Biden’s reversal of some of Trump’s policies hits home for students

Around+7000+protesters+gathered+in+downtown+Minneapolis+in+January+2017+to+denounce+Republican+President+Trump+and+express+solidarity+with+immigrants.++In+his+first+days+in+office%2C+President+Biden+reversed+executive+order+13769%2C+dubbed+the+%22Muslim+Ban%22+by+its+opponents.+

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Around 7000 protesters gathered in downtown Minneapolis in January 2017 to denounce Republican President Trump and express solidarity with immigrants. In his first days in office, President Biden reversed executive order 13769, dubbed the “Muslim Ban” by its opponents.

Tyra Smith, Staff Reporter

Once President Joe Biden became inaugurated on January 20, 2021, he took little time to exercise his new executive authority by reversing many policies enacted by President Trump’s administration. 

Of the 17 executive decisions made on Biden’s first day in office, 6 were directly related to Trump-era immigration policies, including the reversal of controversial Executive Order 13769. The order barred seven predominantly Muslim countries’ citizens from entering the United States during President Trump’s first 90 days in office, sparking tens of thousands of protesters to rally in airports and cities across the country. 

The public quickly criticized the order for being a “Muslim ban.” 

Biden’s presidential campaign has condemned the policy calling it “morally wrong,” in addition to saying that the Trump administration designed it “to target primarily black and brown immigrants.” According to polls conducted by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group and UCLA, the majority of the American public seems to support Biden’s decision as 56% of the national average disagreed with the ban while only 20% agreed in November 2020.

When Trump’s administration first proposed the order on January 27, 2017, however, polls indicated that the majority of American voters initially supported the ban with 48% in favor of “suspending immigration from terror-prone regions, even if it means turning away refugees.”

Research conducted by the Washington Post suggests that this number began declining only days after the order was enacted due to critical news coverage. The Washington Post believes that after viewing protests and media coverage against the ban, individuals that considered their American nationality an important part of their identity were persuaded that the executive order was “un-American,” thus revoking their support.   

“News media plays a huge role in shaping our political beliefs, possibly more now than ever,” world history teacher Zachary Buxman said. “In the past, things like the FCC Fairness Doctrine ensured that both sides of controversial topics were covered, however in the 80s that practice went away. In today’s world it can be hard to discern between ‘News Entertainment’ and actual news, and with the advent of social media, ‘news’ has almost completely changed into helping to support peoples’ already held biases. 

According to the Washington Post, support for the ban began swiftly declining directly after protesters made headlines for chanting “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcomed here.” 

“I would say that this has almost certainly shaped the political landscape in our country by pushing more people to the far ends of the political spectrum and leaving very little room for middle ground. In the case of the Muslim ban, the media told the story of how this ban changed legal immigration and essentially led to the separation of families. The media told personal stories and made Americans relate to the suffering felt by individuals who suffered under the ban. Ultimately this led to the condemnation of the Muslim Ban,” Buxman said. 

Junior Shirine Awad, whose family immigrated from Lebanon, a predominantly Muslim country, shares a similar mentality with the protesters. While Lebanon was not specifically banned in the executive order, Awad feels that legislation such as this denies the American dream to people seeking asylum and unnecessarily targets a religious group.  

“People that live around the world come to America to study and find the freedom that they could not receive in their home country, so the blockage of refugees being able to travel in and out of the US just because the country is a ‘terror-prone region’ is unjustified,” Awad said. 

Data from the Department of Homeland Security indicated that the ban significantly decreased the number of refugees admitted into the United States from the targeted countries, as exemplified by the number of Iraqi refugees: in 2017, 6,886 refugees were admitted in the United States while in 2019, there were only 427 accepted entries. 

“Biden sees that it’s wrong to ban certain countries from entering into and out of the United States and he is completely right,” Awad said. “Everyone should have the right to come to the US, no matter your background, skin color, ethnicity, religion, etc. In my case, I would like for my family in Lebanon to come to visit the US without a ban on them saying they cannot enter. Biden reversing the Muslim Ban is one of the best things he could have done for refugees who want to seek a life outside their home country.” 

