LAMIYA SHABBIR WRITES — On February 23, President Donald Trump issued a series of memos after millions of protesters rejected the Trump administration’s initial executive orders regarding immigration enforcement and public safety. Trump’s travel ban, originally issued on January 27 and virtually banning all visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S, had affected over 100 travelers during its first weekend alone. Non-citizens were detained at U.S. airports for hours, leaving family members wondering whether or not they would be able to meet their loved ones.
Migrating to the United States, especially from a second or third world country, has never been easy. Potential immigrants face years of waiting, hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees, and staggered and sometimes incomplete approvals within the same immediate family — not to mention the emotional difficulty of moving to a new land and leaving the familiar behind.
And that’s when you do it legally.
I remember the procedure I had to go through years ago when my family and I were in process of getting a United States residence visa. Our trip to Islamabad for the interview at the U.S Embassy was short, but the wait to get our visas approved was long – almost five years.
Finally, when the brown packet came in mail, the only person who did not receive a visa was my mother. I feared that she will never be approved and I was not ready to leave without her.
But since our visas were going to expire in six months, my dad, two sisters and I had to pack and leave her behind not knowing if my mother would ever receive hers. Fortunately, she got her visa approved three months after we left but it didn’t remedy the heartache my family went through when we had to leave her behind.
I only share my story because I can relate to the people who have invested so much to bring their families to the United States, whether for a short visit or a permanent move, yet are unable to see them.
Take, by contrast, the experience of Pakistan, which has been a home to millions of Afghan refugees. While other countries, such as Iran, send Afghan refugees to camps in order to separate them from their country’s politics, Pakistan allows refugees to mix with its populace. The majority of these refugees are ethnic Pashtun, a people who live in southeastern Afghanistan and the northwestern province of Pakistan, and are traditionally pastoral nomads; and they mingle well with the Pashtun population in Pakistan.
This is my point: If Pakistan, a country struggling with its own economic issues and terrorism can be so helpful and lenient towards immigrants, why does the U.S. have to be so harsh?
I understand the stricter policies are an effort to stop human trafficking; President Obama had similar policies back in 2014 when thousands of unaccompanied children were brought into the U.S and burdened the immigration system. President Trump is doing the same, but in a much harsher way.
It’s unclear what this means for countries in Asia, such as my birth country Pakistan. Muslim nations all seem to be viewed by Trump as possible jihadis, when in fact, we face a lot of terrorism of our own. What the U.S. lives with at a distance, Pakistanis experience in their city streets every day. Alienating thousands or millions of Asians, who are truly seeking a better life, does little to increase the safety of Americans and only adds to the growing disconnect between the U.S. and those abroad.
A country once seen as a leader in virtue and human rights appears to be turning cold hearted and forgetting the famous words quoted on its most iconic national monument: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore….”
President Donald Trump was elected, in part, on his promise to ‘get tough’ on immigration. But a word to you, Mr. President: It’s already tough. Extremely.