Nearly two weeks ago just across the Potomac, the United States inaugurated its 45th president – Donald J. Trump. It took only seven days for his Administration to put forth and sign an executive order that barred Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocked entry into the U.S. for citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
The consequences were devastating. Countless individuals, including a 5-year old child from Maryland, and a Sudanese mother who had a valid visa coming to visit her son in intensive care in Washington, D.C., were detained or completely turned away at airports. Once word spread of these grave injustices from across the country, communities were outraged — protests across the country, including right here in Dulles International Airport, erupted spontaneously.
Fortunately, on Friday, a U.S. District Court Judge in Seattle put a temporary, nationwide restraining order on the executive order due to its likely unconstitutionality. The administration immediately appealed the ruling and aims to reinstate the “ban” entirely — and I have a problem with that.
Despite its checkered past, the bedrock Virginia ideals of social justice and equality are becoming the consistent pattern in our Commonwealth. 21st Century Virginia values can only make us more prosperous as we become more welcoming to all who seek to make their home here. As a resident of Alexandria, I view the President’s ban to be an affront to these values. It threatens the vibrancy of our diverse communities who bring their families and their talents to this beautiful city to live, work, and create businesses and contribute to our local economy.
We have a critical election next November and the stakes have never been higher. So far, all notable Virginia Democrats have condemned the President’s executive orders. Republicans like fringe gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart, on the other hand, have fully embraced it. And Ed Gillespie’s untimely and tepid response to the crisis likely gave us a glimpse into what Virginia families can expect from his tenure as governor.
Republicans cite the fight against terrorism and national security as the justification for taking such extreme measures. But this is simply divorced from reality.
There exists no magical list of countries or group of people, vulnerable refugees or not, that we can “ban” to keep us perfectly safe from any future attack. Pursuing these reckless and empty gestures will do nothing but embarrass the U.S. on the world stage and alienate many of the very people we rely upon as partners in the fight against terrorism. And to add fuel to the fire, these policies play directly into the hands of ISIL, who argue — like the Trump Administration — that Muslims cannot peacefully coexist in the West.
With our federal government failing, it is incumbent upon all of us to prove that argument false. While other states in the U.S. are given a brief respite before the 2018 midterms, Virginians will be given the first opportunity to show true leadership when we elect our statewide offices. We must choose between continued prosperity and freedom or a future limited by economic inequality and intolerance. We must stand steadfast as allies to those who choose to come to this country, whether just for a visit or to start a new life here.
Monique Alcala, a resident of Alexandria, is a partner with the Truman National Security Project. The views expressed are her own.