Ali Noorani remembers the Rockwell mural that greeted dad's clients as they walked through the doors of his office
Noorani: Trump's travel ban challenges Americans: Will we do unto others as we would want them to do unto us?
Editor’s Note: Ali Noorani is the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an organization based in Washington that advocates for the value of immigrants, and author of the forthcoming “There Goes the Neighborhood: How Communities Overcome Prejudice and Meet the Challenge of American Immigration” (Prometheus Books, April 4). Follow him on Twitter @anoorani. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
My parents immigrated to America from Pakistan in the early 1970s. They worked hard, they saved money, they raised a family. They started a successful physical therapy practice that served everyone from farm workers to minor league baseball players to people with disabilities.
Growing up, I remember the patients who came to their office as much as I remember my father making house calls to help those who couldn’t leave their beds.
But indelibly seared into my mind is the painting that greeted each who walked through the office doors: Norman Rockwell’s “Golden Rule.”
The diversity of people and religions Rockwell depicted, the introspection required by the injunction “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” left a deep imprint. It was a principle that our nation’s leadership at the time held dear. In fact, none other than First Lady Nancy Reagan had presented the restored original mosaic to the United Nations in 1985 as a gift on behalf of the United States.
Fast forward to today. After nearly two months in office, President Donald Trump has issued immigration executive orders that call for a US-Mexico wall and a massive expansion in deportation resources. And, if not for the temporary restraining order a federal judge in Hawaii issued Wednesday night, the President’s order to ban travel from six majority Muslim nations and freeze our nation’s refugee program would have been implemented just hours later.
Through his actions, Trump has led America to a threshold question: As citizens, will we do unto others as we would want others to do unto us?
Our answer means so much for our future.
With the temporary restraining order, US District Court Judge Derrick Watson acknowledged that the revised travel and refugee ban still would be first step toward Trump’s December 7, 2015, call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
Not only is an order based on such discriminatory intent likely unconstitutional, the travel ban, and the statement it sends to the world, undermines our national security, destabilizes our economy and puts our troops in harm’s way.
Richard Clarke, who served on the National Security Council under both Presidents Bush and President Clinton, spoke, last month, to the original ban from a national security perspective, “Very often it doesn’t seem like the [security] problems that they’re trying to address on a priority basis actually exist. They just think they do. They think there are Mexicans pouring across the border when, in fact, the traffic is in the opposite direction. They think there’s a problem with refugees from [the banned] seven countries coming into the United States and staging terrorist attacks when that’s never happened.”
Taken as a whole, Trump’s executive orders not only do little to address national security concerns, they also dramatically expand enforcement priorities and undermine local law enforcement efforts.
These priorities now encompass not only those with convictions for “any criminal offense” (whether serious or minor), but also individuals who merely have committed acts that could be chargeable offenses – an affront to the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.”
To put it all more simply, in the eyes of Immigration and Customs Enforcement today, the undocumented landscaper is the same priority as the undocumented violent criminal.
There is a better way to keep the nation safe: Focus valuable local and federal law enforcement resources on individuals who are threats to public safety. And, through our refugee programs that already require two years of intense security vetting, ensure America serves as a beacon of freedom to the world, building trust with those we rely on in unstable and dangerous countries.
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Now, immigrants are afraid to take their US citizen children to school, afraid to go to church, afraid to open their doors. They are signing papers to make sure their children have a home in case they are detained. And refugees are living in camps around the world wondering if the land of the free is a land for them.
These are the millions of undocumented immigrants working and contributing in cities and towns across the country; the thousands of refugee families that evangelical churches helped resettle.
We all know these families. They sit in church one pew over, they are our children’s best friends, they are the neighbors who live in the neatly kept home down the street.
These are the immigrant and refugee families the majority of Americans have come to know. These are the families we cannot unremember.
So we ask ourselves: Do we believe in the Golden Rule?
As the American public comes to realize that these neighbors, shop keepers, laborers, students, friends now live their life afraid of the US government, we face this question with a clarity of purpose.
The lesson my immigrant parents instilled in me is not lost on the majority of Americans: We must do unto others as we would want them do unto us.