My name is Carole Argo. I am a first-generation citizen of the United States of America, and I belong here.
My mother was an immigrant from the Philippines. She was born and raised there, and could still call the Philippines home throughout her life. It was, for a good bit of her life, her home. And then, like millions of others, she immigrated to the United States of America. And she belonged here.
When this country elected Donald Trump as our President, we knew full well the rights we were putting at risk. We knew that he could put into question the rights that women have in this country. We knew that he could jeopardize the equal treatment under the law that people of all skin colors, all religions and all genders have in the land of the free and home of the brave. We knew that we could begin to trend towards the fascism that so many feared he would.
And with a spate of executive orders, President Trump is poised to do that and more in the name of putting America first, even if it means pushing human rights further down the list of priorities.
The immigration ban (frequently stylized as “temporary hiatus” to soften the racist undertones a bit) put in place by Donald Trump is as hateful, fear-breeding and backwards as it is un-American.
When the Declaration was drafted and signed by our forefathers so long ago, our government was sworn to uphold and protect people’s three unalienable rights–life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This philosophy has evolved over time, becoming much more than just a catchy phrase on a piece of paper, it has become a way of life. People in other countries have, for years, recognized this, holding America in high regard. America became an aspiration for many people, a place to which one could flee persecution, war and inequality in search of ultimate freedom. America has been the place where the streets were paved with gold, where everyone had an opportunity to find success regardless of where you were from, regardless of the religious services you attended, and regardless of the color of your skin.
And now that’s changing–and these changes go against everything that America stands for, and everything that we, as Americans, should stand for. This country was founded on these ideals, and now is not the time to change them.
Donald Trump’s order to ban immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries–an order currently on hold due to a court decision–is a direct attack on the freedoms our forefathers guaranteed for us. Members of the far right are quick to point out the fact that Trump’s order is not, in so many words, a Muslim ban. They point out that it was the Obama administration that selected these countries as high-risk, they point out that Obama put a similar (but not actually that similar) and that there are plenty more Muslim countries that Trump is not banning.
However they are ignoring the fact that President Trump–then just Donald Trump– has advocated for a Muslim ban and/or Muslim registry time and time again. Now that he has effectively attempted to instate one, many are quick to claim that’s not his intention, despite his own words indicating otherwise.
It’s no longer an issue of media bias, of “fake news” or of conflicting reports–it’s about seeing the events that are unfolding right in front of your eyes and turning away from them. It’s about people who heard Donald Trump say he’d like to put a stop on Muslim immigration, watched as President Trump did just that, then claimed it wasn’t a Muslim ban at all–claiming that it’s not hateful, that it’s not racist, and that it’s not offensive or against American philosophy as a whole.
Yes, we’ve had recent security lapses and terrorist attacks orchestrated by people who want nothing more than to destroy the American way of life. These people want nothing more than to breed hatred. When we ban a certain religion (or group of countries who more often than not adhere to that religion) from our country, we feed directly into the anger and bitterness that serves only to spawn more hatred of our way of life. Every Trump executive order banning people deemed “too different” than us is more fodder to use in attacks against America.
We won’t defeat terrorism by excluding those who are different than us. Do we need to improve our vetting process–most likely. But to put a total stop on those countries will do little to nothing to stop attacks within the United States. A common question on the matter asks “would you eat a handful of Skittles if a few of them were poisonous?” likening refugees to Skittles and terrorists to the undetectable poisoned pieces. A more accurate question, though, would be “would you attempt to save the life of a few very real people who were fleeing war-torn countries, if one out of every 3.6 billion may kill you?”
I’m not the only first generation citizen that has been shaped, transformed and spent her entire life in the embraces of a country she loves. There are millions of others out there who can relate this same story–we need now to bind together to ensure that others can make the same claim. My mother was born in the Philippines, so she wouldn’t have had her rights restricted had she tried to immigrate today–but hundreds and thousands of others can’t say the same thing.
We need to bind together as a country–a country made up of people with different backgrounds–to stand against immigration bans and show people like Donald Trump that no matter the color of our skins, the religion we follow or the country we were born in, we are all human beings.
Carole Argo is a business woman from Baltimore, Maryland. She currently works at a nonprofit assisting adults with disabilities. She can be found online at CaroleArgo.com and CaroleArgo.org.