It took one week for Donald Trump to execute the core promises of his campaign, initiating the building of a wall along the United States border with Mexico and placing a ban on Muslims, including refugees from war-torn areas and people with valid green cards and visas. These people searching for hope and opportunity in the arms of Lady Liberty were denied entry into our country with an egregious executive order that specifically targeted a group of human beings ranging from refugees who only have the clothes on their backs to some of the world’s brightest minds. The unimaginable is happening before our very eyes, and I can’t seem to find accurate ways to put what I’m feeling into words. I am sick. I am heartbroken. I am ashamed to be a citizen of a country that brands itself as the pinnacle of freedom and slams the door in the face of families, students, and our allies. Still, none of these words capture the profound disappointment I have in my government leaders and fellow citizens who have abandoned American ideals out of fear.
While I’m at a loss for words on how disappointed I am in the United States, I can’t help but feel a sense of relief when I reflect upon the past two weekends here in Boston and other cities around the world, where people have taken to the streets to oppose bigotry en masse. Less than 24 hours after the inauguration, millions of people gathered in major cities and small towns around the world and marched in solidarity with the immensely successful Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches. Crowds, far larger than the Inauguration’s a day before, rallied together and marched through the streets demanding the fair and equal treatment of marginalized people by the new administration. Some cities, like Chicago, had to cancel the marching portion of the rallies because the sheer volume of people was too much for the city to accommodate. A light in the darkness. A victory.
The world made it clear to Donald Trump last Saturday that we are here, and we are not going to sit idly as his administration undoes the progress we have made in the past decade. In response, Trump doubled down, restricting federal funding to overseas healthcare providers that perform abortions (regardless of how often, if ever, they are performed), announcing the construction of the wall that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars, and instituting his promised “Muslim ban”, which only includes Muslim-majority countries not connected to his business interests. These executive orders, among others, are as symbolic to his base’s regressive and vengeful cause as they are harmful to the marginalized.
Trump’s “Muslim ban” is certainly the most devious of all these executive orders, though. Signed on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Donald Trump chose to turn away people based on their religious beliefs in some sick act of irony. With the stroke of his pen, thousands of people were barred from the United States. Some of these people were in the air when the order went into effect, deported immediately after they landed. Some people, including children and the elderly, were detained for hours without food as they awaited their fate. Protests erupted at international terminals Saturday night, most notably at JFK’s Terminal 4 where thousands demonstrated alongside elected officials. In Boston, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Marty Walsh joined protesters at Logan and spoke to the crowds. Immigration lawyers arrived the same night, working pro bono for the detained.
Just like the week prior, ordinary citizens mobilized in cities across the country to protest the new administration’s far-reaching and blatantly discriminatory immigration policies. A couple of friends and I decided to join the 25,000-person crowd gathered in Copley Square yesterday, where would hear political, community, and religious leaders speak on behalf of their constituents and members of their congregations opposed to the gross implementation of the policy. I stood in the crowd awestruck by the sea of diversity behind me, people who stood shoulder to shoulder from the front doors of Trinity Church to the steps of the Public Library. I thought of my Pakistani Lyft driver who told my friends and me about his concern that his elderly parents may never meet his son if the new administration decides to extend the list of countries barred from U.S. entry. I thought about his words, marred with disappointment as he described what it was like to leave his home country where corruption thrives, only to come here and find a government that still doesn’t care about its people.
I also thought of the hope my driver has in this country and his love for the United States, which he repeatedly said is the greatest country in the world. The stories he shared with us about Pakistan are unimaginable. He, like so many others, simply wants a good life for his family and knew the United States was the place for him to fulfill those dreams after he graduated from his university. He is one of thousands striving to give the people he loves what they deserve. Unfortunately, many people over the weekend were denied that opportunity. Mothers and fathers, children and the elderly, students and researchers were denied entry to our country because Donald Trump is scared and heartless. His administration and Republican colleagues are spineless. The American people, however, have demonstrated that we are not afraid. We will stand up for the rights of our neighbors, and we will oppose this administration’s bigotry in droves.