The independent news organization of Duke University

A demagogue's border policy

Last Friday, President Donald Trump announced an executive order to overhaul our nation’s immigration system. Included within Trump’s order was a “temporary” ban on all immigration from Syria and a number of predominantly Muslim countries, as well as impediments that prevent green card-holding American residents abroad in those countries from coming back to America. Trump’s order is part of his wider executive plan to mitigate the threats of radical Islamist terrorism; while that goal is respectable enough, the first step he has taken to achieve it is reprehensible and un-American.

Trump’s declaration was sickeningly anachronistic, parallel to some of the shameful acts of American history like the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which was designed to prevent immigration from “racially inferior stocks.” It seems as if he has tried to perform a foreign policy surgery with the equivalent of a blunt sledgehammer, inanely attempting to solve a problem with a tool that does not belong anywhere near the operating room. His ukase has caused immediate pain. Hundreds of green card holders across the world have suddenly been banned from returning home to America. The victims—doctors, children, students and even a Duke professor—are innocent, their only crime a badly timed plane trip. And they, of course, are not the only ones hurt. Immigrants from Turkey and Syria who just a week ago might have been guaranteed safe legal passage to America have been told that they are no longer welcome in the country: that America’s shining beacon only shines for a select group of people who happen to look like Mr. Trump and that this land is no longer a home for the tired, the poor and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Public reaction to Trump’s executive order has been rightfully and overwhelmingly negative. To protest, people have crowded airports across the country in support of refugees and foreign residents detained indefinitely by the mandate. Meanwhile, teams of lawyers have rushed a number of lawsuits into federal court, where judges have quickly issued stays against parts of the immigration ban. Financial support for organizations like the ACLU has skyrocketed, as citizens have reached to support those fighting to keep an open America alive. Even at Duke, the administration has voiced support for a public statement urging a quick end to the policy.

As a leading global research university, we ought to take an assertive stance to protect the many international members of the Duke community from potential federal action. The University of Michigan recently announced in reaction to Trump’s order that it would not release the immigration status of its students to the federal government; Duke likewise has announced similar measures. But we can go further: actions on the part of the administration, such as maintaining summer housing for international students and declaring Duke a sanctuary campus, emphasize the university’s commitment to providing a safe environment for its students during a politically unstable time.

Institutional resistance, however, must be led by individual action. If you, in the slightest, care that the due process of fellow Americans was just violated, do your part to protect them and stand against demagogues who would seek to infringe upon their rights. That might mean speaking, writing or marching. Whatever it is, take action.


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