks to address. To believe that it does, one must first abandon American principles of fairness, equality, and freedom. It seems that with executive orders such as this one, the current administration stands as a greater threat to American liberties than Muslim immigrants.
Tasnim Ahmed ’17, an inactive Crimson editor, is a Psychology concentrator in Adams House.
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