Global Policy Studies & International Security Immigration Policy LBJ School Politics and Governance

Sudanese-Americans Struggling for Hope in Trump’s America

Photo: Morguefile

Like many people waking up last Saturday morning, I was shocked by President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration and banning refugees from entering the United States.  As a Sudanese-American Muslim holding dual citizenship, I am anxious and confused as to how this may affect my family and thousands of others.  Like many immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees affected by this ban, uncertainty about our futures and those of our families now keeps us awake at night.

This ban is a continuation of the fear-mongering and protectionist attitude of Donald Trump’s campaign.  In President Trump’s executive order, he references the September 11th terrorist attacks repeatedly as a reason for halting immigration from Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Iraq and Yemen. Preventing immigration from these particular countries illustrates a critical misunderstanding of our nation’s current threats.  In fact, none of these countries were linked to any terrorist attacks during or after the September 11th terrorist attacks.  In this era of “alternative facts”, President Trump defends this ban as making America safer.   I believe that is because this administration fundamentally does not understand who these immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees are, nor does it care how their lives are affected by the ban.

At least for Sudanese-Americans, the last days of the Obama administration were a beacon of hope.  In one of his last executive orders, former President Obama removed some sanctions on foreign investment and trade to Sudan.  For years, these sanctions have prevented my family and thousands of others from sending money back to our relatives in Sudan, to help them afford their basic necessities.  The sanctions ultimately took the greatest toll on the middle and lower classes in Sudan, and the Sudanese economy faltered in part because of them. President Obama’s sudden sanction relief brought new hope for a future in which opportunity and growth could finally return to our struggling country.  Unfortunately, before we could realize the benefits this future might hold, our hopes were dimmed by the ban on Sudanese nationals entering the United States.

I understand the need for protecting our nation from terrorism, and I support effective policies that actually prevent attacks.  The United States needs the partnership of the Muslim World to combat ISIS and other extremist threats across the globe.  Coalitions with the domestic and international Muslim community help the United States fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq, weaken their operations, and make us safer from domestic terrorists.

This executive order is not preventing future attacks.  This order is making the United States less safe.  By scapegoating religious and ethnic groups, and antagonizing our allies, we risk the diplomatic and military alliances that underpin our ISIS strategy and our general strategy within the middle east.  In addition, we are reinforcing the ISIS narrative that the United States is intrinsically Anti-Muslim, which only increases their ability to radicalize and recruit.  The policy is only effective at hurting people who have made, and those who hope to make, the United States their home.  This is un-American.

Despite the threats to our community by this executive order, I am encouraged by the outpouring of support for people affected, and I urge our allies to continue the good fight.  Not just for my people, but for the betterment of America.  This is not just about the American tradition to accept “your tired, weary, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, this is also to understand that the United States is more prosperous, more safe, and more just, when we protect the rights of all people.

Edited by: Alison McGuigan


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