Closed Doors Serve No Purpose
February 8, 2017
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Allow me to provide you with a mental exercise for your imagination.
You are standing in an airport – yes, those places many of us despise – and you are waiting to go through customs and immigration, into the amazing opportunity that is the country of the United States of America. Beyond the doors of that airport, whether you are at JFK, Logan Airport, or in Miami, lays a life that you might have been dreaming of, perhaps even a chance to reconnect with family and friends that you haven’t seen in years. What awaits you could be a new home, where you can live your life and earn a living without the threat of bombings, sporadic fighting, or stray bullets. Perhaps it is simply an opportunity to live in a country where you are finally legally recognized by the government.
In your efforts to make it this far, you may have had to abandon almost all of your belongings, including your home, risking it all just for this one chance to finally find a new home. You find yourself about to step up to the counter, with all the forms that you meticulously filled out, at the end of a process of meticulous screenings and background checks during more than two years.
However, as of January 27, the new President of the United States has ruled that all those who find themselves in this position will be banned from entering the United States for a period of 120 days.
To make matters worse, those refugees who already hold all the necessary documents, or those who are in the middle of the process are included in this ban, and must wait the same period of 120 days to apply to go through a modified refugee acceptance program, back to square one.
In addition to this, even the people coming to the U.S. who are from any one of the seven specific countries in the Executive Order (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen). This means that even those who are not applying for asylum, and have a visa to enter the United States would be turned away. In this way, we would prevent professors and doctors coming to the U.S. to work and provide insight in their respective fields of study. It means that we would be turning away even those people who have served the U.S. State Department or the Department of Defense in their operations overseas. This means we would be splitting families, taking away their one opportunity to reunite.
Unfortunately, the perils caused by this new policy don’t end there.
With a freeze to the entire process of refugees being accepted to the U.S., we are denying a similar opportunity for other refugee groups that face different types of hardship. Among these are the Rohingya people of Myanmar, who have been displaced within their country for years, with the government not even recognizing them as citizens. Another group are the refugees that are forced from their homes due to the rising sea levels in the Pacific.
By turning our back on these people, we aren’t simply closing our borders and saying we’ll try to sort ourselves out internally for the time being, we are also stating to the rest of the world that despite claiming to be the leaders of democracy, helping develop the rest of the world, and being the prime force behind humanitarian efforts that better our world, we’re simply taking a 180-degree turn and telling others to mind their business instead.
With the world as connected as it is today, this approach to international relations is simply unsustainable. Such a stance will only worsen the image that people around the world have of the United States.
How long will we be able to face the rest of the world and claim to be the Land of the Free, while we lock our doors to the suffering masses of our fellow human beings?
We must understand that this issue doesn’t simply affect the U.S. and the Trump administration, but influences the rest of the world as well. It is our duty as a community to remember that everyone can be affected by these political developments in a different way, and to contribute by understanding the situations that others may find themselves in, whether it be an international student or anyone who has family from outside of the U.S., by making sure that we stay informed, and don’t let the people of power in the world assume that they have the whole say in all matters. They may be trying to close our front door, but the key to keeping this country open is still in our hands.