Peace, love, protest: reflecting on the immigration ban

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By: Miranda Melone – Senior, American Studies and English

“Build Bridges, Not Walls,” “Love Trumps Hate,” and “All Are Welcome” were just a few examples of the numerous signs that surrounded me as I stood in the middle of downtown Dayton for another immigration ban protest.

The speakers present varied from UD professors and Dayton Public school teachers, to attorneys, former military, and Muslim-Americans, all deeply disturbed by the executive order to block travelers from seven dominantly Islamic countries of Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen for at least 90 days.

The order also blocks new refugees from six of these countries for at least 120 days and bans Syrian refugees until further notice. The atmosphere was electric as we huddled together in the cold and listened to the motivating stories that inspired us even further to band together and keep fighting.

But why should I care? Why is this important? What does this have to do with me? My family will not be affected. If I was currently out of the country for service or research, I could come home with no problem.

Why should I spend my time out in the cold when I could be working on homework or post-grad applications? Because this matters. Human life matters. As a Catholic and lay Marianist, I choose to work to create an inclusive and welcoming society that puts love first and recognizes that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore possess an inherent dignity that cannot be taken away.

I am therefore inclined to protest this ban that puts so many innocent people at risk and preferences one religion over another.

While the order does not state this preference explicitly, it does say that Homeland Security can “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”

In other words, those who are not Muslim will be given preference since the dominant religion in those countries is Islam. This part of the order further divides people and religions while reinforcing the fear and violence that people wrongly associate with Islam itself.

The United States is founded on certain unshakeable principles, and one of them is religious freedom. The president has no right to discriminate or prioritize people based on their religion, and that is exactly what is happening.

The United States was built by immigrants, and they play an integral role in our culture. Diversity defines America. Just take a walk down Brown Street. There is Mexican food, Italian food, Chinese food, Japanese food, and an Irish pub. A Greek gyro place is also currently in the works.

Brown Street is no different than every other street in America. These streets showcase how people from all over the world took a risk and made a new life here. This diversity brings our world closer together. We have the opportunity to learn from these immigrants and listen to their perspectives and stories.

Listening to these perspectives opens our eyes to other cultures and customs and enriches our experience of humanity. We cannot allow entire groups of people to be reduced to one thing, one word: terrorists. We have to listen to all sides of that people’s story. We have to look beyond what the people in power tell us about a nation or a religion. To stick to this one simple narrative is to unfairly dehumanize millions of people.

As a strong “pro-life” advocate, this election was complicated. Early on, Trump was deemed the “pro-life” and Catholic vote. Maybe he does represent “pro-life” values in one specific sense, but that was not enough for my vote.

To me, “pro-life” encompasses so much more than the issue of abortion. It involves health care, the homeless, the disabled, the environment, racism, prejudice against LGBTQ+ individuals, child care, education, maternity leave, rights for women, care for Native Americans, immigrants, and refugees.

All life is sacred and connected, and to ignore this fact could not be further from “pro-life.” We have a responsibility to care for our earth and the people that inhabit it. So many countries depend on us, and we need to consider how our actions affect them. We are all a part of a global community. America first? I think we are better than that.

I will continue to attend the protests to stand in solidarity with those who are hurting. Together we will spread love, hope, truth and peace. In the words of one of my favorite poets, Tyler Knott Gregson, “Should I ignore suffering, and its presence here? I am, when stripped down and reduced to the space beneath my bones, a human, alive and filled with love. Sometimes, as unpopular as it may be, love is worth fighting for; sometimes, love is Loud.”

Photo Courtesy of Mark Willis