President Donald Trump’s executive order won’t ‘protect the nation’

Seamus Dowdall, Staff Writer

President Donald Trump signed an executive order (EO) titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States on Jan. 27. This order effectively halted the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for visa-seeking refugees from seven countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. The weekend following this order was filled with a spectacular level of domestic upheaval as protests spread across many national airports, such as the John F. Kennedy International Airport, as well as in major U.S. cities, such as Boston’s Copley Square protest and the Senate Democrat-led Washington protest in front of the Supreme Court.

Opposition was prevalent in other forms as well, whether it be through American corporations vowing to support refugees, including Starbucks, or a large group of State Department officials and diplomats who expressed dissent via a cabled memo. The culmination of these protests and other forms of dissent, along with the resulting response from the Trump administration, was best symbolized by the vocalized opposition from Acting Attorney General Sally Yates; she was fired by Trump within hours of her public condemnation of the EO.

Although titled to defend our national security, the EO has begged a larger question regarding the role and influence of religious identification in our country. National protests across the country, as well as on the University’s campus in front of Bertrand library on Jan. 31, have labeled the order a “Muslim ban.” Indeed, these claims are well-founded, as the logic behind the EO seems to be misled.

The order, which seeks to revamp and strengthen the vetting process for refugees entering our country from the seven countries with sizable Muslim populations, includes the prospect of tougher interviews and stricter requirements for entry. Yet these refugees, according to evidence from the Cato Institute released in September 2016, have been connected to zero fatal terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since before 9/11.

The EO “is not—I repeat—not a ban on Muslims,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in response to these revelations and under pressure from recent protests.

Despite this assertion, the EO reverses years of state and homeland security policy which has emphasized protecting our national security in the post-9/11 era without alienating the Muslim-identifying community within our borders. The prospect of Islamophobia as a policy, although perhaps not entirely surprising given the historical discrimination against Muslims in the post-9/11 environment, should be condemnable to the highest order.

As a nation of immigrants, our country has traditionally been married to the notion that we hold ourselves to a higher standard for welcoming individuals from all walks of life. Furthermore, our founding fathers established within the Constitution a secular republic, a distinct separation of church and state, which would prevail to allow for the full and free practice of religion. James Madison, in a late letter, once said that the “new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

The greater confluence of religion within our society, and its exclusion from government order, would, in Madison’s eyes, create a stronger existence for religious freedom and a prosperous democracy alike. From this ingenious political invention follows a more critical question for our country today: at what point must we speak up against governmental action which functions to discriminate and alienate a population of a particular religious or ethnic identity?

As a free and just country, we shouldn’t have to slam our doors to those who need safety from persecution or protection from disaster. We cannot stand idle to those in need of our refuge, for in doing so we deny them liberty, one of history’s greatest human rights. By now, we have all seen the passage from the Statue of Liberty on our Facebook or Twitter feeds, and it is with these words that I end this piece: “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!”

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