Today I am ashamed to be an American. Yesterday President Donald Trump signed the executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”. It declares that “the Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days [and]…is further directed…to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” The executive order also states that “the entry of nationals-of-Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus [this order] suspend[s] any such entry.”
The order bans the world’s most vulnerable people from entering the United States and authorizes, in fact mandates, both religious and nationality based discrimination. It makes me sick. As the world’s largest economy, don’t we have an obligation and duty to protect those who suffer from persecution and the carnage of war in their home country? Why does location and circumstance of birth grant us the right to life and liberty while others are denied? Syrians did not choose to be born in Syria any more than I chose to be born in the United States, and yet Syrian refugees have had to flee a war in which 90,506* civilians have been killed while I have been free to chase my dreams. An Arab man who prays to Allāh is just as entitled to life and liberty as I am, an American who does not pray to any God at all. We do not choose how we are raised, including which religion we are taught to follow.
I understand my own privilege and that many U.S. citizens are also suffering, but we do not need to isolate ourselves from the world to address our problems at home or to keep our people safe. We are strong enough, big enough and powerful enough to address the problems of and provide security to our own people while offering refuge to the world’s least advantaged. Nations and borders are merely a tool of political institutions, and turning a blind eye to the world’s suffering will never lead to stability at home or peace and liberty for all.
We can be a compassionate society, for Americans and for all peoples.
*Death toll from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as of December 13th, 2016