Reposted with permission from Waterkeeper Alliance

It has been just a little over a week and the Trump Administration has acted with speed to open the door to fast track Dakota Access Pipeline and welcome the return of Keystone XL, among many other things.  The President’s most damaging action so far is, of course, the Muslim ban – an Executive Order rolled out on Holocaust Remembrance Day.  This seven nation immigration ban is preventing families from seeing one another, threatening lives, derailing careers, alienating allies, creating new enemies, and more.  

The President’s order is likely unconstitutional and wholly un-American.  Our hearts reach out to the families and everyone on this planet who are impacted.  This fearmongering action diminishes America’s stature in the world.  There are massive amounts of damage that will result from this hastily prepared and signed order.  We must be vigilant to guard against the dissolution of our democracy into a banana republic.  

The order even has small residual challenges that don’t first come to mind.  Thinking about this issue over the weekend, it struck me that this order immediately will impact our organization’s work. We have Waterkeepers in Iraq on the Upper Tigris River.  If they are threatened, will they be able to seek safe haven somewhere?  

Our Waterkeeper, their team, and the group’s founder – a Goldman Environmental Prize winner – are creative and intelligent clean water advocates. With this travel ban in place, they may be stripped of their ability to join our annual Waterkeeper Conference – a flagship benefit that Waterkeeper Alliance provides to our more than 300 Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates to gather and share expertise, knowledge, and experiences with one another, so when they return to their communities they can fight even more effectively for clean water.  

Our Iraqi Waterkeepers make our in-person strategic discussions more robust.  They inspire us to work harder in the face of adversity.  They contribute to our melting pot of ideas.  As powerful as electronic and phone communications and online trainings can be in today’s connected society, there remains no substitution for in-person meetings: to educate, to mentor, and to collaborate. At times in the past when they were unable to attend our conference, their absence was notable.  We are not whole if they are not there.

It is possible the Trump Muslim ban changes during or after the next 90 days, but it does not give the kind of certainty a business needs when planning an event, investing in visa applications and travel reservations, and more.  Moreover, we must keep in mind the specter of President Trump expanding the ban to other countries with large Muslim populations – ones where we have even more Waterkeepers, including those who have been physically threatened.  While our hardship about conference attendance is nowhere close to level of suffering faced by someone being blocked from seeing their family, it is daunting to think of how many other companies, schools, organizations and more are facing numerous far-reaching impacts from the President’s order.

President Obama said it well in 2014 when he said:

My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal -– that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.

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