With a single, 153-word sentence, Donald Trump has managed to transform the United States from a beacon of liberty into a fortress of hate and intolerance.
Read it and – literally – weep:
To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period described in subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).
The language here couldn’t be further away from Trump’s normal kindergarten-level bombast. But the substance is terrifying, on multiple levels.
For starters, Trump is throwing out the window any conception that the United States is country of laws. When he talks about “immigrant entry”, he’s talking about legal immigration here: he’s talking about people who have checked all the boxes, jumped through all the hoops, people who might have lived and worked in the US, entirely legally, for decades.
What’s more, Trump’s doing this deliberately, with maximum cruelty. Look at that order: he’s careful to carve out exceptions of diplomatic and NATO visas, but was equally careful not to carve out exceptions for people on any other kind of visa, including individuals with green cards.
Donald Trump is deeply familiar with the immigrant story: his mother was an immigrant, and he’s married two of them, including the current First Lady. To be an immigrant into this country is something which by definition includes international travel; it’s fair to say that immigrants travel in and out of the country much more than native-born Americans, for obvious reasons.
But now Trump is saying that while legal immigrants are welcome to leave, they’re not going to be allowed back in – not if they are citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen, anyway.
Included among them are students of all ages, entrepreneurs, investors, doctors, teachers, police officers, even, possibly, active-duty members of the U.S. military. (Apparently it’s OK to fight and die for the U.S. when you have a green card; that document just doesn’t give you any right to re-enter the country you fought for.)
This order is already breaking up families. There are numerous stories of people who left the U.S. for whatever reason, maybe just a quick work trip, and who cannot now return to join their spouses, parents, and kids. When you live and work in the U.S. on a visa or a green card, the American government has told you very explicitly that your document gives you the ability to move freely in and out of the U.S.
Does the government have a legal right to change its mind and bar you from re-entry at the whimsical stroke of a pen? Yes, it probably does, although that issue will surely be taken to court. But no responsible government would ever enact a ban like this one with no advance notice; that’s downright inhumane. Just consider the enormous number of families who live across the Mexican and Canadian borders: my friend Hrag, for instance, needs to visit Toronto regularly to care for his father, but now can’t do that because he was born in Syria.
It’s also stupid. America’s economy is deeply enmeshed into that of the rest of the world; all big companies operate in multiple countries, including the Trump Organization, and nearly all of them employ numerous immigrants. Picture Donald Trump, before he ran for office, sending a Trump Organization executive to Scotland to check in on his golf course there – and then discovering that his employee was not allowed back home because the sitting president had signed a particularly rash executive order. I doubt he would have been very happy. But that’s the situation that thousands of people have now found themselves in.
Worst of all, the order is deeply racist in a way which violates the foundational principles of the U.S. Constitution. This is an order targeted narrowly at Muslims; indeed, Trump is already making noises about giving Syrian Christians special expedited privileges. The U.S. now has a president who panders openly to Nazis, and who not only legitimizes their toxic ideas but who gives them the force of law.
This order makes no practical sense. Not a single fatal terrorist attack on U.S. soil has been perpetrated by an immigrant from one of the seven banned countries. (Note that Saudi Arabia, the home of the 9/11 conspiracy, is not on the list.) The order will cause untold distress and even death for immigrants and refugees, and it will turn the U.S. into an international pariah.
Most of all, it proves, in case there was any doubt, that America is being run by a madman who follows no logic and whose danger to society, both domestically and abroad, cannot be overstated. Trump has proved that he is willing and able to inflict serious harm on his own domestic front for any or no good reason, maybe just because Steve Bannon told him to. The only purpose in signing this order is a symbolic one: it shows that Trump will carry out his most extreme campaign promises, even if doing so hurts himself, his country, and the world.
Trump has sent the world a message with this order: that he is bent on self-destruction, and that he is willing to take the United States down with him. It’s incumbent on all of us, no matter what our citizenship, to stop him. The fate of the world, quite literally, depends on it.