case by case basis

On Monday, I met up with a friend at SFO and called an ride into San Francisco. Our driver, Sami, overheard us talking about Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from seven primarily Muslim countries. Finally, he paused and in a low voice said:

“Sorry, I have to say this, but fuck Trump.”

Sami was an interpreter for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan for 8 years, which is a long time to put your family in danger for. He is a permanent legal resident of the United States now.

To be clear, Afghanistan is not on the list of countries blocked by Trump’s executive order and the administration reversed their position on the applicability of the order to green card holders and dual citizens. However, the fact that the White House could so casually release an order (which a prominent law blog calls malevolent on the face) put a chill on Sami’s plans to eventually bring his wife, his parents to the United States. How could he be reasonably sure that Afghanistan wouldn’t be on some future list?

At this point, maybe, it would be better to just try again in Canada.

LAX Arrivals Terminal on January 26, 2017

My parents were green card holders for a decade before becoming U.S. citizens.

I have this really clear memory from when I’m 9 years old. It’s bedtime- I have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sheets. The lights are out in my room so Mom is leaning out the doorframe so she can read by the hallway light. She asks my dad to name the first five presidents of the United States. They’re studying for the citizenship exam.

For some, like me, the right to stay in America is free. Others have to memorize the names of dead white men, hoping to be found worthy of the privilege.

It scares me that during the 1980s, a period of tenuous relations between the United States and China, a president, if he wanted, could have endangered my parents’ legal status with an executive order that hadn’t gone through any due diligence from the traditional agencies tasked with advising the president on these types of decisions.

Remember, before today’s terror scare, there was the Yellow Peril, and the Fifth Column and anti-Catholic nativism. It feels like in the United States, it’s only a matter of time before some group you belong to falls out of favor.

It scares me more that a president can make such a sweeping decision, not because of some geopolitical reality, but solely for political effect. For example, Iraq is a U.S. ally, a country that ranks 3rd in the amount of U.S. military aid. What reason does a president have to prevent nationals of an allied country from entering the United States?

Lastly, here is text from the order itself:

In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution

Does this add a new implicit standard for immigration into the United States? Is a loyalty test to a document that is very contextual to a specific period in American history around 1789 really necessary for every person entering the United States on a visa? I can guarantee you that when coming the the United States for the first time, my parents didn’t know what the Constitution was, and therefore couldn’t support it (you can’t support something you don’t know about).

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