Monday, February 13, 2017
To N.J. congressmen: If you're not battling travel ban, you're backing bigotry
Congressmen Chris Smith & Tom MacArthur are on the wrong side of history (and morality) on this bigotry.
By Joshua Henne
posted on NJ.com
History will remember - and harshly judge -- every elected official supporting President Trump's travel ban of seven Muslim nations and refugees around the globe. Simply put, if you're not battling the ban, you're backing bigotry.
Sadly, Congressmen Chris Smith (R-N.J. 4th Dist.) and Tom MacArthur (R-N.J. 3rd Dist.) displayed profiles in cowardice by defending this executive order exploiting immigrants, endangering troops and risking the future of all Americans.
After taking their sweet time contemplating whose side they're on, Smith and MacArthur chose the wrong side of morality and history. Thankfully, federal Judge James Robart halted the ban nationwide after finding "no support" for claims "we have to protect the U.S. from individuals" from Iran, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan and Libya.
However, the checks-and-balances of America's courts stopping our executive branch's unconstitutional, immoral overreach doesn't let Congress off the hook.
"The executive order is a pause as we find a way to secure and protect Americans while acting with compassion for humanitarian refugees," Smith told NJ Advance Media.
Smith's parsing of words is particularly disappointing after the name he's made for himself on humanitarian missions these past 36 years. He's won awards for work in troubled hotspots like Iraq, Darfur and South Sudan. Yet, now he's turned a blind eye towards the plight of refugees and the splitting of families with green cards from the very areas he's garnered global headlines in.
These past few weeks, while tweeting and facebooking about abortion, Smith's pro-life claims ring hollow since he hasn't uttered a peep about the vulnerable lives imperiled by the travel ban:
*The 4-month-old Iranian girl with a heart condition barred from travelling to Oregon for dire scheduled-surgery.
*The 9-year-old in a Somali refugee camp requiring treatment for congenital heart disease.
*The toddler badly-burned at an Iraqi refugee camp set for follow-up surgery in Boston, but whose father can't get back to hold his son.
Turning away immigrants based on faith is decidedly un-American. It undermines our values. Even Dick Cheney said, "This whole notion that somehow we can just say no more Muslims, just ban a whole religion, goes against everything we stand for and believe in."
Some Republicans -- such as U.S. Sens. John McCain, Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham-- spoke out. Closer to home, Pennsylvania Reps. Charlie Dent (R-5th Dist.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-8th Dist.) came out against it. New Jersey's three other Republicans, Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.). Leonard Lance (R-7th Dist.), and Frank LoBiondo (R-2nd Dist.) have also been critical. Even corporations like Coca-Cola, Apple and Amazon piped up.
Last Summer, addressing New Jersey's delegation as the only congressman attending Trump's RNC Cleveland coronation, MacArthur declared, "Everybody for the most part is looking for the same things. People are just trying to better their lives. They're just trying to lift their families up. They're trying to get further than they started."
Apparently, this was hollow lip service. When it came to Trump's travel ban, MacArthur "applauded him for acting," even though the measure smacks the very opposite of that lofty rhetoric.
Farleigh Dickinson's latest poll shows 53 perent of New Jerseyans believing Trump's foreign policy inexperience leaves America more vulnerable to those who wish to do us harm. Our representatives would be wise to listen to their constituents.
Electoral blowback will come for those supporting bigotry. But, you don't have to take my word for it. Here's just two of the hundreds of immediate rejoinders to MacArthur's Facebook post on the ban:
"In the last election I voted for you, but not Trump, because I knew what a Trump Presidency would do to this country, and it's coming true. For you to defend him puts the way of my voting for you in the future in jeopardy. Rethink your decision."
"I thought with some of your other issues you were level-headed and worked across party lines so this statement today was even more disappointing. I as a strong Democrat even voted for you because of it. Today made me question my vote...I'm very sad to see you take a stance like this."
In December, MacArthur heartwarmingly cut red tape so a soldier could formally adopt his gravely ill step-son, making the boy's Christmas wish come true. I only wish MacArthur showed the same compassion for immigrant families split apart and refugee children needing life-saving treatment. If only he'd look out for all military families by opposing measures making soldiers less safe.
Recently, 10 former bipartisan security officials and diplomats said Trump's ban could endanger troops abroad and fuel the Islamic State's recruitment and radicalization. It doesn't just propel propaganda for our enemies abroad, but frays relationships between Muslim communities and local law enforcement here at home.
On Martin Luther King Day, MacArthur tweeted a video-clip about "living with purpose and courage" above a photo of MLK with the quote, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
These were his last tweets for the month - through Trump's inauguration, his slew of controversial actions and the travel ban. The uncourageous silence by MacArthur and Smith have them acting like very small men, indeed.
Those supporting Trump's bigotry will be viewed the same way history casts those who supported Jim Crow or South African apartheid and those against women's suffrage or marriage equality.
Joshua Henne is a Democratic consultant and president of White Horse Strategies and can be found on Twitter at @JoshuaHenne.