Oped: Trump's hateful ban cannot stand

Shahram Hashemi
Tribune News Service

Despite a federal appeals court declaring President Donald Trump's original travel ban unlawful, his administration, in producing the updated-but-similar executive order signed by the president Monday, appears determined to fulfill the hateful anti-immigrant promises made during his campaign.

Allie Morgan, a University of Colorado graduate student, is among dozens of people at a travel ban protest at the University of Colorado in Boulder on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. ( Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera via AP)

For more than a year, Trump and his associates have been trying to divide Americans along the lines of religion, race and national origin. And since being inaugurated, Trump, with a series of pen strokes, has written off millions of people living in a select group of Muslim-majority countries as "bad people" who need to be kept out of the United States.

The fact that no foreign national from any of the countries included in the ban has ever committed an act of terrorism on U.S. soil appears to be totally lost on Trump. Also seemingly lost amid the furor is any appreciation for the immense, culturally enriching contributions generations of immigrations have made to our nation.

Many of the individuals who have been directly affected by the president's orders are students, grandmothers, physicians and human rights activists.

I'm one such person.

After growing up in Iran, I first entered the United States 18 years ago on a student visa to attend the City University of New York. Toward the end of my studies, I landed a coveted internship at a bank on Wall Street.

On my way to work one fateful September morning, I saw a plane hit the second tower of the World Trade Center and then watched in shock as people jumped and the towers collapsed. I joined a group of volunteers at Ground Zero and helped pull people from the rubble. A firefighter at one point handed me an extra FDNY jacket as I worked alongside first responders until I was blinded by soot and too exhausted to continue.

I stayed in the United States, eventually getting a green card and making New York City my home. I became a human rights activist and began working with Amnesty International, where I now serve on the board of directors and, until recently, traveled to meet with and support human rights defenders around the world.

Despite assurances from the administration that green card holders won't be affected by the new executive order, I can no longer be certain my travels will go safely and smoothly. There have simply been too many recent stories of legal U.S. residents being detained or turned away upon returning from abroad.

My mother, also a green card holder, was in Iran when word of the original ban began to circulate. Luckily, we were able to get her back stateside in time, but many others weren't as fortunate, and confusion about who can and cannot enter the country has persisted.

Those affected have included refugees fleeing unspeakable violence and law-abiding students who often act as America's best ambassadors on trips back home. It's unconscionable to slam the door on them.

That said, there's no doubt much work remains in addressing the extremist violence that has touched so many parts of the world. Any non-citizen entering American should be properly vetted, which is why, pre-Trump, it could takes months or even years for refugees and visitors to be granted admission.

The approach taken by the White House, though, which paints all Muslims with a broad brush, is misguided and will only serve to stoke anti-American sentiment among ideologues while simultaneously alienating millions worldwide.

Trump's bans, which have effectively enshrined anti-Muslim bigotry into our laws, have no place in our freedom-loving land. Congress must take immediate action to nullify the orders once and for all.

— Shahram Hashemi, who was elected to the international board of Amnesty International in 2015, is a recipient of the F.H. LaGuardia Memorial Association Award for his service in the 9/11 rescue efforts.