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A former Somali refugee warns: Trump’s travel ban is creating a more perfect division

by Ahmed Ahmed
Friday June 29, 2018

When the Supreme Court decided to uphold President Trump’s travel ban on travelers from five Muslim-majority countries, Trump called the ruling, “a tremendous victory for the American people and our Constitution.”

As a former refugee from Somalia — one of the seven countries included in the ban — I cannot reconcile the American Dream with our current reality. Perhaps this is because I can still remember a time when that dream was all that my family and I had.

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It was 1991 when the Somali civil war enveloped our native city of Mogadishu. My family sharply remembers this period, when streets once filled with hope began to harbor masked men carrying assault weapons, who terrorized citizens in their homes. These men worked to liberate themselves, while enslaving their own people.

“We slept with an unexplainable fear,” my mother recently told me. “All we wanted was to be free.”
After a string of violent robberies, one of which nearly took my father’s life, my mother knew our family — like many others — had to leave Mogadishu.

We followed a beaten path, one trekked by those who sought a second chance at life, to a refugee camp in Kenya. The journey was fraught with danger; any Somalis who were captured faced potential imprisonment, but that did not stop my family.

We were propelled by our fundamental beliefs in liberty, equality, and freedom from tyranny — beliefs that were born in a distant country but were quintessentially American.

Twenty years later, it seems those fundamental ideals are in peril.

Our president has made it clear that he seeks to advance an agenda of disdain and exclusion for Somalis, Muslims and other minority groups.

In a 2016 campaign speech in Minneapolis, Trump darkly forecast his beliefs about the Somali people, claiming that Minnesota had “suffered enough” from accepting Somali immigrants into their state. Trump warned that a Somali immigrant who had recently gone on a stabbing rampage in Minnesota was a sign of a larger problem caused by “faulty refugee vetting.”
At a rally in Mount Pleasant, S.C., in December 2015, he proudly read a statement that his campaign had released that day: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

As a U.S. citizen, I cannot ignore such explicit evidence of discrimination from our president. To believe this policy is independent of his previous words is simply foolish.

From its inception, this travel ban has been riddled with injustice, but it continues to be excused under the guise of “national security.”

We must be honest with ourselves.
Policies like this travel ban don’t protect us; they change us.

We have reached a pivotal moment in our history, when American ideals no longer align with the actions taken by our government.

As a nation, we must measure ourselves against our core founding principles: Are we still the land of the free, for all?

Ahmed Ahmed is a Rhodes Scholar studying at the University of Oxford. He graduated from Cornell University in 2017.

This article first published in Washington Post

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