America first, but are Americans first?

Written by Julian Zuzarte

President Trump’s policies need to be more inclusive

In order to justify his executive order to temporarily ban immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, President Donald Trump said that it is time to put “America first.” This statement was puzzling to me because although it appears that our country’s new administration is keen to prioritize national security, it is not as vigilant in prioritizing America in several other critical areas.

Both my mother, a special education teacher, and father, a doctor, immigrated to the United States in pursuit of better opportunities than those that were available in Pakistan. I am eternally grateful for the sacrifices they made that have in turn awarded my family a privileged life in America. It is from this perspective that I fear for those in countries not so different from Pakistan whose citizens simply want to give their own families the chance for a better life such as the one I enjoy today.

A specific population left outside of America’s doors due to the travel ban is that of doctors, according to The New York Times. 15,000 doctors from all different parts of the United States originate from one of the seven countries on President Trump’s list. These doctors, for the time being, cannot return to their home country to renew their visa or simply visit family, because they fear they will be unable to return to the country that once welcomed them. And welcome them we should, considering the doctor shortage that the U.S. currently faces, one that could reach up to 94,000 by 2025. Why then, do we risk American lives by unnecessarily marginalizing and excluding the highly-skilled, highly-trained doctors that we depend on? This does not put America or Americans first.

My father, a Pakistani immigrant psychiatrist, came from another Muslim-majority country. Yes, this ban is (for the meanwhile) temporary, and yes it does not list Pakistan, but just as my father entered the United States a couple decades ago to serve his new country through his skill and passion for medicine, today’s psychiatrists, general surgeons, pediatricians, and even oncologists are being denied entry to the United States simply because of their nation of origin. While I enjoy my privilege of being born in America, today’s Syrian, Iranian, and Yemeni doctors’ families are being denied pursuit of the American dream in the so-called land of opportunity. If another immigrant, perhaps even refugee doctor has the capability of treating thousands of patients as my father has, how does it make America great to keep them out?

The next area should strike at the hearts of any patriot that touts the United States as the Cold War-era champion of liberal democracy, since the U.S. is no longer a “full democracy” according to the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) which studies about 170 countries a year based on their democratic values. It should be noted that the EIU specified that President Trump has benefitted more from the U.S.’s relegation to “flawed democracy” more than he has caused it. Nevertheless, his “America First” inaugural message, one would think, would take aim at regaining the country’s full democracy rating rather than further push it to the lower side of the spectrum.

Yet President Trump’s first month in office has already been highlighted by a self-declared “running war with the media” and an effort to undermine the authority of the judiciary. These rights and the very structure of our democracy through checks-and-balances is under threat due to the new administration. America cannot be first unless our democracy is strengthened, not weakened through authoritarian-type practices.

I love my country and my family loves our country. This is precisely why it is important to recognize when my country has room to improve. President Trump, despite his baseless political rhetoric, does not yet have the solutions.

When we ask ourselves what we can do for our country, are we also asking ourselves if we are letting others do good for our country as well? The United States’ reputation of being “the land of the free” is exactly why generation after generation of immigrants come to this country. Imposing exclusionary measures against marginalized populations that want to live free from violence and work to better the United States and world does not serve America’s best interest, and it does not put America first.

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Julian Zuzarte

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