First Trump Came for the Muslims

We dismissed his unbelievably brusque claims as campaign rhetoric, but Donald Trump is on the mission of implementing his rhetoric of fear and hate in US policies. He had expressed disdain for immigrants and people of colour, people with disabilities, and had called for a Muslim registry among others.

And on Friday he did it. Signing an executive order, President Trump suspended the entire US refugee admissions system. He issued a temporary ban on the entry of the citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries: Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, Iran and Libya.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein has denounced Trump’s travel ban as “mean-spirited” and illegal under international human rights law, stating: “Discrimination on nationality alone is forbidden under human rights law”.

This executive order has implications for the US compliance with international human rights treaties – particularly the Geneva Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, and potentially the Convention against Torture, and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.

According to Article 1 of the Geneva Convention and the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is a person who:

Owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

With regard to refusing entry and sending people back, the law is also clear. Article 33 provides that:

No contracting state shall expel or return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

The US who signed the protocol to the refugee convention in 1967 is obligated to apply it without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin. The US is clearly in violation of the convention barring people from entry on the grounds for posing security risk to the country, but not providing clarification and justification to an appropriate legal standard.

Many other refugee agencies have also expressed their concerns about the order stating that it violates international norms and refugee conventions.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), called on the US government to lift the refugee ban order calling it “an inhumane act against people fleeing war zones

Save the Children, said that women and children under 12 make up two-thirds of Syrian refugees in the US. “Now is not the time to turn our back on these families, or our core American values, by banning refugees,” she said. “We can protect our citizens without putting even more barriers in front of those who have lost everything and want to build a better future in America.”

Desperate people flee horrific and bloody civil wars, as well as countries plagued with violence and terrorism, oppression and unlawful persecution. They seek to take refuge in the land that was built on the premise of being acceptable of those fleeing persecution. This order has devastating impacts on people’s human rights, trapping them in war zones and endangering their lives.


(Image Credit: First They Came For)


We came as refugees

On June 25, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed into law the Displaced Persons Act of 1948: “This act helped those individuals who were victims of persecution by the Nazi government or who were fleeing persecution, and someone who could not go back to their country because of fear of persecution based on race, religion or political opinions.” Truman was deeply committed to bringing European refugees both into safety and into the United States. The Displaced Persons Commission ran from June 25, 1948 through August 31, 1952. My parents and I left Europe and came to the United States under the Displaced Persons Act. We came as refugees.

Contrary to today’s rhetoric, my parents did not “love America” before coming, and, frankly, I doubt that they ever loved America. They weren’t nationalists, and so didn’t love any country. They loved their family members, who due to the Holocaust numbered six, and they loved their friends. At some point, they might have said they loved justice or democracy or even the working class, but they actively rejected loving any nation-State.

They came, they made a life, they raised a family, they died and are now buried together. I have to say I am glad they did not live to see the day in which a Muslim ban on refugees and immigrants more generally was announced and implemented. While they did not “love America”, they knew State violence and they despised it. They despised those who promulgated it and they despised those engaged in it. They taught their children to recognize State violence and to oppose it. Their children do, as do their grandchildren.

Any restrictive program that targets a particular population is racist and comes from and intensifies an ongoing history of racist State violence. Some in power will try to finesse this. Don’t let them.

We came as refugees, others among us came as other kinds of immigrants. Racist State violence butchered more than 99 percent of my family. That violence started with “poorly implemented orders”, and then it spread and deepened. Were my parents here today, they would be at the airport, chanting, “No hate no fear immigrants are welcome here.”

#StopTheWall #StopTheBan #StopPresidentBannon #NotMyPresident

(Photo Credit: WNYC)