This Land is Our Land

BY REP. GREGORY MEEKS

Thousands filled Terminal Four at JFK airport, hoisting their homemade signs. Their voices could be heard miles away. Kids, veterans, and people from all walks of life joined in chants, like “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.” And I joined them, too. Those of us who gathered at JFK airport saw in human terms the heartlessness of Donald Trump’s travel ban. And we were horrified. We witnessed the thirty-hour detention of lawful people, like a Stony Brook University student and the Iraqi mother of a US Army soldier. And we were disgusted.

Throughout our nation and in New York City—where just miles away, the Statue of Liberty stands as a beacon of hope, having welcomed generations of  “your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” with the promise of a better tomorrow—border  patrol officers turned away refugees, immigrants, and in some cases, lawful permanent residents.  Some might ask: How could we allow this to happen?  Well, “we” didn’t. Nearly 66 million of us didn’t vote for Donald Trump. “We” cast three million more votes for his opponent than we did for him.  And now, with a malevolent stroke of his pen, he single-handedly abandoned American values and diminished our standing in the world.

The offensive de facto ban on refugees and Muslim immigrants won’t make us any safer; it offends our Muslim partners in the fight against terrorism around the world. The rationale Trump put forward is not grounded in reality. Since 9/11, not a single American has died on U.S. soil because of a terrorist who originated in one of the seven blocked countries. The travel ban is not a new idea, either. In fact, this very same proposal has been around for decades, but scores of national security advisers, diplomats, and immigration specialists have denounced it. Last but not least, this order is unconstitutional, encouraging discrimination based on religion and running afoul of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another.

All of these reasons are precisely why the rest of us cannot be silent. For, if we are, as Martin Luther King, Jr. warned us, “history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

Yes, President Trump’s travel ban is frustrating, damaging, and ill-advised. But together, we must protect our American values. Arm-in-arm we must oppose this and other heinous proposals that challenge our values.  We have to mobilize and let the entire world know that this is not who we are and that this is not what America stands for. Thousands of New Yorkers already know that. That’s why we were at JFK airport, welcoming people in solidarity and song with hums of “This Land is Your Land.”

So I encourage you to join with me, with the good people who were at Terminal 4, and with hundreds of thousands across our nation.  Now and throughout these next four years, we must boldly carry forward the torch of the Statue of Liberty, embody her spirit, and live up to the American ideals for which she, and we, stand.

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