An Iranian-American man was awaiting his brother’s arrival at the Los Angeles International Airport when he received a call notifying him that his brother was about to be deported back to Iran.
“I don’t know what I can do,” said Hossein Khoshbakhty in a video reported by AJ+. “We run away from Iran to this country because they do something like this, but we didn’t know we’re gonna have the same situation here. I’m a U.S. citizen for about 15, 20 years, and my brother didn’t do nothing wrong. I am a contractor, I’m working hard here building houses for the American people, and I’m American, too.”
President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration restricts both immigrants and refugees, including visa holders, from seven Muslim majority countries in the Middle East from entering the U.S. This includes Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia for 90 days and Syria indefinitely from entering the U.S. The order also places a halt on all refugees entering the U.S. for 120 days.
Protests broke out at airports across the nation as Muslim visa holders were being detained simply because of where they’re from and how they worship. This is fundamentally wrong.
Everyone who values religious freedom should speak out and stand with our Muslim neighbors. As a country built on immigration and liberty, our attitudes should focus on letting in as many people as America can sustain to enjoy the freedoms and opportunities this already great country has to offer, rather than focusing on how many people we can keep out.
Many of these immigrants are refugees who are fleeing their countries just to keep their families alive. Imagine what it would be like to risk your life and leave everything — your home, your loved ones, your country — in order to have your basic human rights protected.
The United Nations reports over 65 million refugees are displaced worldwide, with over half of them being children. Only 1 percent of all refugees will find a new home.
“More people are being displaced by war and persecution, and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying, too,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees in a statement from the UN. “At sea, a frightening number of refugees and migrants are dying each year; on land, people fleeing war and are finding their way blocked by closed borders. Closing borders does not solve the problem.”
The Obama administration set a goal of resettling 110,000 refugees into the U.S. in 2017. According to Pew Research Center, the U.S. has already resettled 26,000 — on track to reaching former President Barack Obama’s goal.
With Trump’s executive order, the U.S. will now only accept 50,000 refugees in contrast to the 85,000 America resettled in 2016. Giving priority to refugees with a Christian background — targeting Muslim immigrants.
While it’s impossible for the U.S. to allow entry for every refugee out there, if we have the resources to help more people, let’s help them.
Muslim immigrants and refugees are not terrorists, but are escaping terrorism. More Muslims are killed by Islamic extremists than any other religion. These people are people of faith and family who want a better life for their children — a life of freedom and opportunity. They are not political statements.
“The Lord has instructed us that the stakes of Zion are to be ‘a defense’ and ‘a refuge from the storm,’” said Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy in a general conference talk titled “Refuge from the Storm.” “We have found refuge. Let us come out from our safe places and share with them, from our abundance, hope for a brighter future, faith in God and in our fellowman, and love that sees beyond cultural and ideological differences to the glorious truth that we are all children of our Heavenly Father.”
Our Muslim brothers and sisters are in desperate need of our help. Many of them have lost all hope in life and in a decent future. Don’t allow fear or any executive order to stand in the way of loving and serving, especially to those in a global crisis.
Elder Kearon said this difficult moment for those seeking refuge does not define them, but our response will define us.
Seek ways to help and get involved, even if it’s in small ways. Donate money, hygiene kits, clothes, diapers, anything needed to non-profit organizations helping refugees. Find opportunities to help local refugees learn the language and transition into a new culture and new life. And speak out when injustices are taking place. Fear and silence will solve nothing.
The poem on the Statue of Liberty reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-toss to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
This is what America stands for, and today, probably more than ever before in our lifetime, we cannot allow ourselves to forget that.