Your faith is not a security threat

In light of President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, many have spoken out, claiming his executive order unfairly targets Muslims. Through his comments during his campaign on creating a Muslim database or banning their entry from the US entirely, it becomes increasingly clear what purpose the immigration ban actually holds.The order restricted immigration from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen, halted refugee entry for 120 days and stopped Syrian refugee admission indefinitely. Although his executive order is devoid of any mention of Islam itself, that hasn’t stopped an unconstitutional discrimination against faith.

Executive orders are often implemented to create quick and necessary change as the president sees fit, without the barriers of congressional divide. Although executive orders aren’t strictly mentioned in the Constitution, Article II of the Constitution has often been interpreted in favor of executive orders. The line “[t]he executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States” has been used to support the authority of such statements. Executive orders themselves might be constitutional, but Trump’s immigration policies can be marked as otherwise.

The current policy seeks to discriminate against Muslims under the guise of national security. The order undermines the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. Barring entry to the U.S. from several Muslim-majority countries is an attack on religious freedom. It seeks to belittle those of Islamic faith by branding them a threat to national security.

Additionally, the supposed argument of strengthening national security weakens when examined closely. The order states in the first section regarding its purpose that “the visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans.” However, the 9/11 terrorists largely hailed from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon — none of which are blocked by Trump’s order. If the ban truly were in favor of national security, wouldn’t these countries be first on the list? It doesn’t help that Trump has business ties with several of these countries, including Saudi Arabia. This order is simply a way to justify banning immigrants from Muslim-majority countries while carefully skirting around areas where Trump’s family business could stand to lose monetarily.

While national security is important, denying people entry based on faith alone is discriminatory and increases fear in the general public. The chances of being killed by a refugee or immigrant from the Middle East is microscopic. The Cato Institute found that in the years of 1975 to 2015, the United States admitted approximately 700,000 asylum seekers and 3.25 million refugees. Of those, four asylum seekers and 20 refugees were radicalized and led attacks on American soil. Acting as if the terrified, fleeing masses are all jihadis in disguise is statistically indefensible and unfair to innocent people fleeing war-torn areas of the world.

In addition, refugees from the same area are being given different levels of priority based on their religion. Trump claimed that since Christians were persecuted at greater numbers, Christian refugees should be prioritized over Muslim refugees. This double standard based on the criteria of faith alone goes to show that the president’s intent (whether or not mentioned in the document itself) is to unfairly target Muslims.

This effects of this act echo the injustice felt by Japanese Americans during WWII. In the weeks following Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 ordered the relocation of 120,000 Japanese Americans — many of them U.S. citizens. While this order was also highly controversial, it had a basis in a need for immediate action following the Pearl Harbor attacks. However, the families were ultimately provided monetary compensation through Reagan’s Civil Liberties Act to apologize for their mistreatment. If the act of branding people of a certain nation has been recognized as unlawful, why does Trump continue to do the same with Muslims from other nations?

Even if Trump’s policy doesn’t outright ban Muslims, it can still be considered faith-based discrimination. In the Supreme Court case Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (1993), Justice Anthony Kennedy prevented the implementation of a seemingly innocent animal welfare ordinance that banned the act of animal sacrifice. It turned out that although no religion was mentioned in the policy, it sought to attack the local Santeria religion, the only group in the area that practiced ritualistic animal sacrifices. This goes to show even without the explicit mention of a religion, Trump’s own executive order can be connected to discrimination rooted in faith.

This repetition of history shows a lack of reflection on history’s mistakes. It shows the willingness of the American people to villainize another group on the basis of faith or race while claiming to act in the country’s best interests. As Americans, it is our duty to look beyond one’s location of birth or religion to determine their worth. Denying Muslims entry is un-American because Muslims have the right to be as American as members of any other religion. It is this mixture of class, race, gender and opinions that makes our nation, our American melting pot, as great as it is.