“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Those are the words inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty that stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbour. The Statue of Liberty is a symbol for universal freedom to all United States citizens and the people who visit the country. The statue has become a representation of global friendship, freedom from oppression and democracy. There are seven spikes on the crown of Lady Liberty, representing the seven seas and the seven continents.
Yesterday, 27 January, was Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day set aside each year to remember and honour the victims of the Holocaust: an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 200,000 Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. On that solemn day of remembrance, the president of the United States took a proverbial axe to the Statue of Liberty and at the same time spit in the face of all who fell victim to Adolph Hitler and the Nazis in the last century.
Yesterday, Donald Trump signed another executive order, this one effectively banning all immigrants from the countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, all predominantly Muslim nations. One of the tenets of our democracy is that our nation is committed to the principle that each person who wishes to practice their religion be free to do so. This goes for people who practice any religion, and no religion. We do not discriminate against people of ANY religion. That is a core principle of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Yet, Trump claims that while banning all immigrants, special priority will be given for Christians wishing to enter the U.S., while all Muslims will be denied entry. This, a mere eight days after he took an oath whereby he swore to uphold the Constitution. That oath was shredded into millions of pieces yesterday.
Two Iraqi refugees, one of whom had worked as a US Army interpreter, were in transit to the U.S. when the executive order was signed on Friday and as of this morning were being detained at JFK airport in New York. The former interpreter is fleeing persecution because he aided the U.S.! At least three human rights groups, the National Immigration Law Centre (NILC), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have announced their intention to file lawsuits.
In addition to the fact that discrimination based on religion is clearly unconstitutional, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 banned all discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin. Trump claims his intent in signing this ‘executive order’ is to prevent terrorism, but frankly the threat of terrorism in the U.S. is very small compared to the threat of crime and murder by gun-toting U.S. citizens. The top 5 nations that are victims of terrorist activity are Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Syria … the U.S. ranks only 34th in terrorist activity worldwide, according to the 2016 Global Terrorism Index Report published by National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).
Holocaust Remembrance Day, designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, is on January 27th, marking the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, in 1945. Each year, the U.S. president has issued a statement in observance of the day. In years past, both presidents Bush and Obama issued statements referring to Auschwitz, anti-Semitism, and the murder of six million Jews. This year, Trump issued a statement that mentioned none of these, but merely noted that ‘innocent’ people died at the hands of the Nazis. Reaction from the public and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was immediate outrage. Those of us who are of Jewish heritage understand that the reason for this day is to never forget and always remember the atrocities that were committed against people of one specific religion, Judaism. Not only did Trump completely ignore that, but used this day to legalize atrocities against another religion: Islam. I rest my case.