This past week marks 4 years since I took the oath and became a U.S. citizen. In September of this year, it will be 21 years since my family fled the Congo and arrived to the U.S. as refugees. With age I have become keenly grateful for my parents’ courage, but I have also come to understand that there are many families for whom our journey would be impossible, no matter the amount of courage or willpower.
Growing up in the U.S., I’ve always believed that America welcomed refugees because they have a right to live in freedom from fear, to succeed and fail, like all Americans. Stripping thousands of people of that right however, President Trump on Friday closed the nation’s borders to refugees from around the world. And republican leaders in congress stand in support of Trump’s executive order to suspend refugee admissions and curtail visas.
Donald Trump’s latest executive order bans Syrian refugees from entering the US indefinitely, while citizens from seven majority-Muslim nations, are banned from entering the US for 90 days. The executive order also suspends the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days and directs officials to determine additional screening ”to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States.” All at a cost borne by the world’s most vulnerable people — women, children, and men — who are simply trying to find a safe place to live after fleeing unfathomable violence and loss.
Because of its broad language, even people who have been in the US legally with long-term visas or green cards may not be able to travel at all, lest they risk being unable to return. About 25,000 citizens from the seven countries specified in Trump’s ban have been issued student or employment visas in the past three years, according to Department of Homeland Security reports.
Companies have already condemned the executive order, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai issued a memo recalling staff back to the states, slamming Trump’s policy for its impact on families and those with H1-B visas sent to work in the US. Pichai’s note echoed similar statements from several large U.S. technology companies — which include many immigrants in their ranks and have lobbied for fewer immigration restrictions — voicing concerns about the harm such policies could have on their businesses.
Seeking to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists,” Trump also established a religious test for refugees from Muslim nations: He ordered that Christians and others from minority religions be granted priority over Muslims. Trump appears to want to reinstate a new type of Asiatic Barred Zone by executive order, but there is just one problem: The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 banned all discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin, replacing the old prejudicial system and giving each country an equal shot at the quotas. Signing the new law, stated that, “the harsh injustice” of the national-origins quota system had been “abolished.”
Note that the discrimination ban applies only to immigrants. Legally speaking, immigrants are those who are given permanent United States residency. By contrast, temporary visitors like guest workers, students and tourists, as well as refugees, could still be barred. The 1965 law does not ban discrimination based on religion — which was Trump’s original proposal.
Some refugees become doctors, lawyers, and business leaders. Others, sales clerks, cab drivers, and public servants. Many remain unemployed. Our decades-young resettlement program historically offered a bare minimum of public hospitality, which was still more generous than most. But the American project must aim to build on that basic foundation, to encourage the rich, secure, and meaningful lives that so many seek. Instead, Donald Trump has undermined it. It will take years to repair.
As this story continues to develop, and human beings are detained in airports throughout the U.S., with tears in my eyes I beg you, to fight this, fight it with kindness, compassion, empathy, but fight it with ACTION. Call the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives at (202) 224-3121, donate to the ACLU who need all the help they can get and just won a Temporary Stay against this madness last night, but will be up against it again before we can blink. Do these things, Act, but do more, treat everyone around you who don’t have the privileges you do with protection, with respect, with kindness and with empathy. This is NOT freedom, this is NOT who we are. Demand change, demand a better way.
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Mariel Kanene is Founder and Editor of TheArtOfPersptive.co and lead storyteller with a focus on music, startups and travel. His passion for storytelling was born in Kinshasa, Congo and bred in Washington, DC where he resides. By day, Mariel spends his days slowly trying to change the world—one meaningful interaction at a time. He loves reading factual-fiction, good podcasts, traveling, health and fitness, foreign languages and good conversations over good coffee and even better rum. He hates talking about himself in third person.Thanks for stopping by. Always appreciated. Find me on: Twitter | Instagram | Linkedin | Website.