An open letter from an Iraqi-American, child of immigrants, proud American
The last few days have been particularly hard. While I knew that this new era would usher in its fair share of bad news, I didn’t think it would happen so quickly. On Friday, I immediately went numb and my heart sank into my knees after reading the news about the Executive order on the latest immigration ban.
Last year, I wrote about “the day everything in my life forever changed” after experiencing the first Gulf War as an Iraqi-American living in the midwest. My conclusion from then is the same as it is now; that we are all far more similar than we are different.
How a blind immigration ban against citizens from the following Middle-Eastern countries: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Sudan (none of which have committed acts of foreign terror on US soil for at least 40 years) could happen in the United States of America is beyond shocking and appalling, and whether we debate it’s constitutionality, there is no contesting that it is truly and utterly un-American.
What is most terrifying is the confirmation of the hard truth: that the person signing the order is not well versed in Middle East politics, history or has any understanding of national affairs or diplomacy.
Within one week, Trump has been issuing Executive Order after Executive Order without any true checks and balances now that we have a Republican dominated Congress.
Our democracy is at the mercy of one man’s signature who consults only those in his circle that pander and stroke his overly inflated ego and have an agenda of their own.
Further, his actions over the last week confirm my earlier belief that his agenda is about rallying people around fear. There is simply no logic to his decisions and to issue the Executive order on the immigration ban without reviewing it with the DHS, the Justice Department, the State Department, or the Department of Defense, and the National Security Council lawyers is downright madness and undemocratic.
Rather than making a speech or responding to an issue in a thoughtful conversation when challenged, our President responds with personal attacks, diverting attention away from the actual debate. We’ve seen this time and time again. How do we move forward when there is no real dialogue?
Diplomatic negotiations are different than business negotiations. With matters of diplomacy, all sides need to feel like they’ve been heard and walk away from the table having gained something. In a business negotiation, which is all Trump understands and has experience in, only one side is usually better off at the expense of the other side. To be more assertive and arguing for one’s self interest works in the business world, but not when it comes to matters of diplomacy.
Families are being torn apart as a result of this ban and many Middle Easterners are in shock and in confusion about what they should do next. Students who are enrolled in universities are worried about leaving the country to see their families. Many professionals and academics who happen to be overseas during the Executive Order may not be allowed back in the country. Refugees who’ve dealt with the worst nightmare most of us never had are denied entry outright.
The questions that keep circulating are as follows: Should I no longer travel to see my family? Can my family no longer visit me? Am I going to be allowed back in this country? People are scared, worried and anxious. Families are displaced and hearts are broken.
This is a waste of time for our country and for businesses and people all over the world. Instead of reading, volunteering in my community or for my non-profit, enjoying time with my friends and working on my professional career, I’m now spending time protesting, calling my representatives in Congress, and debating the nuances of constitutional law and American values with people that won’t take the time to read anything that doesn’t have a TL;DR version and made up their minds a long long time ago.
And so many lawyers have stepped in to provide pro bono consulting as well, contributing hours of their time on this senseless issue. We’ve probably lost and will continue to lose valuable time that could be better spent on innovation, increasing our GDP and perhaps building something great again rather than destroying what is great: a functional democracy.
Trump is capable of just about anything, and I think that things will actually get far worse. I’ve seen it happen in the country where my parents immigrated from many decades ago. We watched as a tyrant issuing decree after decree led to the demise of the soul and heart of a nation. If you don’t think that one man can bring down a country, you’re lucky to never have experienced that circumstance. Yet it has happened and can certainly happen again. Like I said, humans are far more similar than we are different.
We cannot be afraid. I ask you all to please take a stand and donate to the ACLU, write to your Congress representatives and district leaders. Talk to your families. Hug them and tell them you love them. I hope you never have to experience what it feels like to be scared and lonely, and in need of a hug from your mom or dad who are so very far away.
With the help of the protests and immigration lawyers toiling away to release detainees who’ve built a life in the United States, the question still remains: what happens next?
I’d like to also share my sentiments about those Americans who have been taking action. I am overwhelmed with what I’ve witnessed at the airports today across the country. I am humbled by your determination to stand up for what you believe is right for all humanity whether you personally had anything to lose or not. I hope you know that I would do the very same for you.
We are so much better together than apart.
“You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free.” — Clarence Darrow
Yasmeen, Iraqi-American, child of immigrants, proud American