The greatest trick Trump pulled was making people forget the Muslim ban

  • Wilson Dizard
  • 27 Feb 2019

How Trump won his first fake emergency.

Protesters gather outside the Supreme Court while the justices consider the legality of President Donald Trump's latest travel ban on Wednesday. ( Reuters )

In the United States, US President Donald Trump on declared an emergency to pull funds for his border wall with Mexico, but this move wasn’t met with thunderous cheers from anyone but Trump’s most loyal fans and followers. As far as political dexterity goes, Trump could learn a thing or two from Jar Jar, that Star Wars character everybody hated. 

“So the order is signed. And I’ll sign the final papers as soon as I get into the Oval Office. And we will have a national emergency, and then we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there,” Trump declared in the Rose Garden, amid unusually warm February weather in the nation’s capital, referring to the San Francisco-based federal appellate court, just below the Supreme Court, which Trump considers a source of rulings favourable to liberal causes. 

“And we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we’ll get another bad ruling. And then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully, we’ll get a fair shake. And we’ll win in the Supreme Court, just like the ban. They sued us in the Ninth Circuit, and we lost, and then we lost in the appellate division, and then we went to the Supreme Court, and we won,” Trump continued. 

Trump was referring, it seems, to his previous executive order to halt people from coming from six majority Muslim countries: Syria, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Chad, Libya, Venezuela and North Korea. Those countries either have ongoing civil wars and/or are under sanction by the United States, but none of them contains Trump-branded hotels or the president’s extremely wealthy pals, or his son-in-law’s. 

Indeed, what the countries have in common is that they are countries filled with poor Muslims, not rich ones. To make the move pass constitutional muster, but barely, Trump added Venezuela and North Korea to the list, lest it seems he was targeting Muslims specifically. 

That was the first fake “emergency” Trump conjured, and that was now two years ago, based on an interpretation of any Muslim immigration into the United States as being dangerous. 

Trump won that, but only by the vote of a single American Supreme Court Justice. To understand how the United States got to this point with “the Wall,” it’s crucial to remember the first legal barrier he implemented to Muslims entering the United States, the first family separations and the first detentions of children, some still sleepy after long flights, their parents terrified. It happened so suddenly after his election that it seems the chaos and uncertainty in between have rendered it impossible for the American political class to even remember January 2017, a month scientists agree, actually happened. 

Trump’s barrage of absolutely bizarre behaviour has boiled away all context to current events. 

The injustice of the Muslim ban, which keeps millions of families separated for no reason, was first put in place two years ago. Trump ordering the building of a wall to keep drugs and migrants out of the United States will take years more to build and will not stop drugs or undocumented immigration. But the Muslim ban did happen and continues to happen. Sometimes it seems nobody remembers that. 

Just like the wall, a Muslim ban was one of Trump’s first and most profane campaign promises. He never accused Muslims of being drug dealers, either. He just called them all terrorists. 

And while the wall will harm people if it ever gets built, and its introduction into American political life has already made that life worse, the Muslim ban has been hurting people for two years now, turning something about them that they can’t control, their nationality, and deeming them too suspicious to even let into the country. 

The political class rarely mention this ongoing affront to sense and decency. It’s hard to pick instances that highlight this silence and ignorance, but it’s worth noting the none of the since-fired or departed “adults in the room” (e.g. Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis) ever managed to get Trump to reverse the Muslim ban. Maybe they tried; maybe they didn’t. The concerns of Syrian refugees were low on the list of priorities for these 'adults'. 

The bad news is that there’s not much that can be done right now. The executive order stands, the Supreme Court has ruled, and only Trump or the next president has the authority to end it. Calling for the end of the Muslim ban has not dominated that national discussion nearly as much as the Special Counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 

There are many topics that deserve discussion, obviously, but it seems that Trump is happy with the chattering classes forgetting the legal outcome to the Muslim ban challenge. Trump won, and that ban is now indefinite. It doesn’t need a wall to work, only a ticket counter at an airport or a US embassy website. 

Unlike the detention of Central American asylum seekers, it’s a bit harder for Americans to imagine what life might be like as an Iranian who can’t study in the United States but wants to become a doctor and save the lives of Americans. 

Americans can’t understand the pain of a man in war-ravaged Yemen who wants to save the lives of his family members by getting them to the United States, where he has relatives. Living amid the miles-long concrete and steel skeleton of Mayor Moses, thousands of Yemeni immigrants today live, work, study and dream every night in New York City, as have dozens of generations of American immigrants before them.

But for most Americans these people remain abstractions, speaking in languages they can’t read and were never taught in high school. But for these people in those seven countries, the emergency is very real. 

For some Americans, their understanding of the culture and history Somalia is about as sophisticated as their understanding of the culture and history of Tatooine, the fictional, Orientalised desert home planet of Luke Skywalker, the thousand-faced hero of Star Wars. But Trump’s Muslim ban isn’t happening long, long ago in a galaxy far away, it’s happening right here on Earth, today, to people just like you. 

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