Letters from the Editor: Homefront

The circuit court ruling that suspended President Trump’s immigration ban came as a small relief amid a sea of perpetual stupidity rising from our distant, disconnected capitol. A reactionary and legitimately proto-fascist move, this fulfilled promise has stuck in my craw a bit more than many of other actions of the new administration.

A little shy of half of the country supports the travel restrictions, a stark departure from our nation’s rich immigrant past. But to me, the restrictions seem to cause more problems than they solve: impacting the mobility of vulnerable people—particularly those in Syria—while offering no real protection from proven extremists. One would think that if preventing terrorism was a real priority, we’d consider restricting travel from Saudi Arabia as well. In practice, well, we wouldn’t want to offend our ‘valued allies.’

The need for safety is a very real one. But it can be a dangerous motivator in a society such as ours, leading us to slaughter our remaining liberties at the security state’s altar. Restricting travel from these places does little to actually prevent terrorism—those individuals who pose a risk are usually identified (if not encouraged) by our intelligence services. Meanwhile, the bulk detainment and and deportation triggered by the ban illustrates, in public fashion, the talking points of many radical sects: that there can be no coexistence between Islam and the West.

But the thoughts that really bother me are much broader in scope. I’m perturbed that our present leadership seeks to deny people (from the Middle East and Central/South America alike) the same opportunity my ancestors were once offered. It’s often said that, other than Native peoples, we’re all immigrants to this continent; for many of us it’s a relatively recent phenomenon. With the exception of one errant branch of my family tree, none of my direct ancestors were in North America before 1900. One thread, in particular, came from a poor country of religious undesirables with a history of sectarian violence. (Ireland, for those reading in print.) If those with a protectionist mindset held more power in the early 20th century, I might not exist today.

I don’t mean to compare plights by any means, my life has been blessedly comfortable and free from anguish so far. But when pondering travel and immigration restrictions, think of your own family background; odds are pretty good that such restrictions might have impacted your family as well, once upon a time.

Hypotheticals aside, this ban exists, has affected refugees and legal residents alike, and is on its way to the Supreme Court for argument. I can’t say I’m too hopeful for it to stay overturned—the political events of the past year have proven to me that I shouldn’t try to predict the future or hope for a sane one. But if the United States wants to continue being the “good guys” on the global stage, then it should be willing, still, to take in those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

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