Incendiary Saturday: Religion and Immigration

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
– Constitution of the United States of America

Two posts in one day, you lucky darlings. But the news of the Executive Order issued by President Trump banning access to the country from several (Islamic) countries has broken and rather consumed our day here at SDS headquarters. He’s not calling it a #MuslimBan (though General Flynn’s son is, for what that’s worth)…but it’s a ban on Muslims. You know how we can tell? Because President Trump also directed that priority for immigration should be given to people from the Middle East…who are Christian. But let’s set that aside for a moment.

I’m not going to go into the minutia of whether or not the President excluded other “problematic” countries from this ban because he has active or prospective business holdings in them.

I’m not going to speculate on how much ammunition this will give to terrorist groups, some of whom have already apparently used the EO in recruiting efforts. Or how this might affect my brother and countless others currently serving in the armed forces.

I’m not going to touch the fact that this EO, steeped in racial tensions and fearmongering, was issued on Holocaust Memorial day.

Instead, I want to talk about some personal background, some legal realities, and the question of motive.

To recap.

On my father’s side, his mother was the daughter of immigrants from Slovakia. They were Roman Catholic at a time when Catholics and immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were viewed as suspect and fundamentally Un-American. My grandmother married a WASP from New York and bore three children, one of whom is my father who served most of my life in the US Air Force. One of my brothers has followed him into service.

On my mother’s side, I am descended from religious converts who came from Scotland and elsewhere to the deserts of the American West to join in a small and somewhat persecuted religious movement–Mormonism. This movement had an extermination order issued against them as a group at one point and were eventually driven out of what then constituted the boundaries of the country. My mother descends from this religious minority, now considered one of the most conservative and patriotic subsections of the country. My dad later converted to this faith and this heritage. I’ve left the former, but carry the latter with me always.

That’s my immigrant and religious minority legacy. Why do I repeat this? Because I’m not special. Most Americans have some kind of story like this in their background, this intertwining of minority and immigrant stories goes right back to our founding myths and has been our day-to-day lived reality for the better part of three centuries. Cracking down on immigrants, especially when you are using religion as part of your reasoning is fundamentally counter intuitive to our national history and story.

Years later, I’m now an immigrant in a Western nation at this very moment. I followed all the laws to legally enter this country and work here, and I have the paperwork to prove it. That is how international immigration and laws work. I’m lucky. I’m white, educated, English speaking, but I’m still an immigrant. My life is here and it is dependent on the goodwill of two governments. If I boarded a plane in the US and arrived in London only to be detained at the border because the Prime Minister had decided that in defiance of laws and regulations in two countries, my right to entry (again, documented in two countries) was suddenly invalidated, I have no idea where I’d be. Catatonic in a corner perhaps. Propublica estimates that up to half a million people are potentially in this situation now. The Washington Post is reporting that the language of the recent executive order that has brought this mess about also applies to people with dual nationalities…aka…citizens of the US. Huffinton Post reports ditto for Green Card holders. Representatives of the government under which I currently live are also reporting that they could not access the US under this EO, which doesn’t make me overly optimistic for continued operational goodwill across borders.

Why do I bring all this up? Because, like me, we are talking about people who have already passed multitudes of tests and requirements to gain access to the country.

There a lot of genuinely necessary conversation and work to do to create a safe, viable immigration network in the 21st century world. But do you know what really is pissing me off? It’s that the basis for this EO is due to fears and anxieties concerning illegal immigration and religious backgrounds. People who have the paperwork to get into this country have, in many cases, already passed a vetting process far more grueling than anyone currently being considered for a position in Mr. Trump’s cabinet! And freedom of worship was one of the first things the Founding Fathers enshrined.

And so, people who voted for this–including some of you who told me that these kinds of actions or bans would never come to fruition: do not tell me that the problem is illegal immigration, and then turn around and start detaining or denying entry first to those who already legally live and work in the US, including citizens. Do not tell me you consider the constitution sacrosanct but then impose a religious litmus test on entry in violation of the Bill of Rights. Do not cite the 9/11 attacks or recent lone wolf actors as a basis for this ban and then apply it to countries who citizens didn’t participate in those atrocities.

You’re either delusional about your motives, or you’re lying.

 photo Screenshot 2017-01-28 23.01.32_zpsg9oyy9cs.png

7 thoughts on “Incendiary Saturday: Religion and Immigration”

    1. Because I think people sincerely underestimate how much our day to day lives and society are based on convention and precedent. What people have done is throw a few (mostly) men into the mix who are on record as wanting to unmake the system, and imbued them with power. The result, they are doing exactly what they said they wanted to do: disrupt everything, regardless of the consequences. I believe what we’re seeing is how thin the veneer of security and stability is, and how much it relies on all of us to mutual agree upon the rules in order to sustain it.

      I thought this administration would be a disaster. Even I am shocked at the amount of damage done just one week in.

  1. Well said! I’ve been watching this whole thing unfold in horror and disbelief. How can it be happening??

    I also have Scottish ancestors who emigrated and settled into Mormonism in Utah (although the other side of my heritage is American Indian). I’ve also left the faith, a handful of years ago, as has most, but not all, of my family. Weird how much commonality there is!! It is a small world. All the more sad how exclusionary it is becoming.

    1. Small world and it’s equal parts heartening and disheartening to think how much commonality their is. The first because there is so much overlap to build on! The second because of how much of that overlap is dismissed, ignored, or devalued…

      It’s been ONE week…

  2. The irony? I bet many people like me, on green cards, will finally become citizens — NOT for any love of country, but to dump this piece of filth from power. It is deeply shocking to be a deeply implanted immigrant (27 yrs now in NY) and feel nervous about leaving the U.S. — for any reason — work, pleasure. family emergency. I had to take an AIDS test to enter the U.S. legally. That wasn’t much fun. It is a terrifying terrifying time…his supporters couldn’t care less and the rest of us feel powerless in the face of what I think it literal insanity.

  3. i was off news and social media yesterday afternoon, and just came online this morning and saw all of the news about the ban. then immediately googled “how can i help stop the Muslim ban,” and made a donation to the IRC. not surprised that trump tried this, but VERY fucking surprised he wasn’t immediately stopped. 100% committed to helping those affected and speaking out against this bullshit.

    (in case you or any of your readers want to give:, and there’s a “donate” button on the front page. the IRC is a super legit, effective, and connected NGO.)

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