Trump Immigration Ban Is A War On People

February 7, 2017


I am a child of immigrants and refugees. And for much of my life, I believed that these special traits are what make me an American.

I have never thought that my citizenship was merely a matter of my birthright. I have always understood, rather, that my rights and privileges as an American were earned by the sacrifices of my parents and grandparents, who scraped and clawed and spit blood to see me born in Hartford. But with the callous stroke of his pen, President Donald Trump has shown us how tenuous our rights really are.

The president’s Jan. 27 ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries is not just an attack on an insular minority; it is an attack on the American people. Though that ban has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge’s ruling, the effect of it and the administration’s battle to get it reinstated prejudices immigrants who are here or those who are trying to get here, while heightening domestic tension.

Trump’s executive order is a war on people like my grandfather, Albert Sun, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1963 to study for an engineering degree and later went to work as a ballistics engineer at Colt. He worked decades thereafter for the United States Army, finishing his career as an engineer on weapons systems at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.

America is safer and stronger because of Albert Sun, but the president dishonors him and thousands like him by attacking immigrants who might fail some arbitrary religious test or have what he reckons is the wrong background, and whose jobs, businesses and families will be torn apart by this reckless and un-American ban.

We have seen orders like this before in our history. They were not right then, and they are not right now. Such anti-immigrant bans were allowed to happen because the American people gave into fear instead of embracing what is great in our country.

President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which banned the immigration of my people to America. That act was renewed and unchanged until 1943, when a revision allowed just 105 Chinese immigrants annually into the U.S. It wasn’t until 1965 that the ban was fully lifted. I was born in Connecticut only eight years later.

Other groups have been singled out in our history. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 in 1942, which resulted in the mass internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps on American soil. President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, and sentenced Native Americans to the murderous Trail of Tears.

But this president’s actions are, in many ways, worse, and even more dangerous and destabilizing.

Families are already being hurt and torn apart. The president must know that he rode a wave of unprecedented anger and mistrust into office, and he cannot be surprised by the rage and the hate that has followed.

The dangers and risk of violence are high in this era dominated by a lawless internet and social media, a powder keg of instant rage and fake news, Russian hackings, terrorism and mass shootings.

And as the outrage finally pushes us out into the streets, or we jam into airports, we put ourselves in public protests that are by their very nature highly charged and emotional, chaotic and disorderly, and often confrontational. The president is building a bonfire, and he is placing the American people at greater risk than any immigrant or refugee seeking a new and better life in our country.

We have made grave mistakes like this before. We cannot afford to make them again.