'Sad return to the xenophobia of the past'
We should all be able to agree that, with the exception of our fellow Native American citizens, we are all the descendants of immigrants and refugees. We take pride in being a "sanctuary country," giving hope to those from whom hope has been denied.
Yet our history tells a different story. In 1939, the ocean liner St. Louis, with 900 Jewish refugees from Germany onboard, was denied entry into the United States. Our government rationalized the action by saying that foreign agents might be hidden among the ship's passengers. That episode, along with the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII and an historical suspicion of newly arriving ethnic and religious groups to America, warns us that we must always guard against justifying our petty prejudices. Apologies after the fact are worthless.
I am a human being first, an American second and a Jew third. My grandparents, as well as my wife's parents, came from Russia in the early 20th century to escape vicious anti-Semitism. Given that perspective, we understand the yearning of oppressed people in other lands to live their lives in the United States.
The Muslim refugees from the Middle East and Africa are no different. Having been driven from their homes by terrorists, they want nothing more than to find safe haven in the Land of the Free. Using "national security" as a pretext for barring peaceful Muslim refugees -- who will have already gone through extensive vetting -- from our shores seems to be a sad reversion to the xenophobia of the past. Until the Trump administration adopts a humane policy toward these refugees, one that conforms to the letter of the U.S. Constitution and the generous nature of enlightened Americans, I will be honored to call myself a Muslim.