On January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order into action that banned immigration of Syrian refugees, halted immigration for 120 days from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, and gave priority to Christian immigrants from primarily Muslim countries. The promise to stop immigration, especially from Middle Eastern countries, and to favor Christians over Muslims was a hallmark of his presidential campaign. Many Americans thought he wouldn’t actually follow through with these promises. But he has. Unfortunately, though candidate Trump could say what he wanted and suffered little to no consequences, President Trump may soon find he can’t simply sign his every whims into law. His executive order is illegal, unconstitutional, contrary to American values, and simply wrong.
According to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, immigration laws cannot be created that discriminate on the basis of national origin, race, or ancestry. According to the Constitution, it is illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of religion. This executive action does both. Not only is it completely illegal, it is an insult to the Statue of Liberty, which has beckoned in millions of immigrants from Ellis Island throughout our history. It threatens to repeat some of America’s most shameful moments, such as Japanese internment camps, and the turning away of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust. It stands against everything American citizens are expected to uphold, and what President Trump has sworn to defend in his oath of office.
For those who hoped Mr. Trump would be humbled by his office and change after being elected, you see the clear evidence that this is not the case. Hoping otherwise is foolish. This man, who has laughed about rape, tweeted insulting comments to anyone who opposed him, who has advocated for Muslim profiling in the past, and thrown a fit anytime he was parodied on SNL, will not change. He is unfit to defend American values, as is clearly shown by his contempt for the United States Constitution and for our laws. He takes for granted the suffering that has led to this country becoming what it strives to be: a nation of immigrants in which people can express themselves and believe what they will and have equal opportunity. And he is the President of the United States.
Whatever Mr. Trump may think now, it is no easy job, not for someone accustomed to 3 AM Twitter rants. Whatever he signs into law, he is still subject to all the laws signed by his predecessors. But only if those laws are enforced. The “system” of our democracy only works when we, the people, defend it. We cannot be silent now, when we can make a difference. There is no better time to act. If this executive order is any indication of President Trump’s policy in the next four years, and it seems like it is, this is not the time for silence. He must learn that his supposed mandate to discriminate against those unlike him, to build walls, to exempt the wealthy of paying taxes, to openly profile, is nonexistent and contrary to the beliefs of many Americans.
We must remember that silence allowed the Holocaust to happen. Fear of strangers led to Japanese internment camps. Failure to act led to the Armenian and Rwandan genocides. Allowing discrimination on the basis of religion has led to countless crimes against humanity. Closing borders to specific countries has been a failed tactic in the past. And fear-mongering plays easily into the hands of terrorist organizations such as ISIL, who want us to be afraid, who want us to refuse entry to the people they terrorize. We must remember our Declaration of Independence, and the guiding belief that led us to separation from Great Britain: that we are all created equal. Saying that those words only apply to Americans is inherently defying that belief.
We are a country built by immigrants, fueled by patriotism and the understanding that we can always do better. I refuse to simply stand by as our president undermines our very core. This is not about left vs. right, about liberal vs. conservative, about Democrat vs. Republican. This is not about politics. This is about right vs. wrong, about standing for what is correct. This is about sending a message to the powers that be that abusing the office of the president is disgraceful. This is the moment in which we remember the never agains the world said after the Holocaust, after World War II, after the Armenian, Rwandan, Bangladesh, and Cambodian genocides.
I will not stay silent, will you?