Why Trump’s Travel Ban Isn’t Making Us Safer – It’s Just Making Us (More) Racist

Person at airport

Person at airport

When President Trump, in January, signed what was known as a “Muslim Ban” into law via an executive order, there was a massive outcry – and justifiably so.

The executive order (EO):

  • Restricted immigration
  • Banned entry from visa-holders from seven Muslim-majority countries
  • Suspended all refugee resettlement in the US for 120 days
  • Suspended the Syrian refugee program entirely
  • Cut the refugee admittance rate for the US by over 50%
  • Favored Christians over Muslims attempting entry and imposed a religious test

The ban faced challenges in the courts and by activists immediately, and, ultimately, three rulings calling it unconstitutional prompted the Trump administration to pen another, but none of the troubling issues with the ban really shifted.

Those with green cards and visas are now allowed to enter and re-enter, but entry is still restricted for people from six of the seven original countries and the temporary halt on refugee entry still stands, although Syrian refugees are no longer banned indefinitely.

The “travel” ban is still a Muslim ban. And the logic behind it is still flawed.

That’s why multiple states are challenging the ban in court, and it’s why 134 policy experts have denounced it.

In order to really “sell us” on his two attempts to limit refugee admittance into the US and restrict immigration and travel from specific nations, Trump has insisted that these executive orders are about “safety,” pulling on tired myths about terror and the negative impacts of diversity and immigration to justify his actions.

The only problem? Every explanation for the way these policies are worded and enacted falls short.

In fact, each and every one is patently, statistically false.

What’s true about each justification for the ban being issues by those on the right, however, is that they are based in Islamophobia and racism.

It’s true that the president’s job is to keep us safe, and that they need room to make decisions which do so.

But this ban isn’t making us safer, and there’s no moral or national imperative to put it in place.

Instead, it’s fueling hatred toward Muslim people and fostering the problematic notion of who is and isn’t “dangerous” in America.

The Countries Specifically Targeted By These EOs Aren’t Full of ‘Dangerous’ People

If you ask Donald Trump about his ban, he’ll tell you that the bad “dudes” from the six or seven countries selected to be targeted by his executive orders are imminent threats.

He tweeted angrily during court proceedings over the initial order that every single day that courts held up the implementation of the policy, we were allowing criminals to run into the country and wreak havoc.

He was lying.

Seven countries were initially targeted by Trump’s EO: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Now, all but Iraq still are. These nations have two things in common: They are all Muslim-majority countries and none of them are the homes to the terrorists who have claimed American lives since 9/11.

Since 9/11, zero deadly terror attacks have occurred with a perpetrator from these seven nations.

Three, in the sixteen years since, have been committed in total by anyone from these countries – all of which had no fatalities.

No major US terrorist attacks purported to have occurred “in the name of Islam” since 9/11 have originated in these nations. How does targeting them keep us safe?

It doesn’t.

It does, however, allow us to continue to shift blame toward an “other” for the terrorism happening in the US – most of which originates right here, by folks who are from here.

By painting terrorism and crime as being committed disproportionately by “Mexicans” and “illegals” and “immigrants” and “radical Islam,” the President sewed hatred and misinformation throughout his campaign.

His enactment of policies and continued endorsement of these ideas is just more of the dangerous same  – and it’s evident, given the flawed logic behind his choices of nations to “ban,” that Trump is doing nothing more than codifying Islamophobia – and potentially even putting us all at more risk for terror attacks.

Refugees Aren’t Seeking to Relocate to Wreak Havoc  They’re Victims Looking for Safety

However, perhaps even more ridiculous than Trump’s claim that Muslim-majority nations must all foster anti-American sentiment and so-called “radical Islam,” is his supporting idea that refugees are criminals.

Refugees are exactly what they are called: refugees. They’re seeking refuge from hardship, be it political turmoil or identity-based terrorism targeting their families at home.

They’re Syrians seeking to escape war-torn Aleppo. They’re South African lesbians seeking an escape from so-called “corrective rape.” They’re people who have suffered and are seeking a new start or even just basic survival.

