The Supreme Court ruled the travel ban was within the legal authority of the President. It is legal. I am glad for our check and balance system and that the courts saw this case.
“It is legal,” they declared, and “allowable according to his powers to ban countries from entry,” but does that make his order good?
That is what I want us to think about today. Just because it CAN happen, SHOULD it have happened? Is the travel ban good?
The president said it was “to make America safe.” It was to protect America from people who wanted to harm our country. He said it was because of 911. The original order said: “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”
The US was never attacked by any of the countries on the ban list. None of them have terrorized Americans on US soil. Most haven’t terrorized Americans at all. None of the banned countries contributed to 911. All of the countries involved in 911 were not banned and can still travel freely to the US on varying kinds of visas. If the travel ban has been connected to 911 and is based on a lie and misleading information, can it be good? If it keeps families apart needlessly, is it good? If it keeps out people fleeing war and persecution, is it good?
In 2017 the Catholic Herald and Christianity today said that persecution of Christians was at an all-time high. We followed that by banning countries where Christians are most persecuted. The “Muslim ban” has kept out persecuted Christians. The US received 65% less persecuted Christians this last year because most persecuted Christians come from the countries we have banned entirely. If the ban continues, that is no Iranian Christians coming despite conversion being life-threatening in Iran.
An Iranian Christian friend of mine came as a refugee before the ban and cannot bring her son over despite the time in prison he just did for his Christian faith. Their country is on the ban list. What about Muslims being banned? Is targeting people for their faith American? Racial profiles are never good and lead to injustice. We can look at our own history and grieve over that. I met a girl last week studying here from Iran and she missed her sisters’ wedding two months ago because leaving the country and coming back was too risky. She would likely get blocked out of the US in the middle of her Ph.D. despite having a student visa, so she had to miss her sister’s wedding. A friend of mine who studied in England is Muslim. He and his family started receiving death threats from ISIS because his wife worked at an international school that they didn’t like their ideology, it’s connection to the west or Christians working there too. They were traitors according to total strangers. He messaged me asking for how to do the refugee process and I had to tell him- the US won’t take you. For months I was given the tale of the threats and vandalism and harm that came on his family with little to advise but keep applying for jobs in Canada, or go live in a refugee camp in poverty and leave his job, car, house, and extended family, “my country has no way of letting you come here legally because your whole country is banned.” He’s a professional in the science field.
The rhetoric of fear that led to the statements: “We don’t know who these people are” is powerful. It was powerful to conflate terrorist attacks in Europe with the US even though the circumstances and demographics were not comparable. It was powerful to tell Americans who didn’t understand that refugee resettlement in the US was the safest, most thoroughly vetted travel system for any person to come to the US already, that it was “dangerous and not secure and unvetted.” Most Americans had no idea how long we had been resettling refugees. They were uninformed about who came, the contribution to our economics and growth in our business sector, that they are saving midwest cities, or that no refugee had ever killed an American. But our ignorance is convenient to manipulate.
As a Christian, I can’t be quiet because it is about truth. It’s about truth versus propaganda. It’s about the persecuted Christian we have just blocked out permanently. It is about my Muslim friend who got here just before the travel ban, her family getting caught up in it a month later, having their tickets canceled and being blocked because of the executive order sweeping over entire countries. They had been vetted and had a plane ticket to arrive here. As my friend’s family waited for nearly a year for the travel ban to be lifted, they were killed a few months ago.
I want us to be a country of laws, of course, but our laws need to be good. The beauty of democracy is a president and Congress are accountable to constituents who can have their say and challenge unjust laws, unjust orders, and unjust policies and say “We want a different kind of America. One that is kind and generous and honest and good towards people being persecuted.” Our laws need to be based in truth and not in political partisanship power plays. When there is a need to block certain nationalities for safety, that is fine, but when it is for political posturing and based on misleading half truths, it is not good and needs to go. We need to be a country that doesn’t forget we long to be “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!”
What kind of a country do we want to be? Do we want to be a good one or one based on fear and misguided, untruthful, self-protection?