Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Nashville on March 15.
Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Nashville on March 15.

My Country 'Tis of Me, Revisited

by / Mar. 21, 2017 5pm EST

Last month, The Public ran my op-ed about Trump’s first immigration ban. In it, I shared my family’s immigration story to help make the case that the ban is fundamentally un-American. Since then, Trump’s second executive order has complicated the picture. According to the Washington Post, the revised ban “blocks the issuance only of new visas, and names just six of the seven countries included in the first executive order, omitting Iraq.” Last Wednesday, Judge Derrick K. Watson of United States District Court in Honolulu blocked it.

At a Nashville rally, Trump fired back: “The danger is clear. The law is clear. The need for my executive order is clear.” But in doing so, he only repurposed the same misinformed rhetoric that led to the first ban, namely, a rhetoric built on America’s fear of immigrants in general and Islam in particular.

The crowd’s racism was palpable. In many ways, it was synecdoche for America’s racism, too. But I’m continually reminded that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Here’s where Trump supporters go wrong, though. There’s a difference between having an opinion and having a factually informed opinion. In the end, ignorance fuels opinions just as well as facts and statistics do, but that doesn’t mean an ignorant opinion should be taken seriously. In the words of one of my favorite professors, it’s scary for Republicans to admit they were—oh—wrong. That’s because it’s scary for anyone to admit it.

Trump’s myths are opinions fueled by ignorance. His travel bans are, too. There is no danger. There is only fear and ignorance. His riling call to action is really a call to racism and nativism. This has no place in today’s America.

Judge Watson defended that “It would therefore be no paradigmatic leap to conclude that targeting these countries likewise targets Islam.” This ordeal is a fight against Islam with Trump’s policy as the primary attack. Republicans are lying to themselves in protest, a move representing just how far they’re living in denial of facts.

I’ve never heard a ban supporter, for instance, cite credible statistics. I’ve never heard them cite anything beyond anecdote, perceived evil, and misinformed stereotype. Is this really where we’re at, America?

According to the American Immigration Council, an organization led exclusively by college-educated individuals, immigrants are less likely than native-born to engage in criminal behavior. “Notably, native-born Americans were approximately four times more likely to report violent behavior than Asian and African immigrants and three times more likely than immigrants from Latin America.” This seems to be the central point Republicans struggle with. The statistics really are striking, but only if you read them.

Alex Nowrasteh from the Cato Institute concluded something even more striking. Immigrant nationals from “the seven countries singled out by Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015.” Zero.

Unfortunately, lies and convoluted thinking continue to dominate political discourse. These extend into arguments of relativism that dominate our consciousness: Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but not all opinions are built on facts. This is only reinforced by the polarized language many supporters of the ban subscribe to by continuing to call fellow human beings “illegals.” This rhetoric of fear is fueled by misinformation. But it’s not eternal.

Moving forward, we should all consider the sources of the statistics we’re reading, debating, and using as justification. Teaching Tolerance, the Cato Institute, and the American Immigration Council are three credible examples. Just last week, a valuable post from Teaching Tolerance surfaced. “Ten Myths About Immigration” offers stances on the topic supported by university studies and professional researchers, addressing issues such as whether “Banning immigrants and refugees from majority-Muslim countries will protect the United States from terrorists.” It’s worth a careful read. In a world saturated with information and misinformation, defending credibility should be everyone’s goal.

I’m also advocating that we stop calling other human beings “illegals.” Asking about legal status doesn’t give one the right to essentialize. In fact, it’s no citizen’s business to ask about another’s citizenship; that remains a relationship between government and individual. The term is also legally imprecise. Immigration is a civil matter, not a criminal one. We ought to stop equating it with violent crime through the damaging language used to describe it.

Efforts like #ImmigrantExcellence, an initiative to share empowering stories of immigrants and refugees, define the future of the resistance, but they can’t stand alone. Along with Judge Theodore D. Chuang’s ruling against the ban, we must hold everyone’s opinions up to standards of bias and credibility. It’s silly to even bring this up, but our times are calling for a return to basic critical thinking.

As many other political debates, this one also requires us to reconsider America’s core values. When it comes to immigration bans, the country isn’t exempted from its slew of bad decisions that have pained thousands who deserved better. Today’s bans may be revoked, overturned, or reinforced, but their legacy is eternal. Misguided fear is not.

George Goga is a writer and teacher from Buffalo, New York. Currently, he’s writing a book about what the American life well-lived is supposed to look like.