Keeping Families Together: Putting Trump’s Muslim Ban in Perspective

by Mikael Bryant, CAIR-OK Board MemberJul 10, 2018

America has always aspired to be a land of freedom, justice, and equality for all. The Statue of Liberty calls out to the world asking for the world to send its tired, sick, and downtrodden yearning to breathe free. However, it has never lived up to those aspirations, and Lady Liberty’s promise of free air has never held true for those who needed it the most.

America is a nation of immigrants, but it is not a nation for immigrants. American Nationalism has always been suspicious and hateful of outsiders attempting to join the society. For European immigrants, this vitriol only lasted as long as it took for those Europeans to join in with the mob and start hating other newer groups from other countries. Despite the connotations of the “Great American Melting Pot,” so long as you can abandon the cultural heritage and assimilate into the white fondue in that melting pot, you will experiences no problems.

Historically, non-European immigrants have been treated the most harshly under the law, to the extent that even today, Americans born in American Samoa are not citizens because the Supreme Court ruled that they are of an “alien race incapable of being governed under ‘Angl-Saxon law.’” The Supreme Court has also supported slavery, apartheid, and the locking of Japanese-American Citizens in concentration camps solely because of their ethnicity.

A huge step back for American values

The Supreme Court’s recent endorsement of President Trump’s Travel Ban 3.0, AKA Muslim Ban 3.0, is a huge step back for American Muslim families and also for self-proclaimed American values.

The Supreme Court’s failure to include Trump’s pre-election statements in their consideration of this Executive Order is unfortunate, because Trump’s intent was made very clear. Before he was elected and even after he assumed office, he stated that he was on a mission to prevent Muslims from entering this Country. He tried repeatedly until he finally found a version that scraped by Judicial Review by a single vote.

This is a major setback for American Muslim families and communities. This Muslim Ban means that many people in our community may never see certain family members ever again. I personally know a Yemeni who came to America right before the Yemen civil war started and got trapped here because of the danger he would have faced due to his political ideology. He has had to watch his daughter be born, and live years of her life without ever meeting her in person. He is unable to bring them to the United States because of this ban and unable to go back to Yemen because of his circumstances. Can you imagine not being able to hold your own child?

I remember feeling helpless on January 27, 2017, while I waited in the receiving line at DFW airport for hours, waiting for my wife who hadn’t yet set foot on American soil to step through the gate. Hours went by while I had to hear about the incoming travel ban set to bar entry from even green card holders. We were perhaps saved only by the fact that one of Trump’s advisers is Lebanese and Lebanon was not included on the list of banned countries. This experience, however, showed us what it was like to feel so helpless. There were many on the same flight as my wife that were not so lucky – those who were sent back home, returned to war zones, violence, and persecution.

What kind of country do we want to live in?

The upholding of the Muslim Ban forces us to confront the question: what kind of country do we want to live in?

The new travel ban prevents the entry of more than 5 million Syrians with no place to put their feet in the world, and millions of Yemenis trapped in a war zone just waiting for the day they don’t wake up. In 1939, The United States sent a boat of Jewish people from Germany away from our shores, forcing them to return to a likely death at the hands of Nazis, because of the fear of German spies entering our country. Do we want to wake up in 20 years and count the number of Syrian children that washed away because we would not let them walk on to our shores? Will history remember us as the country that gave shelter and relief to the survivors of unimaginable horrors, or as the country that callously turned our backs on them and let them die?

As an American Muslim, I stand by all families ripped apart at the border, all children locked away in psudo-prisons separated from their families by immigration officials.

It was the Prophet Muhammad that taught us “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.”

As a community, we will continue to change everything we can with our hands by spending our time and resources defending the rights of all immigrant communities, and all who seek refuge in this county. For what we cannot change, we will continue speaking out as much as we can and as loud as we can until we make this country into what it has always promised that it would be. This is a setback, but if we all work together, then we can win and we can make Lady Liberty’s ring true.