Pseudo-Protection: The False Narrative of Hostile Immigration in America

Another few days elapse under the Trump Administration, and again we are trudging warily down another destructive path towards the erosion of democracy in America. Major news outlets both domestically and internationally have been reporting on Middle Eastern immigration regulations coming out of the White House; per the New York Times, Donald Trump has put forth yet another executive order, dubbed "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States." As a result of this measure, immigrants and refugees from seven Middle-Eastern, predominantly Muslim countries - namely Libya, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen and Somalia - are barred from entering the United States for an initial period of 90 days. Due to political turmoil within these nations, thousands are seeking sanctuary in the United States, to escape physical harm and prevalent human rights abuses under authoritarian regimes. As a result of this policy, it is not unreasonable to suggest that many seeking asylum will be thrust back into conflict at the expense of their lives. 

Those who possess dual-citizenship to both the United States and one of these countries are also restricted. It is up for debate as to whether this ban will expand in both scope and duration, but verbiage in the executive order allows for flexibility regarding supplementary provisions. These regulations bar Syrian refugees from entering the United States while suspending the US refugee program for four months, per CNN. According to the Administration, vetting procedures must be evaluated in greater detail. 

Now, we need to bring some clarity to a situation muddled both by fear-mongering and xenophobia. This cannot be mentioned enough: America is a nation built upon the colossal contributions of immigrants, from its inception to the present. Those from diverse backgrounds have contributed in ways that defy quantification - that fact (of the non-alternative variety) is absolutely undeniable.

Now that we find ourselves in the age of globalization, the world is growing precipitously smaller. Being one of the biggest players on the world stage, the United States is not poised to pursue isolationist immigration policy. This is not a matter of safety. What is being peddled as a safeguard is simply a political trojan horse - protectionism on the outside, with unabated ignorance and self-interest at its core. According to CNN, the number of admitted refugees will drop by more than 50%, from 110,000 to 50,000

There are key issues worthy of raising some eyebrows: no immigrants from any of the seven nations designated have been responsible for bloodshed on American soil since September 11th. As one could guess, all of these countries are majority-Muslim countries. Another blow against Muslim immigrants seeking asylum - those emigrating of minority religions in these countries (i.e. Christian, Jewish, etc.) are slated to receive preferential treatment in vetting, moving forward. Quickly, the immigration process is turning to religious affiliation as THE predominant factor in terms of acceptance or denial. To be clear, this is not extreme vetting. Extreme vetting is all encompassing and thus comprehensive. However, that terminology is the crux of the White House propaganda engine, which has proven to be an extension of the election. 

The executive order is also significant not only for its contents, but also for its omissions. Upon inspection, it may be curious that nations such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are excluded from these restrictions. Similar to their banned counterparts, these countries are also home to Muslim-majority populations. However, these countries are and have been home to business dealings involving Trump, says the Telegraph UK. While the current President himself has stated his business dealings will not hamper his decision making, and that other affiliates are running his companies now, consider this: regardless of Trump's commitments to the actual operations behind his companies, he does still have holdings with them. Given the fact that stock price correlates with business fiscal performance, introducing restrictions that could result in sanctions are not in Trump's best interest. If national security were of paramount importance, considering past history, nationals from these nations would have likely been blocked as well. 

The ban also has negative repercussions in regards to green-card holders. Those who are US citizens but wish to travel to countries on the list must meet first with a consular officer, according to The Atlantic. Travel allowances are to be considered on a case-by-case basis, no matter the criminal history or background of the traveler(s) in question. These restrictions serve to severely back up international travel systems, and needlessly bar travelers from seeing loved ones abroad. The same is true for green card holders currently overseas; those coming home face many magnitudes more difficulties in doing so. Aside from more stringent screening procedures not seen since the days following 9/11, those arriving in the US are met with a grim surprise. Green card holders exiting their gates from their flights are being immediately detained by transportation safety officers, treated like criminals upon reaching American soil. 

Even more troubling is the accompanying notion, in its hypothetical infancy, of proposing the creation of a Muslim registry. According to those in the Administration, current whispers revolve around registering all new immigrants or travelers on a list based on religious affiliation. In addition to this, immigrants and refugees alike will have to surrender contact details, online search history, and social media activities. If this does not bear resemblance to World War II Germany and the Nazi regime, it is difficult to imagine what would. We do not live in a period of heightened national security, only heightened fear-mongering and paranoia. Democracy can crumbled under these conditions, and Americans must be able to read between the lines and dissect true motivations behind policies. 

