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A Ban on American Ideals

Trump’s executive order banning refugees and immigrants is an act of discrimination

President Trump’s recent executive order barring legal immigrants and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries and indefinitely suspending all refugee programs has been met with adamant public protests and increasing bipartisan resistance. This opposition is not surprising. At the heart of the order is an attack on fundamental human rights, and as such we believe the new policy to be deeply immoral.

America has always represented a comparatively greater adherence to fairness, especially for foreign nationals who look to the United States. This image of success has depended less on family background or on the favor of corrupt officials than it has in many other countries. For refugees with few alternatives for basic survival, America represents one of the only options for a respite. For some, that means a life beyond death and destruction at home.

Although we have a long way to go in terms of economic mobility and equal opportunities within our borders, the popular American national narrative has largely looked the same for those living in this country: through hard work, one can succeed regardless of background or identity, because we are all created equal. Whether or not this is the reality for all Americans, this is the image the United States presents to the rest of the world.

Trump’s executive order exists in blatant mockery of this professed American ideal of universal promise. And thus, the order seems to contradict the hope of a shared collective humanity.

Its severity also breaks from precedent. Previous administrations, including former President Barack Obama’s, had restricted visas for citizens of countries who are now affected by Trump’s decision, but this action goes much farther.

Moreover, a blanket ban on immigrants and refugees from the countries affected by the order, who have already been heavily vetted, does nothing to promote national security. From 1975 to 2015, none of the seven countries listed in the executive order produced foreigners that have killed Americans on U.S. soil in a terrorist attack. Rather, this executive order is an act of anti-Muslim discrimination that both plays on fears at home and erodes global attitudes toward the United States—a dramatic escalation of the post-9/11 worries about terrorism.

Those who go to great lengths to immigrate to the United States often retain a special appreciation for the stability that America represents. In turn, their children contribute diverse stories of personal growth centered around the American experience. Ultimately, these young adults, of whom there are many at Harvard and other colleges, inspire their communities to the same extent they benefit from them. The order is thus not only bad immigration and national security policy, but an obstacle preventing America's educational institutions from fully serving as places teeming with diversity, both of background and of experiences.

As stories of the Harvard students and affiliates barred from completing their studies here continue to emerge, we are glad for the unconditional support of President Faust and Dean Khurana for our colleagues and friends from abroad.

For Harvard to uphold its commitment to equal educational opportunity regardless of national origin, members of this institution must do their utmost to prevent the Trump administration from continuing on this trajectory. Much like the millions of Americans who spontaneously protested the executive order in airports and streets throughout the nation, Harvard must leverage its political power to protect the people it serves. Standing up for our basic human rights in a time of increasing political uncertainty can only be done through collective and empathetic protest.

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