Mari Herreras

Over the weekend many of us saw protests break out at most large-city airports, such as JFK in New York City and San Francisco. The protesters were there to take objection to a recent executive order signed by President Donald Trump that restricts immigration from seven Muslim countries, suspends all refugee admission for 120 days and bars all Syrian refugees indefinitely.

Travelers with valid documentation were detained, but released after attorneys stepped in to challenge the detentions. 

What’s clear is that non-citizens are most affected by the order, specifically refugees waiting resettlement in the US, and all Syrian refugees.  What remains unclear are those who are green-card holders who leave the country to visit family or for work. Returning to family here in the US will be problematic, even those with dual citizenship of other countries.

Here’s what I read about where the greatest impact remains—among the seven countries listed in the order, 40 percent of US refugees come from these countries. Any rhetoric that declares this a way to prevent Muslims or terrorists from entering the country because of this order, need to be reminded that people traveling from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan can still come to the US.

The unfortunate part of this executive order are those who have been doing exactly what they are supposed to in order to receive work, student or refugee visas to come to this country. The extensive paperwork and process that can take several years. Those denied entry are now stuck in a limbo.

I’ve been thinking about a VFW essay contest I did when I was in junior high school. The title of the contest was “What Democracy Means to Me.” I wrote about the Statue of Liberty. I wrote about immigration. I didn’t really write about my family’s immigration story. In our area of the country it isn’t that remarkable, but very much the norm—family who arrived here five generations ago from Mexico when this area was a new US Territory. But they came here for the same reasons many people still arrive in the US—a better life economically, a life away from war, a safe and free place to raise their families and a country that offers hope and a new start.

That’s what I thought about when I wrote that essay for which I placed third and received a US Savings Bond. I remember being particularly proud of that moment, as well as of the essay itself and learning about the words on the Statute of Libery: “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!”

As the courts step in to look more closely at this order and it continues to work itself out, I hope, as a country and people, we haven’t forgetten about what I consider a promise being a light to other nations and what that means.

No doubt it means by example, and there are times I wonder if we’ve lost that round, too. In this case, it’s also a light that welcomes those who seek refuge and a new life, with us asking that they become Americans and add to the amazing diversity that exist in this beautiful country.

I’m thinking of a friend, too. Her mother was forced to leave behind three of her children when she immigrated to the US 28 years ago from Yemen. The immigration laws in this country are not as easy as some people think they are. She was separated from those children most of their lives. She’s only been able to have relationships with those siblings through short visits back to Yemen only a few times. Now she wonders if Yemen will allow her in due to this policy. 

I can’t help but feel that instead of this being about protecting our citizens, it really comes down to breaking our promise we made when we issued those green cards to begin with. Maybe it’s time to take Lady Liberty down and ship her back to France.

I’d be curious to know what you think.

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