In addition to reversing the ban, Biden has also halted the construction of the border wall near Mexico, he plans to reverse action that excludes illegal immigrants from the 2020 census, and he also plans on preserving the DACA organization which shields undocumented child immigrants from being deported. Biden’s administration also intends on proposing new legislation that will provide naturalization for the current 11 million undocumented immigrants living in America. 

Senior Maria Castillo Vega supports the direction in which the Biden administration is taking America’s immigration policies.  

“Ever since Trump came into office, he didn’t completely cancel DACA, but he stopped it, which prevented a lot of young immigrants from getting those privileges like driving, holding a job legally, and stuff like that. For sure that’s going to improve America in general,” Castillo Vega said. “Not having those things is very tormenting mentally, and I do not know how to explain it, but it feels like you are not human to me without those simple privileges. It is really dehumanizing, to the point where you yourself do not feel like you are a human, so providing immigrants in general with just those simple privileges is leading America’s immigration policies in the right direction.”  

Despite the ban’s reversal, Islamophobia is still a recurring issue in America. Opinion polls report that since the September 11 terrorist attack in 2001, disfavorable attitudes towards Muslims and Islam are a common mentality, especially amongst conservatives and Republicans.

Buxman explains how he thinks the terrorist attack has significantly contributed to Islamophobia in America. 

“There are many factors that have led to the continued Islamophobia in the US, but the most damaging had to be the 9/11 attacks and the resulting “War on Terror.” 9/11 changed the way many things in this country operate, and a generation of soldiers went off to the Middle East to wage the ‘War on Terror’. Much of the uneducated public equated terrorism with the entire region and eventually an entire religion,” Buxman said. “When conflicts in that region arise now, for many it is just a reminder of their feelings from 9/11 and the years that follow.”  

Castillo Vega also holds the terrorist attack responsible.

“It’s like when you see something terrible happen and you don’t really know who to blame it on so you just blame it on the first thing you see. I guess that’s how people felt after 9/11 and that just stuck with how they felt towards the community,” Castillo Vega said. 

Another factor that both Buxman and Awad believe contributes to Islamophobia is simply misinformation.

“Many Americans do not understand Islam and because they view it as different, they view it as something to fear,” Buxman said. “Studies show that people that hold Islamophobic views are less likely to actually know a Muslim, and that when politicians use less divisive language towards minorities in general Islamophobia goes down.” 

Awad specifically holds media platforms accountable for the spread of misinformation. 

“Most common Americans find Muslims a threat because of what they see on social media or the news, but in real life, Muslims are very kind. The meaning of Islam means peace, and if you do not want peace then you are not practicing Muslim beliefs,” Awad said.  

According to a Pew Research Center survey, Americans feel less favorably to Muslims than any other religious group. It was also reported that 60% of Muslim Americans have experienced religious discrimination despite 80% of Muslim Americans feeling a ‘strong American identity.’ 

This is in addition to the FBI’s 2018 statistics which reported that 15% of religious-based crimes were committed against Muslim Americans despite the community composing only 1% of the population.

Awad shared her own personal encounters with discrimination, one of which happened in class last school year. 

“Growing up from an Arab and Muslim background, there is always discrimination just on the fact that you are different from everyone else. I had an incident last year during my sophomore year of high school and I was being called out about my beliefs and them saying how my beliefs were wrong and disgusting,” Awad said. “I tried to defend myself but I was too weak and began to cry in front of my whole class. I was not sad, I was just disappointed that people can just nitpick what they hear on the Internet and make it seem like it is true when it is not. I try my best to stay positive even though it can be really hard sometimes.”

Though a prominent issue to tackle, Biden’s administration remains committed to fighting Islamophobia in America. As stated within America’s constitutional Bill of Rights, every United States resident is guaranteed the freedom to practice any religion without penalty, if they choose to practice any religion at all. 

“The idea of religious freedom in America is as old as America itself,”  Buxman said. “Rhode Island was founded on the idea of religious freedom, Thomas Jefferson wrote it into Virginia law, and it is listed into the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Religious freedom is a core value to the United States because it ensures that we as citizens do not have to compromise our personal values in order to be obedient to the state. It allows us to achieve a full life, full of liberty, in the pursuit of happiness, and there can be nothing more American than that.”