Barring Muslims from the United States can send a negative message that resonates with targeted populations overseas. ISIS and other groups such al-Qaeda rely on hate and marginalization in their recruitment efforts, piggybacking on feelings of resentment towards the Western world as a driver. One of the quickest ways to anger populations is by sending the message that the United States does not welcome Muslims within its borders. Further widening the divide between Western values and the Middle East, such a policy can only lead those overseas to harbor hatred. It is important to keep in mind, and has been overlooked, that when we drive foreign nationals away, we drive them into the waiting arms of extremist factions. A general sentiment of 'us vs. them' will lead to more conflicts down the road - we should be trying to demonstrate that Muslim values and Western ways of life can coexist successfully, and vice versa. On the international stage, perception is everything; these measures can depict a belief that all Muslims are inherently bad people.  

The Administration's reaction to dissent alarming. Earlier today, acting Attorney General Sally Yates ordered the Justice Department not to comply with calls for banning immigrants and disrupting green card holders. As reported by CNN today, she was removed from her position by Trump for her show of defiance against the executive order. Other well-known congressmen such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham have spoken out against the inherent xenophobia and confusing associated with new vetting procedures. In response, Trump took to Twitter to denounce them on the basis of their stances, even pointing to McCain's failed presidential campaign. Not only do his comments miss the mark, they are fundamentally childish and non-presidential in nature. Those who stand by their policies defend them. Those who stand to pull the wool over the eyes of others are masters of deflection and finger pointing.

Donald Trump also attacked Senator Chuck Schumer for his sadness regarding the immigration ban. As reported by MSNBC, Trump accused Schumer of crying fake tears in response to the order. Perhaps if he did his homework, he would have realized that Schumer's great grandmother and seven of her nine children were murdered by the Nazi regime. The parallels between that age and this one, coupled with the fact that those everywhere are feeling threatened, it is understandable that Senator Schumer was impacted by such similarities.

Policies like these, steeped in paranoia, also transport our government back to the days of the Red Scare. Aggressively pushing for a halt on immigration in the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy pushed to bar Russian immigrants from entering the United States. Furthermore, those of Russian origin residing in the United States were to face strict loyalty tests, as well as face deportation. While many of these accusations revolved around investigation of government employees, such isolationist polices devolve our sensibilities to parallel a darker time in our nation's history. McCarthyism permeated nearly a decade of American politics. Now that such qualms against immigration come from the very head of our government, who knows what damaging effects this neo-McCarthyism might have on U.S. international relations to come. 

If there is a silver lining to these developments, it is that citizens and congressmen and women alike are rising up to take action against such non-democratic procedures. We have heard so often about the necessity to remain vigilant and stand in defiance to demagoguery. From the streets of Boston to airports nationwide, US citizens are protesting and openly defying the hateful efforts of the current administration. Civil liberties organizations are stepping up to support impacted individuals and groups. In the business world, Apple, Lyft, Google, and other major companies are voicing opposition to immigration policies. According to the Hill, Lyft has agreed to pledge $1,000,000 to support the American Civil Liberties Union and its civic efforts. Apple CEO Tim Cook released a statement outlining the clash of values between the Administration and the company, originally revealed by Apple reporting site MacRumors. An article by CNET detailed Google's plan to establish a $4,000,000 crisis fund to support immigrant rights. Other companies such as Uber, Facebook, and Microsoft have released statements critical of Trump's policies and rhetoric. In a noteworthy statement, Pope Francis also opined that these policies are fundamentally non-Christian, both morally and ethically, per the Washington Post.

Overall, the key takeaway is if we stand by our values to combat hate and intolerance collectively, we can defeat any injustice. Here's to hoping that such initiatives continue at full bore moving forward, as this writer is certain they will. Facing one of the greatest tests of our time, compassion and ethics must rule the day. 

Update: In response to immigration policies, Uber has ended its participation in Trump's business advisory council, and Apple is looking into litigation measures to counteract the executive order.