Syrian refugees have committed zero acts of terror  in the US. How would banning them from entry into this country – for 120 days or for the next four years – make us safer than we were before?

Yep. You guessed it! It doesn’t. That’s because we know better, and the facts say as much: Refugees aren’t dangerous. Immigrants aren’t dangerous.

Terror isn’t borne out of programs that offer resettlement to the persecuted. Terror isn’t borne of diversity.

Refugees, Immigrants, and Even Travelers Are Facing ‘Vetting’ Processes

When Trump’s first EO was put into place, folks who were arriving the day it was signed or that weekend were being detained and sometimes even deported upon arrival.

These folks, however, weren’t arriving unexpectedly.

Green-card holders, visa-holders, and refugees attempting entry to the US have, in many ways, already been vetted.

Trump’s claim that his EO was being put into place until an “extreme vetting” system could be designed ignored those facts, and in doing so ignored how policy already protects us from any “threats” green-card and visa-holders and refugees may ever pose.

In other words, the idea that we have no vetting system is bullshit. And to put that forward in order to increase a panicked support for a problematic policy persecuting a marginalized community is also bullshit.

It isn’t easy peasy lemon squeezy to qualify as a refugee and then gain entry into the US. 

Refugees undergo a twenty-step vetting process, including multiple background checks and a ton of back-and-forth with US agencies.

Additionally, the implementation of Trump’s initial EO was problematic in that it targeted domestic travelers and green-card and visa-holders.

These folks aren’t supposed to have to prove, on US soil, that they belong here, and legal residents aren’t supposed to be removed from flights to and from US cities just because they’re Muslim.

That is unconstitutional, and it’s not okay. But under his direction, it was occurring in the name of our “safety.”

The Notion of ‘Radical Islam’ as a Massive Threat Misses the Mark

These problems, however, are all just symptoms of the larger problem: Trump’s reliance on the notion of “Radical Islam” and his insistence that Muslims are dangerous is hateful and unjustifiable by fact or moral argument.

Let’s not mince words. Painting the Muslim community, Arabs, and the religion of Islam as inherently dangerous, hateful, or wrong is racist and Islamophobic.

There is no factual basis for these claims, and even recent events fail to prove otherwise. The idea that Islam promotes intolerance and hatred is demonstrably false – and to insist otherwise is to peddle in harmful myths.

Extremism exists in all religions including Christianity, which most politicians have a knack for endorsing lavishly.

Plus, our constitution protects all religions from discrimination, and our interpretation of our founding documents has compelled us, in the last century, to challenge the racism embedded in that same document.

To call this ban constitutional is a laughing farce. To call it patriotic and American, however, is an insult to our values. As feminists, it’s the piece of this puzzle which we must set our sights on dismantling.

We can’t stand, as feminists, for any policies or practices that allow discrimination and hate to be perpetuated. That’s all this ban does.

We must stand as allies to the Muslim community, regardless of who we are or what religion we practice. To do so is the only way to put into practice our work to untangle systems of oppression and dismantle the ideas that oppress all of us.


As feminists, we must stand against the problematic discourses that allow our government to perpetuate racism and Islamophobia. We must resist the misinformation which powerful white men use to pit us against one another. We must fight for each other.

That means we must fight back  against this ban and the other islamophobic policies being put into place by the GOP and the Trump administration.

As a citizen of the United States, however, I also stand opposed to a policy that seeks not to protect us, but instead to allow hate and discrimination to fester.

I’m not safe when my comrades are not safe. I’m not safe when anyone is unsafe.

No ban. No wall. It’s the only way forward if we want to sow peace, equality, and unity.

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Carmen Rios is the Digital Editor at Ms., Managing Editor of Argot Magazin,e and a Contributing Writer at Everyday Feminism. She’s also the co-host of The Bossy Show. Her work has also appeared on Autostraddle, BuzzFeed, MEL, BITCH, and Feministing. She stays very zen in LA traffic. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.