By Laura Li
As an Asian American woman, May holds particular significance as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a time when we reflect and celebrate our diverse histories, what we have overcome and what we as a community will continue to fight for and resist. On May 8th I went down to Richmond, VA, with other Asian Americans to rally against the Muslim Ban, a hateful policy that tears families apart and codifies discriminatory profiling.
On January 27th and again on March 6th, the Trump Administration issued executive orders that barred travel from six Muslim-majority nations and suspended the refugee program for 120 days. After federal judges in Hawai’i and Maryland blocked the implementation of significant parts of the executive order, the federal government appealed. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was scheduled to hear oral arguments that day by Jeffrey Wall, acting Solicitor General, and Omar Jadwat, a lawyer with the ACLU representing people and groups challenging the order.
The #NoMuslimBanEver Rally, organized by Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC and partner organizations, marked the beginning of the #NoMuslimBanEver National Week of Resistance. People held signs proclaiming #NoBanNoWall and “Love Thy Neighbor” and online the hashtag #NoMuslimBanEver was ubiquitous as people tweeted their support.
Asian Americans too have long histories of criminalization, incarceration and detention. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Japanese American mass incarceration; we are intimately familiar with racial profiling as a means to criminalize our communities. Many of our families are also refugees. Since 1975, 1.2 million Southeast Asian refugees resettled in the U.S after fleeing war, but more than 13,000 Cambodian, Vietnamese and Laotian Americans have been served deportation orders. Southeast Asian Americans are five times more likely to be deported for criminal convictions, but many refugees facing deportation have been convicted of nonviolent crimes.
Though these issues are systemic in our communities, they are invisibilized due to the prevalence of the Model Minority Myth. Internalizing stereotypes about ourselves, we stay silent when we need to speak up. As Asian Americans we occupy a racial middle in America’s racial hierarchy. However, to quote Mari Matsuda, “the middle can dismantle white supremacy if it refuses to be the middle, if it refuses to abandon communities of black and brown people, choosing instead to forge alliances with them.”
We must wake up and realize that this ban does not just affect the six countries named in Muslim Ban 2.0, nor people who are Muslim — it has serious consequences for us all. Its basic premise assumes that being of a certain faith or from a certain country determines your level of threat and loyalty to the U.S. As Asian Americans, we cannot continue to stand idly by as the U.S. continues to turn away refugees and people because of hate and fear-mongering. Our very survival depended on people who recognized that our struggles were linked and advocated for us all.
As we marched around the courthouse, we were told our chants of “No Ban, No Wall, Our Cities Will Stand Tall” could be heard inside during the oral arguments. This message rang true on Thursday May 25th when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit refused to lift the nationwide injunction on the Muslim and refugee ban and concluded in its ruling that the revised order, “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.” The Ninth Circuit has yet to decide what will happen in the Hawai’i case, but I hope my fellow Asian Americans will be there to speak up when it does.
Originally posted on Medium on May 30, 2017