Kass: Immigration ban will put us on the wrong side of history


The ongoing refugee crisis has again reared its ugly head in the world with news reports coming out last week that Donald Trump had signed an executive order banning immigration from Libya, Syria, Yemen and several other countries.

I’d argue that this ban is wrong for two reasons. One is simply that the ban curiously fails to include countries where Donald Trump has business ties, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, pointing to a major conflict of interest but one which could have been solved if Trump had, say, shown us his taxes or divested from his business. But, at this point, that’s water under the bridge.

The bigger issue for me is the impression we project as a country when we do this. Many people trapped by this executive order have been some of the more vulnerable members of society. College professors, families and small children have been caught up in a law which 51 percent of the country seems to agree is unfair.

The bigger issue for me is that the United States has again failed to live up to the lofty ideal that we ourselves have placed on the country. It is a great burden that we carry, but one that makes us the leaders of the free world. And I understand the anger and resentment.

It’s tiring being the world’s policeman. It’s frustrating seeing a multitude of problems at home, like hunger and poverty, going unsolved while the government continues to pump seemingly near unlimited amounts of money into other countries. And yes, the rest of the world is a dangerous place. It’s naïve to pretend that conflict doesn’t exist. And yes, the Middle East is particularly dangerous at this moment.

But it’s wrong to execute a sweeping ban across the entire region, because the United States already has one of the strictest vetting processes in the entire world. It’s different from the European system, which allows for completely open borders, and the European mentality, which naturally leads to tribal nationalistic beliefs to flourish.

In the harbor of New York City sits the Statue of Liberty. Dedicated to the United States by France, it was the welcoming beacon for many immigrants coming from Europe in the early 20th century. And on the base of the statue sits a poem by Emma Lazarus titled, “The New Colossus.”

One of the most memorable lines from that poem reads, “send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

There are no asterisks and no preconditions attached. The U.S. has long been a shining beacon of hope for people all over the world looking to make a fresh start.

Our country has not always lived up to that lofty ideal. There have been times where we as a nation have interned Japanese Americans or turned away European Jewish refugees. Here is a moment in time where history appears to be repeating itself, and this is a chance to be on the right side of history. It’s a chance for us to look back with pride instead of regret.

Now is the time to make sure that our actions live up to our words. It’s time to take in the tired, poor and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

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