Mounted at the feet of the Statue of Liberty is a plaque with the following lines:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
Today, my heart aches to read these words. I am under no false impressions about America’s past. I know it is stained with genocide of indigenous peoples, slavery, racism, needless foreign wars, etc. And we have, before, slammed the door on immigrants from specific countries (a practice made illegal by the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act).
And yet, we have remained a comparative haven of safety, opportunity, and hope for countless refugees and immigrants. But on January 27, with the stroke of Trump’s pen, we abandoned a critical source of positive American influence on the world through a ban on all refugees as well as immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
If one believes in facts— as I do— no terrorist on American soil since 2001 has come from one of the countries listed in the immigration ban. There is no evidence that either immigrants or refugees pose a greater security threat than any other portion of the population. Refugees already undergo up to two years of extensive overseas vetting and every background check conceivable. These are mostly women and children. These are our brothers and sisters. These are people fleeing the kind of horror that we cannot even conceive of, the kind of horror exacerbated, if not directly fueled, by American actions in the Middle East.
Do not be fooled: This is not about security. This is about fear and loathing of brown bodies. This is about Islamophobia. This is about an Us vs. Them mentality that will be dangerous to our national security and the perfect fodder for ISIS recruitment. This is about cashing in our last chips of moral authority and responsibility in the world.
We should all be furious, ashamed, and ready to resist. Not just for ourselves, but for the tired and the poor. For the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and the promise of what America could be.