I Landed in the U.S. as the Muslim Ban Went Into Effect. This is Why I Fight.
By Tamanna Amin | Policy Intern, Interfaith Alliance
On January 26, 2017, I collected my things and said goodbye to everything I had ever known, including the country I called home. My mother and I traveled for 30 long hours from Dhaka, Bangladesh, to Washington, D.C., landing at Dulles International Airport in the late afternoon of January 27.
That was the day I officially moved to the United States.
The personal significance of January 27 will always stay with me, along with the excitement and nervousness I felt for the new life I was about to begin. But as I looked at the immense immigration line through my tired eyes, the TVs all around us began to flash. BREAKING NEWS: President Trump had issued a ban on travel from seven majority Muslim countries, effective immediately.
My mind went blank as everyone around me broke into whispers, the sound of scared travelers growing as our concerned voices rose. People in line pulled out their cell phones and started calling around, trying to figure out what to do next. I struggled to process what this news might mean for us as the line inched forward.
My mother and I were not traveling from one of the countries on that list, but we are Muslim. And in that moment, we, along with other Muslims in the United States and around the world, suddenly got the message that we are not welcome here. That we should be afraid.
Dazed, we eventually made it through security and collected our bags. As we waited for a taxi, I watched as protestors began gathering with messages of support. Groups of activists stood in the terminals with signs of welcome, countering Trump’s message as we walked onto U.S. soil. The ride from the airport to my friend’s house was a blur, and when we arrived I went straight to sleep. When I woke up, the jokes I used to make about my last name — Amin — causing me trouble didn’t seem so funny anymore. I had no idea how many accusations about immigrants like us were yet to come.
As I adjusted to my new routine, the ban was always on my mind. I tried to create some normalcy after such an immense change. I began collecting advice from friends, family, professors, and classmates about how to be careful, about always carrying ID. Everyone around me was tense and fearful of what would happen next.
I was constantly aware of my existence here as a Muslim woman and as a new immigrant to a very polarized country.
Being Muslim has always been a part of my identity, but I quickly had to become defensive of who I am, as anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric seemed to thrive. Living in northern Virginia, I met people and made friends, and a few of them had family members prevented from entering the U.S. because of the ban. In my college classes I heard echoes of cable news, as incorrect statements like “I think Islam hates us” were thrown around casually. The falsehoods, ignorance, and misconceptions people had and did not want to change were baffling to me. I thought that the least people could do was learn about something before they said something so heinous, right?
Whatever debates I had with myself, I never considered turning away from my faith. Being Muslim is part of who I am, and I refuse to be ashamed.
I heard assumptions that others made about my religion and my community every day, but instead of hiding I decided to push back. I remind people that Muslims are not all one and the same. We have identities, traditions, and cultures that are very different from one another and, just as all Christians are not the same, Muslims cannot be treated as one singular group.
Still, it’s hard to get comfortable here when you feel like who you are is under attack, or when others do not think it’s possible to be American, a Muslim woman, and an immigrant all at once.
Nearly two years after I arrived in the United States, fear still creeps over me when I think of the Muslim Ban and how the current administration continues to place members of my community at risk. The ban has harmed the reputation of this country as a safe and welcoming place for immigrants and, even as I try to educate people about what it means to be a young Muslim woman today, I realize many others like me cannot speak out without putting themselves in jeopardy.
The girl who was welcomed to this country with a Muslim Ban still holds some optimism for the future. Through education and advocacy, I know it’s up to us to correct the harm that’s been done.
The NO BAN Act, recently introduced in Congress, would finally end the ban and expand the Immigration and Nationality Act to prohibit discrimination against immigrants because of their faith, race, sex, nationality, place of birth or residence. It would ensure that families are no longer kept apart and that those living here would be able to visit their home country without fear that they could not come back. And for those who dreamed of the U.S. as a place of refuge, the NO BAN Act would restore the promise of this country as a place for new beginnings.
I invite you to learn more about the No BAN Act and join me in urging Congress to act swiftly to end the Muslim Ban once and for all.