The changing times in the Land of Immigrants
By Prof. Al Mariam
February 7, 2017
Author’s note: I have written this commentary to better reach a broader audience concerning issues involving President Trump’s January 27, 2017 Executive Order “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” (“Immigration”). I have been asked by many concerned students, individuals in the community, organizations and media, particularly in immigrant communities, to comment on the range of potential legal and social implications of the order.
I have given an extended interview on Hiber Radio (for broadcast this week) on the order and expect to give more in the coming weeks as there is substantial public interest in the outcome of the court proceedings involving the order.
There is undoubtedly grave concern among many Americans and immigrants that Trump’s Executive Order is so unprecedented and anomalous that it poses an extreme existential threat to life, liberty and livelihood.
I am especially concerned that much of the anxiety, dread and prevailing sense of helplessness and powerlessness among many stems from lack of basic knowledge about American history and constitutional process. Indeed, much of the anxiety and panic is caused by overblown rumors, gossip, hearsay and fabricated tales of bad things things that have supposedly happened to people.
The fact of the matter is that what Trump has done in the name of “protecting the nation from foreign terrorists” is nothing new in American history or politics. It is only the latest chapter in a long train of attempts and efforts to keep out “undesirable aliens” dating back to colonial times three centuries ago.
The saying that history repeats itself rings true for American history just as well.
I hope to achieve three things in this commentary: 1) allays fears in immigrant communities of imminent collapse of the constitutional and legal process by presidential executive fiat resulting in mass arrests, internment, detentions and deportations; 2) assure immigrant communities that despite all its flaws and imperfections America is still a government of laws and not of one man, and the rule of law and the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution remains intact, and 3) provide basic civic education and encourage my readership who have followed my uninterrupted weekly commentaries for the past 11 years to develop “civic literacy” in U.S. history, Constitution and institutions.
Is a hard rain gonna fall under Trump?
Bob Dylan, the 2016 Nobel Laureate for literature and iconic American songwriter, singer and writer, lyrically warned a previous generation in 1962, “A Hard Rain is A-Gonna Fall”:
… I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
Today, many Americans and immigrants feel a hard rain is gonna fall under a Trump Administration.
Those Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton (65,844,954 (48.2%) compared to the 62,979,879 (46.1% for Trump) feel they will be crawling crooked highways and walking through sad forests for four years just to land on the shores of dead oceans. The New York Times declared Trump presented a “threat to the Constitution”.
The concerns about President Donald Trump are very real but over-exaggerated. I believe fear grows where ignorance flows.
I believe many Americans and immigrants are afraid and anxiety-ridden about Trump’s executive order because they believe what Trump is doing today is something new, unheard-of, unparalleled and unprecedented in American history, and that he is invincible and above the law. They fear Trump can change the destiny of the country. They fear Trump has the power of life and death over them. They fear Trump can order them into mass internment and detention by the stroke of the pen.
Such exaggerated fears are rooted in a basic lack of understanding of how American institutions function. Even the President of the United States is subservient to the Constitution of the United States. No man is above the law in America. Certainly, America is not a tin-pot dictatorship even though the Philadelphia Inquirer in its editorial declared: “From spreading bald lies to suppressing basic facts and information, the early days of the Trump administration are suggestive of a tin-pot dictatorship.” In distinguishing between an empire and a republic, one of the leading Founding Fathers and second President of the United States, James Adams explained the American “Republic to be a government of laws, and not of men.” That remains true for President Trump, the forty-fifth President of the United States.
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