The Supreme Court has upheld what is popularly known as the Muslim ban, President Trump’s order to deny entry to travelers from several Muslim-majority countries. When the ban was first announced last year, I — a Pakistani American woman — worried about so many things: Where was our nation headed, what if other countries were added to the list, and how would life change for my family? Each time, as the American Civil Liberties Union fought the decisions and lower courts agreed, a stream of hope quietly flowed inside me.
Today, as the travel ban becomes the law of the land, that stream has dried up. The foremost question in my mind is how I will explain this to my children. They are first-generation Americans, both born during or very close to President Barack Obama’s presidency. We live in Houston, a metropolitan area celebrated for its diversity. I write about interfaith and intercultural dialogue, as well as immigrant fiction.
But now this ban leaves me at a loss for words.
My 9-year-old daughter was looking over my shoulder when I first read a news article online about the Supreme Court decision. “We’re banned from the U.S.?” was her first, shocked, reaction. I scrambled to explain that things were fine, everything was fine, we were U.S. citizens. But she could probably see the worry in the lines of my face, in the way I snapped my tablet shut and rearranged the papers on my desk.
Here’s the catch: We’re currently in Pakistan on vacation, where my children are spending time with their grandmother and getting reacquainted with their cousins. Learning of such an important legal decision while thousands of miles from home is a scary experience. It’s surreal in some ways but very real in others. A thought keeps nagging at me: What if Pakistan is added to the list while we’re away?
My 12-year-old son has inherited my worrying nature. “What’s to stop them from adding Pakistan to the list?” he demanded. He’s got a tic disorder that displays when he’s stressed, and his head was shaking terribly.
“We’ll still be fine,” I reassured him. “We’re citizens; they can’t stop us from coming back.”
“Are you sure?” he asked, almost crying.
I wasn’t. But these are my children, and I’m supermom. I have to smile and say yes: I’m perfectly positive that Pakistan will not make it onto the list.
The funny thing is that some variation of the Muslim ban — or even the internment…