How Should We Respond to the Trump Travel Ban? (By Graham Lister - acting BoT chair)
The recent Executive Orders signed by Trump, put in place a 90-day block on entry to the US for citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. It suspends the admittance of all refugees to the US for a period of 120 days, and terminates indefinitely all refugee admissions from Syria. It also caps the total number of refugees entering the US in 2017 to 50,000 – less than half the previous year’s figure of 117,000. Aspects of the ban have been challenged in a US court and Obama and the US Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, (who has since been fired by Trump), have stated that they find the ban discriminatory and counter to the US Constitution. Across the US and the world there have been protests against this action as racially and religiously biased, without any foundation in evidence (of claims that terrorists posing a threat to the US are amongst these migrants). Moreover the ban is counter-productive, since Islamic extremists seek to divide and isolate Muslim from Kāfir, in the hope of recruiting more of the 3.3 million American Muslims to their cause and Trump’s actions will clearly assist this aim.
While a petition to ban Trump from the UK has more than 1.5 million signatures, it is important to recognise that Trump’s perverse views are supported by the majority of the Republican Party and perhaps the American electorate. Protests against this action must therefore also be matched by steps to engage and inform the American electorate, or at least not to conform to a stereotype of anti-American, flag-burning mobs. Some protestors have realized this and have focused on the fact that the bans are “Unamerican”, “Unevidenced”, “Counterproductive” and will harm US interests and popularity (soft power). Protests have largely been calm and dignified and have conveyed a positive message of welcome for migrants to this country.
A programme to empower new migrant women to integrate as representatives of their community in Portsmouth here taught me how sensitive, migrant families are to signals of racism or welcome. For example, they told me that when they saw anti-migrant headlines in the Daily Mail they felt frightened to walk down the street. On the other hand they described the opportunities provided by the programme to improve their English, learn about their rights, health, employment and education opportunities and to take up roles as Community Advisers, as transformational for them and their families. It is time to step up action in this country to address prejudice as it seeps across our borders, unchallenged by our political leaders and to improve opportunities for integration.
From a global health equity perspective the threat posed by Trump’s ban arises from the culture of racist, anti- Muslim bullying and violence it promotes. As already noted depression and suicide, often fueled by prejudice and bullying are major health issues for adolescents and this is also true for young adults up to the age of 30. To this must be added the impact of interpersonal violence. In the UK we saw that anti-migrant sentiment licensed by Brexit discussions resulted in an increase in racist attacks. The consequences of such attacks in a country where gun ownership is uncontrolled is frightening. In the USA about 1/3 of homes contain a gun, more than 33,000 people die each year as a result, more than 13,000 homicides and more than 20,000 suicides and accidents.