When Donald Trump first made the statement about banning Muslims from entering the United States, I did not take it as an abstract concern.
I did not think he didn’t mean it or that he wouldn’t want to pursue it as a policy if he became President.
Instead, I thought about my Muslim parents who brought my brother and me to the United States from Pakistan in December of 2000, when I was eight years old.
I thought about immigrant parents making sacrifices for their children in a new country, faced with all sorts of new challenges.
And I also thought about what we had contributed to this country during our time here.
I thought about my Pakistani relatives who, after September 11, 2001, found it much more difficult to visit us and perhaps now would never be able to.
I thought about the trips we took to our family home in Lahore every few years and whether those trips could make us liabilities or contribute to us being seen as suspicious.
I also went back to my childhood when in the wake of September 11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it became much harder to be Pakistani and Muslim in America.
The more I felt that America was my home, the more reminders there were that my family and I would be perpetually foreign, suspect and untrustworthy.
What does Donald Trump’s rise mean to me as a Pakistani immigrant in the United States?
Donald Trump’s rise did not occur in a vacuum. He did not come up with his own bigoted rhetoric out of nowhere. Rather, he exploited fears and anxieties that already existed — the fears and anxieties of a country recovering from an economic crisis and in an age of international terrorism.
By repeating beliefs about Muslims being untrustworthy or unwilling to follow the laws of the United States, he provided a convenient scapegoat for the problems the country is facing.
His rhetoric has had tangible effects.
According to the New York Times, “Hate crimes against American Muslims have soared to their highest levels…an increase apparently fuelled by terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad and by divisive language on the campaign trail.”
Moreover, “hate crimes against American Muslims were up 78 per cent over the course of 2015.”
This is startling data.
It should be unacceptable that some people in the United States are choosing to scapegoat an entire religious group and enact violence on them.
But given the success of the Trump campaign so far, hate crimes seem to be becoming more and more common.
Donald Trump’s rise has made American Muslims feel less safe, and his rhetoric and policy proposals on other immigration-related issues would affect Pakistani immigrants as well.
In a statement on immigration on his website, Trump laid out his plan to limit the number of immigrants who can come to the United States and to subject potential immigrants to ideology-based tests to ensure that they can assimilate.
Specifically, Trump’s plan includes keeping “immigration levels, measured by population share, within historical norms” and to “select immigrants based on their likelihood of success in US society.”
He has also discussed asking applicants “for their views about honour killings, about respect for women and gays and minorities, attitudes on “radical Islam”, and many other topics as part of the vetting procedure”.
While this seems like an innocuous enough test, Trump is seeking to target Muslim immigrants or immigrants from Muslim-majority countries — one that plausibly includes Pakistan — by including language on asking about honour killings, people’s attitudes on ‘radical Islam,’ and ‘Shariah law.’
A less bigoted, more humanising view on immigration to the United States would take into account that most of the people seeking to immigrate likely do not intend to flout US laws, to enact violence or terrorism, or to spread bigotry.
For example, the Wall Street Journal has reported that, “numerous studies going back more than a century have shown that immigrants — regardless of nationality or legal status — are less likely than the native population to commit violent crimes or to be incarcerated.”
Specifically, a study from the Immigration Policy Center states that “for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants.”
It is ironic that Donald Trump has proposed an ideological test that would ensure that immigrants to the United States would not spread bigotry or hatred, when his own supporters often do not subscribe to the values of diversity and tolerance.
A recent Daily Show clip brought this irony to the forefront when it showed people at a Trump rally being asked questions that would be similar to the questions on the proposed ideology test and providing answers that do not exhibit the standard of tolerance and respect for the US Constitution that Donald Trump would require from immigrants.
I am not just concerned about Trump’s proposed immigration restrictions on Muslims, but also about his immigration policies that would affect other groups as well.
The Pew Research Center has suggested that Trump’s proposed immigration policies “would reduce legal immigration through 2065 by tens of millions”. Pew’s director of Hispanic research put the number of people who would not be able to immigrate to the United States to “at least 30 million.”
I am also concerned about other facets of the Trump campaign.
I am concerned as a student of international law about his foreign policy positions and frankly, his lack of the appropriate temperament for diplomacy and for negotiating peaceful solutions to global problems.
I am concerned that in an era of increasing police violence against African Americans, a presidential candidate who has already shown so muchbigotry will not be able to institute change and prove that Black lives do indeed matter.
Donald Trump’s campaign worries me as a Pakistani Muslim immigrant, but it also worries me as an American.
Ultimately, it is up to Americans like my family and me to make up the difference and prove that we are capable of being better than a man who has displayed so much bigotry and who has alienated so many of us.