Yesterday, on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Trump signed an executive order, which among other things “indefinitely suspends admissions for Syrian refugees and limits the flow of other refugees into the United States.” This was done in the name of national security, but that is just a cover for thinly veiled discrimination against Muslims.
I could spend significant time explaining why this executive order will not increase the safety of our nation, but rather weaken it. Trump is playing right into the hands of ISIS by turning on Muslims near and far to make them feel unwelcome and less human. This environment is the perfect recruitment ground for radical groups, who prey on young people who feel left out of society. Trump’s executive order could have been written by ISIS itself! In short, this is a terrible move from a homeland security standpoint.
But I want to focus on the moral issue at hand. We are a country of immigrants. I immigrated two decades ago from a nation that has received more Syrian refugees per capita than any other country, Sweden. It is our duty as members of a global society to welcome those who have nowhere else to go. If we stick with Trump’s policy, we should remove the Statue of Liberty. Its promises no longer apply. We will no longer represent a nation who implores other nations to “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
This is one of the great moral issues of our time. It fundamentally is a matter of right and wrong. How shall we treat our neighbors? Will we affirm the human rights and human dignity of all people, or only those who are Christian? Will we reach out to all who suffer from war and oppression, or only those who share the religious identities of the majority population? Will we turn in on ourselves and withdraw from people afflicted by war, or will we reach beyond ourselves and show them our compassion and generosity? Our actions today will define who we are going forward.
We look to our elected leaders to represent the values enshrined in our constitution and in our history of accepting immigrants and refugees. If our elected leaders fail in this capacity, we will do everything in our power to make sure that in the next election, you will meet with defeat. But we believe you have the capacity to stand up to President Trump. We believe you possess the courage to do the right thing, to stand with all people who suffer, no matter what their religious background. We trust that you will not be a party to bigotry but will do everything in your power to exorcise bigotry from our government.
To close, I wish to remind you of the words spoken by Martin Niemöller about the cowardice of Christians in Germany following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Will you speak up against the bigotry coming from the White House and stand on the right side of history? I hope so—for the sake of our collective consciousness and the many thousands of people, especially children, who would find a safe haven here.