Even given everything we know about Donald Trump, that he is reactionary, boastful, short-sighted and prone to acting before fully thinking out the implications of his actions, the announcement he made on January 27 stunned the world. The new President signed an order banning entry to the U.S. to people from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days, and suspending all refugee admission for 120 days. Immediately, chaos ensued, mostly in the U.S., but also around the world.
The protests were most visible at airports throughout the U.S., where travelers arriving from one of the seven countries were denied entry and told to return home. Demonstrations erupted by citizens condemning the President for targeting people from one religion.
Politicians from the U.S. and around the world condemned the move, calling it unconstitutional, un-American and unlawful. When the Acting Attorney General publicly questioned the constitutionality of the ban and refused to defend it in court, she was fired. The American Civil Liberties Union reacted immediately, taking the government to Court and seeking to stop the deportations. A federal judge agreed, issuing an emergency ruling to allow stranded travellers to stay in the country.
World leaders also weighed in. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada” (@JustinTrudeau January 28, 2017). German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the ban, with her spokesperson noting, “she is convinced that even the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify putting people of a specific background or faith under general suspicion,” (CNBC January 29, 2017). And British Prime Minister Theresa May called the policy “divisive and wrong.”
What will the ban mean? It means that refugees from these seven countries, trying to escape war, poverty and famine, will be forced to return home to dangerous countries, or remain in refugee camps.
It means Syrian refugees, who have spent years waiting to be welcomed into the U.S., will no longer be able to come, even if private or community organizations have organized and paid for all the costs to bring them to the U.S.
It also means that anyone from those seven countries, regardless of their religion, political affiliation or race, will be prevented from entering the U.S., for any reason, simply because of their country of birth. They cannot travel, attend school, visit family or conduct business in the U.S.
In what has become a common occurrence after Trump makes any kind of announcement, the political and media fallout was swift. Trump’s spokesperson, Sean Spicer, complained that reporters were inaccurately calling it a ban when it was really just a screening process – despite the fact that Trump is on record explicitly calling it a ban. Daily press briefings became focused on the word, instead of on what the order Trump signed actually meant.
In the end, the important question is, why did Trump sign this order at all? Why did he only include those seven countries? Why did he target Muslims? Why couldn’t he provide any evidence to prove that the current U.S. screening system is failing to stop terrorists or criminals from those select countries from entering the U.S.?
While he may say that this isn’t a ban, while he may claim that it is not focused on one religion, while he may express concern that the American screening system is weak, those claims don’t pass the smell test. Because there is no proof for any of them.
While the White House originally claimed only about 100 people were affected by the ban, government lawyers have since revealed that more than 100,000 visas have been revoked since the executive order was signed.
Once again, Trump has been reactionary, extremist, intolerant and biased. The ban plays to his right wing supporters – those who believe that people coming into the U.S. from certain countries, members of certain religions, are the cause of the problems and should be targeted and stopped.
When the leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world acts like this, going so far as to have his actions tested by the Constitution, we all need to worry. This is how world wars begin.
Photo Credit – The Associated Press Jan 28, 2017