The Problem with President Trump’s Executive Orders

“A mighty woman with a torch”

We are a nation of immigrants. Lately, that fact bears repeating.

My family immigrated here 99 years ago and it did not take long for the government of the United States to test the full measure of their resolve and desire to be Americans. For no other reason than their Japanese heritage, my parents and grandparents were taken from their homes during World War II to live in internment camps as enemies of the country they called home.

As the saying goes: History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. President Trump’s sweeping executive orders on immigration and travel echo the same ugly sentiments that cost my family its freedom in 1942. They also have no basis in fact.

Spending billions of taxpayer dollars on a 3,000-mile border wall is absurd when you consider that net immigration from Mexico has been near zero for years.[1] And nearly half of undocumented immigrants arrived legally and have since outstayed their visas.

Instead of bringing undocumented families out of the shadows, the president wants 10,000 more Customs and Border Patrol agents to facilitate the deportation of 11 million people, many who have lived here for years. These are people who pay into Social Security and Medicare, support our local economies and have children who have known no other home than the United States. By increasing deportation raids and targeting law-abiding immigrants, the Trump administration is acting without compassion or common sense.

Banning refugees and people from several Muslim-majority countries is equally cruel and misguided. Muslims are the most likely to be injured or killed by a terrorist attack and they are critical partners in the fight against extremists who have distorted their religion. More than 100 intelligence and national security experts from both Republican and Democratic administrations have gone on record to say the president’s executive order would harm our national security.

In a matter of days, President Trump has alienated longtime allies, proposed a costly and pointless wall between friends, made millions of loyal Americans feel like outsiders, isolated fighters who are on the frontlines battling ISIS in our name, and diminished our standing in the world.

I come from a family of immigrants. Many members of my staff are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Many of you are immigrants or the children of immigrants. We know that our nation has not always welcomed newcomers. Upon close examination, the American immigrant story is not often one characterized by the kindness of others but the determination to make a life here against all odds.

What is it that inspires so many to come here and persevere? The words of Emma Lazarus, the daughter of Jewish immigrants, come to mind:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

These ideals that we reach for, but don’t always grasp, still pull millions from across the seas and over land. These ideals saw my parents and grandparents through some of our nation’s darkest hours to a day when they would see their son raise his hand and swear to protect and defend the Constitution. I come from a family of immigrants, the United States of America is a family of immigrants, and I will stand with those who make the long journey through night to stand with us.

I hope you will join me in protecting the idea of America that shines its light around world.

[1] More Mexicans Leaving Than Coming to the U.S. Pew.