Editorial: Immigrant Ban Encourages Xenophobia

On January 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order which bars Syrian refugees from entering the United States indefinitely, all refugees for 120 days, and refugees and immigrants from seven primarily Muslim countries for 90 days.

The countries included in the ban are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

A Marketplace in Iran. Photo courtesy of Donia Bijan

Additionally, the ban prioritizes Christian refugees over Muslim refugees, a shocking detail which seems to contradict freedom of religion and secularity of the U.S. government which are key values to our country.

Trump defended this part of his ban, stating that Christians face significant persecution in the Middle East and therefore warrant the prioritization over others. Many Christian leaders from multiple different sects denounced Trump’s order by stating that the people most in need of our help are Syrian refugees.

Conservatives have falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama similarly banned refugees in 2011 and that Trump’s ban is simply enforcing Obama’s previous act. However, the facts indicate that Obama slowed down the acceptance of Iraqi refugees by increasing the intensity of the vetting process after identifying a security flaw in the screening process.

The Obama administration never banned Iraqi refugees. A stream of refugees still entered the country, albeit at a slower rate for six months. Trump’s executive order comes unprovoked and does not increase U.S. security.

Donia Bijan’s father’s old hospital in Tehran, Iran, circa 2010. Photo courtesy of Donia Bijan

No refugees have carried out an act of terrorism on U.S. soil since 1980.

Only three refugees have been arrested on terrorism charges. One was a refugee from Uzbekistan who was arrested in Boise, Idaho in 2013 on suspicion of gathering explosive materials, plotting to support a terrorist group, and conspiring to carry out an attack in the U.S.

The other two arrested were Iraqi refugees in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 2011. They were suspected of planning to send weapons to al-Qaeda to kill American soldiers abroad but were incapable of doing so.

In fact, Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to Trump, recently fabricated a false “Bowling Green Massacre” to attempt to justify the ban.

While neither of these instances succeeded in carrying out any terrorist acts, the president is using them as proof that additional vetting and a temporary ban on all immigrants is necessary.

This unprovoked and irrational act seems to set the tone for Trump’s presidency, as it disguises discrimination and xenophobia under the banner of national security. While it may seem as though Trump is attempting to carry out his promise of protecting America from terrorism, in reality, he is only contradicting himself and following a personal, Islamophobic agenda. During the presidential campaign, Trump promised on his website to “Work with our Arab allies and friends in the Middle East in the fight against ISIS.”

The immigration ban has accomplished neither of these goals, as it has alienated seven middle eastern countries and has been swiftly rebuked by nearly all Muslim countries worldwide. If the war on terror has taught us anything, it’s that building alliances are the key to combating radicalism. Trump’s ban only feeds the ISIS rhetoric that the West is waging war on the Muslim world.

Donia Bijan in Tehran, Iran, circa 2010. Photo courtesy of Bijan.

Many M-A students and people in our community feel the effects of the immigration ban personally, as they or their parents immigrated to the U.S. These families feel targeted and uncomfortable in their own country and by their own elected officials.

Donia Bijan is the mother of a sophomore at M-A. She immigrated to the U.S. from Iran in 1978 when she was 15 years old. Bijan explained, “If people could stay where they were born in their homeland, they would. Nobody leaves because they want to. They leave because they’re forced to… They want to go from no future to a possibility of a future. And to deny human beings that is immoral.”

“They want to go from no future to a possibility of a future.” -Bijan

Finally, the fact that Trump’s order revoked over 100,000 visas combined with his other anti-immigration policies, such as the wall on the US-Mexico border, have created an air of uncertainty for those with anything less than an American passport. Trump has made his negative stance on immigration clear, however, it is unclear how this stance will affect immigrants from other countries in the future.

Bijan added, “it’s so hypocritical too, given that the person who is giving these orders is himself, married to an immigrant.”

As a country that has benefitted a great deal from the hopeful energy of immigrants, this executive order does not reflect the values of our nation. It poses a threat to citizens, both nationwide and in our communities. It is important for us, as M-A students, parents, and teachers, to remain compassionate and motivated. To make sure your voice is heard, contact your representative and tell them where you stand on this issue.

Nathalie Camens

This is Nathalie Camens' third year on staff. She enjoys writing feature articles and opinion pieces. Journalism is important to her because she sees it as a tool to create change and bring awareness about social justice issues.

Sarah Orttung

Sarah Orttung is a senior in her third year on the staff. She likes to write features and opinions to bring attention to issues that may otherwise be overlooked. She hopes that the Chronicle can be a force for social change, and is excited to help others on their staff use their voices in an influential way.

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