An open letter to my friends and family who voted for Donald Trump:
Yesterday, President Trump signed an Executive Order titled "PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES." Many of you today are applauding and celebrating this order. After all, why would anyone be AGAINST an order designed -- on face value -- to protect the homeland from a terrorist attack?
The president’s order suspends admission to the United States of all refugees for 120 days and bars for 90 days the entry of any citizens from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. These are predominantly Muslim countries. This ban includes folks from those countries from entering even for a short visit on on Non-Immigrant tourist, business or student visas. Heading to Disney World? Sorry kids, no vacation this year. Heading back to your U.S. university to complete your final spring semester? Touch luck, sister, your graduation is on hold. The order also indefinitely bans all Syrians from entering the United States. The order blocks U.S. legal permanent residents -- so-called "green card" holders -- from those countries. The order also blocks Iraqis entering on Special Issuance Visas (SIVs). These special visas given to Iraqis (and Afghanis) who risked their lives to work for the U.S. military or US government during the Iraq and Afghan wars; now all they have to show for their life is a big F-U.
Still, many of you probably don't or won't care because 1) you and your family are not from any of those countries; 2) you're not Muslim, probably have never met or broken bread with a Muslim, or don't realize that many of these countries have large Christian populations, especially Syria and Iraq, whom are now banned from entering; 3) you lack the empathy for people who are fleeing war-torn countries who have already been accepted for resettlement into the United States; 4) you may not realize that post 9/11 refugees and immigrants to the U.S. already undergo strict vetting by multiple government agencies, background checks that have become even more strict in the past three years; 5) You didn't realize that many U.S. military servicemembers are in fact NOT U.S. citizens, including citizens of the seven affected countries and hence are now banned from returning to the country for whom they are fighting; 6) you believe in "America First" and helping people at home first.
But there is nothing more American than helping others.
You've probably heard the old axiom that America was built by immigrants. From English Separatists arriving on the Mayflower in 1620, to Irish fleeing the Great Potato Famine in the 1800s, to Jews fleeing the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. But despite billing ourselves as a Land of Opportunity and Melting Pot, at one time or another every ethnic and racial immigrant group who dared set foot in America has faced discrimination. Even if your white, Anglo-Saxon family has been here for 200 years, someone in your family was first and faced similar hardships.
This issue hits very close to home. You see, I am a U.S. diplomat, a U.S. Army veteran, a former journalist. But I am also the child of immigrants, a first-generation American citizen. But here's the rub: both my parents arrived to the United States as "undocumented" workers. They toiled for years in menial jobs until my father found a job as a journalist for a small town newspaper in Texas. Somewhere along the lines, he received a draft notice from the U.S. Army. My father could have just ripped it up and gone back to his birth country. Instead, he voluntarily enlisted and was fast-tracked to U.S. citizenship. He later met my mother, sponsored her for legal permanent residency. After the military, my father moved to Washington DC and worked for the U.S. government, as a copy editor for the daily Congressional Record. He gave more than 35 years to the U.S. public service before his death.
Despite all that, my mother never had any interest in becoming a U.S. citizen until, in 2007, a man with a funny name announced he was running for President. My mother, who I can't remember ever having a political opinion of any sort, suddenly was energized. She got her papers together, signed up for citizenship classes, and studied day and night. My mother would call me and ask me about some of the questions, and I hid my embarrassment that I often didn't know some of the answers or reasons behind them. In September 2008, my mother took the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States and became a U.S. citizen with just days to spare until the deadline to register to vote. And on Nov. 4, 2008, my mother voted for the first time in her life, for Barack Obama.
The message on the Statue of Liberty says: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
If you are a Christian cheering the refugee ban that gives religious preference to Christians, you are neither a Christian nor an American. Leviticus 19:33-34 teaches us: "When a foreigner lives with you in your land, you must not oppress him. The alien who resides among you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God." There is nothing more American -- or Christian/Jewish/Islam/HUMAN - than welcoming a stranger into your home.
Over the next coming days, lawyers and immigration experts will work to decipher exactly what this ban means and how it will be enforced. Already the news is filled with stories of people stuck at airports around the world. And lawsuits have begun to determine whether this order is lawful or Unconstitutional. Regardless if it is legal or not, this Executive Order is immoral, inhumane, and un-American.