We are better than this

Amid all the bigotry and dishonesty that marked President Trump’s first week in office, Jan. 27 will be remembered as an especially shameful day in our nation’s history. On the same day that we remember the millions of victims who died during the Holocaust, Trump took a page right out of the fascist and authoritarian playbook with his executive order banning refugees and immigrants from a number of predominantly Muslim countries. Syrian refugees are singled out for especially harsh treatment with an indefinite ban. Make no mistake — even the president concedes it’s a Muslim ban when he singles out Christians who have been terrorized and ignores Muslims who need freedom from persecution.

As a grandchild of immigrants who left the Ukraine and Russia because of repression and oppression, I must speak up against this outrage. As a Jew who lost family in the Holocaust because no country, including the United States, would embrace refugees, I must speak up. As an American whose country detained Japanese-Americans because of the same ugly racial profiling and stereotyping now being done to Muslims, I must speak up.

As a grandchild of immigrants who left the Ukraine and Russia because of repression and oppression, I must speak up against this outrage.

That’s why I joined thousands of others at New York’s JFK airport last night — and many other protestors at airports around the country — to condemn this act of repression and offer our compassion and support to those innocent people caught up in this terrible situation. This includes people like Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an interpreter who worked for more than a decade on behalf of the U.S. military in Iraq, and who was handcuffed and detained for 19 hours.

While we’re happy that a judge has blocked the worst of the deportation decisions, and that Darweesh and others were finally released, Trump’s executive order still stands. And we’re concerned by reports that the Department of Homeland Security will not comply with the judge’s stay — one more example of a president who believes he is above the rule of law embedded in our Constitution.

So we must all continue to speak up. We are better than this. We are a country of immigrants (including first lady Melania Trump), and we must stand together against the hate and bigotry that this policy enshrines. We’ve all seen the tragic pictures of Syrian families and children, thousands of whom have died trying to escape their country’s brutal civil war. We’re already hearing reports of Syrian families who are stuck in airports on the way to the United States and might be forced to return to possible death back home. These are not terrorists. They are human beings simply trying to survive, and they need our help.

We are a country of immigrants, and we must stand together against the hate and bigotry that this policy enshrines.

On a more practical level, the idea that a ban on Muslim immigrants will make us safer is absurd. It will only marginalize Muslims, help ISIS in its efforts to recruit disaffected youth and put our troops abroad at even greater risk. While Trump invoked the horrors of 9/11 in announcing the ban, not a single hijacker came from any of the banned countries, nor did any of the radical Muslims who have killed Americans in the United States. You know which countries are excluded from the ban? Countries where Trump has business interests, including Muslim-majority Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Among those most affected are college students — as well as faculty — at American universities, thousands of whom come from the seven countries singled out by Trump’s order. Even those with visas and green cards who are visiting family abroad could be banned from returning to their studies. Out of caution, some universities are urging affected students and faculty to postpose any foreign travel. Some families are already finding themselves fractured, as mothers, fathers and children attempting to join family members already here are banned from entry.

When we say “never again,” we must really mean never again.

Back in December 2015, a prominent politician said that “calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional.” That politician was Vice President Mike Pence. If that was true then, it remains just as true today.

This is not a partisan fight between Republicans and Democrats. This is a moral and constitutional crisis, and these authoritarian actions must be stopped before it’s too late. When we say “never again,” we must really mean never again.

It’s already been a week full of fights against the awful Trump agenda, and we’re going to continue fighting because we have no choice. Our country is better than this.