Why should Kiwis care about Trump's Muslim and refugee restrictions?
OPINION: Let's be clear: Trump's restrictions on immigration and refugees from the weekend have little to do with National Security and everything to do with divide and conquer politics.
Why have these countries been banned and why not others? Why ban Iranians and not Saudis, where the majority of 9/11 terrorists came from?
It's just like when George W Bush made his case for invading Iraq based on spurious links to 9/11 and even more spurious claims about weapons of mass destruction. There were no Iraqis involved in 9/11 whatsoever.
Trump's range of bans – indefinitely for Syrian refugees – and temporarily on all people from seven Muslim majority countries was not made based on any reason other than dividing and conquering.
It is the same with his permanent cut of their refugee intake from 110,000 last year to just 50,000 this year. Refugees aren't the source of the US's security problems.
In the last few days we've seen a lot of condemnation of Trump, particularly from the left in New Zealand, and growing condemnation of Bill English's ineffectual response, reported in international media as defending Trump's policy as "not racist".
UNITED STATES: Prime Minister of New Zealand says Trump Administration's immigration policy is 'not racist'— The Int'l Spectator (@spectatorindex) January 30, 2017
But that still leaves the question of why New Zealanders should care. It's just seven countries after all. And these restrictions are mostly temporary, so why not wait and see?
First, New Zealanders need to oppose Trump's ban because it erodes the very basis of universal human rights. We've all heard the phrase, "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Socialist." By the end there is no-one remaining: "Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me."
This is the basis of solidarity and the basis of human rights - an injury to one is an injury to all.
I'm sometimes wary when talking about the universality of human rights – there is often such a gap between the 'ought' to of that rhetoric and the 'is' of situations on the ground. People sometimes feel like speaking of universal human rights is too moralistic or abstract.
On top of that, calling one country out inevitably leads to someone demanding you also condemn another country breaching human rights. (Can you imagine the press releases? "We condemn Trump's Muslim Ban but support a united Baluchistan!") But with respect to Trump's ban it is right to feel compelled to insist on the need for universal rights – especially the right to refugee protection.
If human rights aren't available for everyone, regardless of birthplace or race, then they're just not human rights. They become white rights, or American rights, or Christian rights. And that's not the direction I want to see the world or this country go down.
Second, while Trump talks about protecting the US and making America Safe Again, his policy will do the opposite, for the US and for the world. He's doing exactly what Islamic radicals dream of - elevating a security challenge into a world divided into Muslims vs Christians. It is the same 7th-century thinking that drives the jihadists. And when the US and these Islamic terrorists make the world less secure, all of us are less secure.
So that's why we should care, but what should we do, beyond English's overly cautious response?
We need to be smart about how we deal with terrorist threats, not split the world into two. The alternative approach should be what New Zealand follows: instead of statements to ostracise our refugee, immigrant and Muslim communities we should reach out to them and build alliances. We try to do that well here, but we could do it better. Our newest communities have the most to lose if trouble erupts. We need to explicitly stand with them.
On top of that New Zealand needs to prove our mettle, with actions and not words. That means increasing our refugee quota to 1500 immediately, including those already vetted by the UNHCR and United States.
Colleagues at the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network tell of refugee families in Bangkok already in the pipeline to be resettled in the US, having packed up their lives and with nowhere to go now. A petition has already gained over a thousand supporters pressing the government to specifically take some of the refugees lined up for the US.
In the medium term we need to step up where the US has stepped back: we've seen how well Syrian families have resettled in Wellington and Dunedin. Permanently increasing the quota to at least 1500 and focusing on those whose human rights have been rejected by Trump would be the Kiwi way to respond.
English wont even need to raise his voice, we could just increase our quota and let that example be our voice.
Murdoch Stephens leads the Doing Our Bit campaign to double New Zealand's refugee quota and funding.