On Friday, Jan. 27, President Donald Trump made good, at least partially, on a campaign promise to ban Muslims from entering the United States by issuing an executive order that suspended travel visas and canceled the country’s refugee program from seven predominantly Muslim states: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen under the guise that this would make the United States safe. This racist and short-sighted action caused untold suffering and hardship for hundreds of valid visa holders as they were turned away from flights, detained while entering the United States and separated from families. This horrible executive order has also placed in limbo the lives of thousands of asylum seekers and refugees attempting to get their lives back after fleeing various forms of persecution and deadly violence resulting from civil war.
These are many of the most vulnerable people in the world: innocent children, women and men trapped in a perpetual cycle of violence and depredation. Additionally, this ban has affected tens of thousands of more people who work for the airlines, U.S. immigration, border patrol, customs, law enforcement and legal council as their jobs were carelessly thrown into disarray and chaos at having to try to enforce such a ban without any prior notification or preparation. In fact, it could be argued that this ban actually makes us less safe by causing such chaos and by providing fresh fodder for recruitment to the real enemies of the United States who want to do us harm. Apparently, it’s Trump’s executive orders that are in need of “extreme vetting.”
It’s easy to think of this executive order as affecting people far away from us here at Binghamton University, but that’s not the case. We are a diverse student, administrative and faculty population from countries all over the world, including several of the seven named under this executive order. The mass discrimination that this executive order imposes, in the name of “American safety,” directly affects our current and future friends, colleagues and classmates here on campus who enrich our classrooms, minds and lives. These are HUMAN BEINGS who are attempting to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. They’ve made, in many cases, tremendous personal and financial sacrifices to come here to study and work. Our friends are NOT threats to U.S. security or our way of life that this executive order would have us believe.
In the end, this executive order affects us all in the most horrible ways, because it deploys vicious fear-mongering, xenophobia and prejudice to dehumanize entire communities, peoples, religions and nations all in the name of security and protecting our way of life. These types of actions are key stepping stones on the path to entrenched discrimination, racial violence, mass atrocity and genocide. These types of laws and actions, in the name of security, laid the foundations for Jim Crow and continued racial discrimination, perpetuate patriarchal discrimination and violence against women and LGBTQ+ communities, justified the decimation and continued dispossession of Native Americans, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.
These types of security actions were also used to justify the Ottoman Empire’s forced deportation and genocide against its Armenian population during WWI, the Nazi Holocaust and the Balkan atrocities in the 1990s, to name only a few. It is also the basis for on-going “legalized” state violence and atrocity in China, Iran, Israel-Palestine, Russia, Turkey and numerous other nation-states around the world.
Luckily, this executive order has been suspended by a brave federal judge in Washington state, but we must maintain our vigilance against such harmful actions. We must NOT stand by while our friends, families, classmates and neighbors are maligned and dehumanized under the guise of protection and security in the era of “America first.”
Dr. Kent Schull is an associate professor of Ottoman and modern Middle East history at BU.
To read other accounts of how the travel ban affects students and professors at Binghamton University, please follow these links (updated 2/11):