Those writing to condemn Donald Trump and his comments about blocking Muslims from entering the United States do so with a degree of self-loathing, as it helps to satisfy the media glutton’s unquenchable thirst for attention. However, as Trump’s comments continue to escalate and as his supporters continue to double down on endorsements, it has become clear that Mr. Trump is simply exposing the unedited version of the credo upon which the GOP is operating. Yes, there are more polished versions of his vitriol, and yes, many members of the Republican Party have condemned Trump’s latest racist diatribe. But make no mistake, while Trump is an outlier in delivery, he is par for the course when it comes to the rest of the GOP candidate field.
In the last few weeks, a number of Republican presidential candidates have offered their policy positions on ISIS, refugees, and the security of the U.S. asylum program, most of which pandered to the rising fear of refugees from Syria catalyzed by the terror attacks in Paris. In a radio interview, Chris Christie objected to the entrance of any Syrian refugees, even orphans under the age of five. The justification he offered is as follows: “The fact is that we need appropriate vetting, and I don’t think orphans under five are being, you know, should be admitted into the United States at this point. But you know, they have no family here. How are we going to care for these folks?”
Jeb Bush, in a seeming attempt at a moderate response, said that refugees that are obviously not terrorists should be allowed in, such as orphans and Christians. He opined, “I mean you can prove you’re a Christian. I think you can prove it, if you can’t prove it, you are on the side of caution.”
Ted Cruz proposed a number of pieces of legislation just this week on the issue. One would allow governors to “opt out” of resettling Syrian refugees in their states. Another would place a nationwide moratorium on the resettlement of “all refugees coming from countries where ISIS or al-Qaeda control a substantial amount of territory.” Finally, Ben Carson chimed in, even before the Paris attacks, that he would oppose a Muslim president, saying, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” He does not believe that Islam is in line with the U.S. Constitution.
Anything less than the total abandonment of Donald Trump on the part of GOP leaders as a candidate for president is an insufficient response. Paul Ryan criticized the proposal, which was inexplicably hailed as a near-heroic move from the newly-minted Speaker of the House. However, he also commented, “I’m going to support whoever the Republican nominee is and I’m going to stand up for what I believe in as I do that.” The Chairman of the GOP, Reince Priebus, also disagreed with Trump’s comments, but made no mention of any interest on the part of the GOP in renouncing their support of his candidacy. Perhaps most astoundingly, fellow candidate Ted Cruz commended Trump for “standing up and focusing America’s attention on the need to secure our borders.” Donald Trump currently holds a double-digit lead over his closest rival, Ted Cruz, among Republicans in Iowa, and his poll numbers have skyrocketed since his comments about barring Muslims from the country.
Many politicians and alleged leaders of this country discuss refugee resettlement in a way that suggests that these human beings, who are fleeing war and attempting to keep their families safe, are a scourge, something to be protected from. They discuss the exclusion of Muslims from American society — a place Islam has called home for more than four hundred years — as though it is a commonplace conversation. Frontrunners for the highest office in the nation, and perhaps the most powerful position in the international community, have compared Syrian refugees to rabid dogs and suggested that the Paris attacks equate to a “clash of civilizations”. And no, Donald Trump made neither of those comments.
Donald Trump just happens to carry the bluntest weapon in the anti-Muslim campaign that is underway in American politics; he is not analogous. The entire tone of the conversation about global terror has shifted. Even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, such frenzy was not witnessed; about the terror attacks that killed thousands of Americans, Republican President George W. Bush quoted the Koran, and said specifically, “These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith…The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.” And now, the double-digit leading Republican presidential candidate has proposed an outright ban on the people of Islam.
The inflammatory language used by many in the Republican party has gone past simple inadequate leadership. It has evolved into straightforward, no holds barred Islamophobia and hate speech. As immigration attorneys, we have devoted our careers to helping all people interested in building their lives in the United States, and we are proud of the religious and ethnic diversity of the many clients who have walked through our doors over the last thirty-five years. This new political culture of demonizing and ostracizing those fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries runs contrary to our beliefs as lawyers, and as advocates for our clients.