By Emily Jenab, MA
Hundreds of demonstrations and protests have taken place across the country in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order which targeted immigrants in the reevaluation of visa and refugee programs, otherwise known as the “Muslim Ban.” While the intention of the protests was to reflect America’s inclusivity, the tactics and media coverage of the protests revealed exclusionary ideas. The fixation on cases of immigrants with superseding academic credentials and contributions to America has a purpose, perhaps, but as we protest Trump’s baseless policies, it’s worth considering the value of all immigrants rather than only those who are believed to have greater status or worth based on these qualifications.
The model minority typically describes Asian Americans or Asian immigrants, who are highly educated and successful; those who, in essence, embody the American dream. Our cultural climate allows for the simultaneous disrespect and idolization of these minorities. Members of minorities who fit our standards of meritocracy and success are deemed the “good immigrants” while the others are ignored. Just as meritocracy and wealth define opportunity and status, our conception of immigrants, too, is tinted by our fixation on measurable successes. In the new tumult and chaos of our national politics, the model minority has been transposed to other migrants, particularly those who are Muslim or from majority Muslim countries, in order to combat the poisonous view of immigrants that has been presented.
When Trump signed his first “Muslim Ban” he targeted the immigrants (many of them legal and green card holders) of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen. Immediately, I was struck by my personal connection to his illogical order. Had this ban been written 40 years ago, I wouldn’t be alive. My father, an Iranian immigrant, was lucky enough to leave Iran in the midst of war, and eventually earn a B.S., M.S., Ph.D., and, perhaps most importantly, his citizenship. Trump’s executive order was met with consistent protests and thousands of social media posts detailing the brilliant and qualified minds that would now be debarred from our entering country. Over the course of a few days, sources like The New York Times and The Atlantic began covering the Ph.D. students and qualified scientists now unable to return to the U.S. These narratives, and that of my father and my family, serve to undercut the dichotomous images of danger Trump presents; that immigrants are rapists or terrorists, and rarely, “good people.”