To those who support President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigrants and refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries, I have four words: You could be next.
Though U.S. Judges Ann Donnelly and Allison Burroughs issued rulings blocking portions of the order this weekend, the Trump administration persisted in defending the order while barring many refugees and immigrants. In doing so, the administration went beyond affecting people from Iran, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia. In doing so, the administration affected us all.
That’s because disregarding the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause in order to single out individuals by nationality weakens everyone’s rights. Ignoring the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom in order to discriminate against Muslims leaves every religion vulnerable. Ignoring judicial rulings to advance executive power deteriorates our democracy, scuttles our freedoms, and leaves every American to face an inevitable truth: You could be next.
Perhaps that reality was evident to the lawyers and protesters who crowded airports this weekend in Philadelphia, Washington, Boston and New York. Perhaps that was the motivation for politicians who spoke on this issue after years of silence on the many injustices Americans face. Maybe they saw themselves in the faces of elderly and wheelchair-bound refugees.
Or maybe they heard a still small voice whisper the obvious truth: You could be next.
Because if President Trump can do this to immigrants who have endured the years-long vetting process to come to the United States legally, if he can do it to refugees who face persecution and even death in their home countries, he can do it to any group.
We know this because we’ve already seen him use executive orders to target other groups.
From a wall along the southern border targeting Mexican immigrants, to reanimating the Dakota Access Pipeline that was opposed by Native Americans, to targeting Sanctuary Cities that are Democratic strongholds, Trump has used executive orders to single out groups both inside and outside our borders. And while there have been protests against his policies from the moment he took office, this one seems different. This one seems universal. This one seems to draw a line across our national consciousness.
Perhaps that’s because the voices of history speak out to us. They tell us that when we allow groups to be persecuted, injustice spreads like a virus.
When Europeans singled out West Africans, the horrors of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade ensued. When the Confederacy chose slavery over unity, the Civil War killed millions. When the Jews were singled out in Nazi Germany, millions died in a years-long bout of cruelty. When the Tutsis were singled out in Rwanda, a national genocide took place.
If we ignore those historical lessons to justify this executive order, we’ll lose sight of who we are. We’ll defy the laws that govern us. We’ll stare into history’s mirror and watch our past become our present.
That’s what’s happening here, and it must stop. Not just because an executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven specific countries it is morally wrong, but also because it defies logic.
The biggest terror attacks we’ve faced since September 11, 2001 have been carried out either by American citizens, or by people from countries other than the seven nations on the President’s list. So scapegoating immigrants from those nations does nothing to make us safer. In fact, it does quite the opposite—diminishing us in the eyes of the world, and priming us for the inevitable spread of hate.
The effects of prejudice are never limited to the group that’s initially targeted. It spreads like a virus, it infects like a disease, and for those who stand by and watch as it kills off others, the possibilities are never positive.
You could be diminished. You could be desensitized. You could be next.
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