Last Friday’s decision by President Trump to halt all immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries has been met with fervent opposition by U.S. civil society. Notable were the thousands of people who protested at airports, the hundreds of lawyers volunteering their time to help immigrants being detained, and a 15,000 person march in Washington, DC. As a global organization dedicated to aiding all those disenfranchised by the global War on Drugs and the social harms that stem from it, SSDP strongly condemns the executive order signed by Trump.
In the January issue of the Monthly Mosaic, we talked about the intersections between immigration and the War on Drugs. In addition to noting the huge discrepancies in sentencing when immigrants are charged with drug possession, we discussed how the U.S. has historically been a refuge for disenfranchised populations who come seeking safety from persecution, violence, and oppression. This is especially true for refugees of the global drug war, many of whom are escaping violence for which the U.S. is directly responsible. Take, for example, the disastrous Mérida Initiative, a strategic partnership between the U.S. and Mexico that appropriated $2.5 billion for Mexico to combat narco-violence. This strategy has instead fueled corruption within the Mexican government and has resulted in an average of 11,000 to 18,000 civilian casualties per year. In an effort to escape this violence, many Mexican citizens flee to the U.S. to seek refuge, where they are often discriminated against as “illegal aliens” on top of the regular discrimination experienced by Latinx communities in this country.
Abandoning those suffering from war, poverty, and violence in countries that the U.S. has devastated is not only immoral, but counter-intuitive to our national security goals. In Central Asia and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region, terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and ISIS recruit new fighters by taking advantage of the fear instilled by U.S. military actions. In Latin America, drug cartels grow more powerful by taking advantage of those who are denied refuge into the U.S. or other countries. In the Philippines, an increasingly genocidal approach to drugs has been fueled by anti-Western sentiments. If the Trump administration is serious about combating global security threats to the U.S., it would consider that a ban on refugees only throws gasoline onto an already raging fire and directly contributes to the growing strength of those it has deemed our enemies.
SSDP has chapters in over 20 different countries around the world, including a strong presence in Latin America and a small but growing chapter in Pakistan. Héctor Joel Anaya, a chapter leader of SSDP Mexico, says “the War on Drugs is a clear example of how violence has affected the social fabric and communities of Mexico, Central America, and Latin America, whereby some victims have decided to leave their loved ones and places of origin to take refuge in neighboring countries. The explicit prohibition on the entry of migrants and refugees with due accreditation is an affront to international treaties. And it affects the quality of life of the population already in violation of itself.”
These young people are directly threatened by this ban. Though their countries are not currently on the list, there is nothing stopping this order from being replicated in other regions. President Trump has already made several statements citing drug trafficking as justification for his proposed border wall (something even the DEA says won’t stop trafficking), and this action indicates that his office is willing to discriminate against immigrants and refugees based on national origin. This can have a particularly devastating impact on students seeking to study in the U.S., as well as students already studying in the U.S. who are suddenly finding their legal status in jeopardy. We talk a lot in SSDP about how those with the privilege to live in developed countries can aid those in developing countries with oppressive drug laws. Our ability to offer support to young activists in the MENA region is extremely limited by this ban.
For all of these reasons, SSDP empowers our student members, alumni, and supporters to join the growing opposition to this executive order. There are several ways you can take action starting today:
- Call your congressional representatives and tell them that you oppose Trump’s actions. Let them know that this is not something U.S. citizens will tolerate. Additionally, let them know that you oppose the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Sessions, in addition to being a supporter of the War on Drugs, has indicated in the past that he supports limits on immigration from Muslim-majority countries.
- Many students, including SSDP members at Texas A&M University, Columbia University, and Brown University, are pursuing campaigns to make their campuses sanctuary campuses. Get in touch with your Outreach Coordinator if you would like to organize a similar campaign at your school.
- Check to see if there are any planned actions, demonstrations, or protests happening near you. Even if you can’t attend an action in person, follow the social media pages of organizers to show your support.