In an apartment in Lincoln Square, a baby crib with a stuffed bear awaits the arrival of a 16-month-old girl.
The little girl was expected to arrive in Chicago on Monday with her parents, Syrian refugees who have been vetted by United States security agencies for more than two years. The family is from Aleppo, the pile of rubble shown in the photo here. Who wouldn’t want to get out?
But the crib will remain empty. The family is not coming. President Donald Trump says we don’t want them. In an executive order effective on Friday, he slammed the door shut to all refugees from Syria. The family will remain in a camp in Turkey, the only home the girl has ever known.
On Saturday, so many angry people protested the president’s actions at O’Hare Airport that they tied up traffic, and we were with them in spirit. Every provision of Trump’s executive order flies in the face of America’s best values. We are a nation of refugees, immigrants and the dispossessed. We do not turn our back on desperate people.
Or is the message of the Statue of Liberty just another false news story?
Trump banned Syrian refugees from entering our country indefinitely. How utterly cruel. He suspended entry for 120 days for all refugees. He suspended entry for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries. And he carved out an exception for just one group, Christians, though Muslims have been slaughtered by terrorists in far greater numbers. On Sunday, Trump walked back this executive order slightly, saying it would not apply to people who hold green cards.
Trump and his most dangerous adviser, Steve Bannon, would have you believe that America’s got the president’s back. They say with their usual note of scorn that only the “coastal elites,” living in liberal bubbles like San Francisco and Brooklyn, really object.
But Chicago is no liberal bubble, and the only coast we can claim is on a lake. Chicago is arguably the most American of all American cities, and Trump’s cruelty runs counter to what our city’s history says is right.
Many of us are immigrants and refugees. We are the Vietnamese-Americans of Argyle Street and the Pakistani-Americans of Devon Avenue. We are the Chinese-Americans of Cermak Road and the Palestinian-Americans of suburban Bridgeview. We have fled poverty, war and religious persecution.
Many more of us are only a generation or two removed from our family’s immigrant past. We tell stories, proudly, about how our grandparents or great-grandparents came to Chicago from places like Ireland or Poland or Italy, where people starved, or from Russia, where people starved and lived in fear of pogroms, or from the Deep South, where people were treated as only half human because of the color of their skin.
Trump tells us to beware of refugees, despite a vetting process that already is rigorous. He says we can never be too sure. To his thinking, every husband and wife with a baby is a possible agent of ISIS first and a victim of a cruel world second, if at all.
Chicagoans know how the lie works, even if we forget it once was told on us. We’ve got those family stories, too.
If you were Irish, you were not sober enough. If you were Italian, you were not honest enough. If you were Polish, you were not bright enough. If you were black, you were not anything enough.
President Trump spreads stupid notions. He will never quit. In his book, Mexican illegal immigrants are rapists or murderers, millions of people voted illegally to deny him a popular vote victory, and poor vetting of refugees was to blame for the 9/11 attacks.
No matter that none of the 9/11 terrorists entered the United States as refugees, and not one came from the seven countries whose citizens Trump has banned from entering the United States — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Civil libertarians are suing the Trump administration. It is unconstitutional, they contend, to ban all the people of an entire country from entering the United States, especially with the overlay of a religious test.
But that’s hardly enough. Lawsuits are one thing. Loud voices are another.
Trump, who craves adoration, despises big and peaceful demonstrations of dissent, which is why they should keep on coming. The Women’s March on Washington, so massive and positive, sent a message the president could not ignore. This weekend’s protests at airports sent another message.
Donald Trump has one vision of America. Tens of millions of other Americans have a better vision. They had better speak up.
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