The logbooks of Ellis Island, the railway lines threaded across the U.S., even the common refrain of “God Bless America” are all affixed with an American history deeply rooted in immigration. No artifice, no force can erase the evidence or artifact of that history.
There are moments in the last 240 years, though, that have unraveled the claim that we are a nation of, and for, immigrants — policies, like the Chinese Exclusion Act, or Japanese internment; stories, like that of the MS St. Louis, which was denied entry into the U.S. with 900 Jewish refugees tucked in its hull. Of those on the ship, 254 later died in the Holocaust — an odious reminder of the fatal implications of America’s policies toward refugees.
With Donald Trump’s decision Friday to temporarily ban entry of people from seven different majority-Muslim countries, as well as curtail Syrian refugee resettlement, we are now witnessing the latest iteration of a dangerous, wholly un-American, anti-immigrant era — one that touts empty promises of security under the guise of racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia.
And the effects of the ban are already being felt. At airports around the country — from Los Angeles, to Washington, D.C., and Seattle — protesters expressed anger over the detainment of incoming immigrants with visas or refugee status. And while federal judge Ann M. Donnelly’s ruling Saturday evening has halted deportations, the Department of Homeland Security said Sunday that it would continue to enforce the president’s orders.
Perhaps most alarming is the irreparable cruelty of President Trump’s ‘us versus them’ rhetoric which is based on contempt for fact and reality. Since 2001, no one in the U.S. has been killed in an act of terrorism by any immigrants from Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, Iraq or Syria — the countries listed in President Trump’s order, according to terrorism researchers at the University of North Carolina. Yet despite this, refugees escaping the dangers of war — or the real threats of terrorism in their home countries — have now been distortedly defined as “hostile” and counter to the “founding principles” of the U.S.
The refugee crisis cannot and should not be a partisan issue, it’s an issue of humanity.
With visa-holders, permanent residents and immigrants of all kinds under attack, it is necessary to sustain a perpetual state of protest. We owe America’s vibrant cultural, economic and intellectual combustion to the benefits of immigrants, and now, more than ever, we must defend them.
The very fact that Trump’s order was signed on a weekend reserved for remembrance of the Holocaust speaks to the horrifying lack of sympathy and historical myopia that defines the leader of our nation’s highest public office — his statement Friday, failed to even mention the Jewish people once.
On Sunday, Trump’s Chief of Staff, Reince Preibus, doubled down on that exclusion, saying “I mean, everyone’s suffering in the Holocaust including obviously, all of the Jewish people affected and the miserable genocide that occurred — it’s something that we consider to be extraordinarily sad,” and then added more troublingly, “If we could wipe it off of the history books, we would. But we can’t.”
We cannot — must not — remain silent in a time when the actions of President Trump have begun to mirror some of the darkest horrors in our world’s annals.