The president needs a civics lesson

President Trump needs a civics lesson. First I would suggest that he reads the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution. I know this might be hard for a president who doesn’t read, but it’s a short read. Alternately, he could maybe request that Bill O’Reilly read it out loud on his show if this is easier for him.

This is the 1st Amendment (The 1st Article in the Bill of Rights):

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There are a few things in there he might need to learn:

1 – Congress shall make no law

Congress makes laws, not the president. The law of the land is set by the Legislative branch, not the Executive branch. The law of the land is upheld by the Judiciary branch, not the Executive branch.

2 – no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

Trump’s proclaimed ‘priority’ to Christian refugees over Muslim ones is dangerously close to being violation of this.

I can imagine someone saying, “well they are refugees not American citizens”, but what the president is proposing is discriminating AGAINST someone based on their religion. This Implies there must be some kind of religious test to know whether or not your immigrants are your ‘selected’ religion’ or not. This is against the 1st amendment. Discrimination of refugees based on where they are from is also against the law of the land in America set by Congress in 1965 – namely the Hart-Cellar Act which abolished the national-origin quota system set up in 1924. The president either doesn’t know that it is illegal to discriminate based on country of origin for immigration, or he doesn’t care and thinks he is above this law. Let’s hope it is the former.

In the main, Congress doesn’t take kindly to the ill-treatment of any American. The Patriot Act – which was established directly after 9/11 – gave the president more powers than he usually has (I am strongly biased AGAINST the Patriot Act, I think it in itself was unconstitutional) most of which have now expired states the following :

(a) FINDINGS.—Congress makes the following findings:
(1) Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, and Americans
from South Asia play a vital role in our Nation and are entitled
to nothing less than the full rights of every American.
(2) The acts of violence that have been taken against Arab
and Muslim Americans since the September 11, 2001, attacks
against the United States should be and are condemned by
all Americans who value freedom.
(3) The concept of individual responsibility for wrongdoing
is sacrosanct in American society, and applies equally to all
religious, racial, and ethnic groups.
(4) When American citizens commit acts of violence against
those who are, or are perceived to be, of Arab or Muslim
descent, they should be punished to the full extent of the

It almost makes me wish the Patriot Act was back, because it is clear that the president is in violation of it, very minimally because the concept of individual responsibility is sacrosanct in American society. But not to the president, it appears, he is happy to blame whole countries of people, who are fleeing the individuals that are actually responsible for both domestic and international terrorism.

President Trump is not the only president to issue executive orders that are in violation of the law of the land and that over-reach executive power, The Washington Post has an excellent article on this. This, however, is largely besides the point at this juncture because Trump is the president NOW, and he is acting NOW.

While I am apoplectic about my president’s actions, I am proud to be an American. I believe in our system of government and our checks and balances are starting to work – faster than I thought they would:

Friday (Jan 27th 2017), Trump signs an executive order which includes

a 90-day ban on entry to the U.S. for visitors hailing from `countries of particular concern” when it comes to terrorism. The ban would apply to seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq

Saturday (Jan 28th 2017): people with valid visas were detained at the airport

Saturday (Jan 28th 2017) part II: American Civil Liberties Union goes to court on behalf of the detainees and

Federal District Court Judge Ann M. Donnelly issued a stay, blocking President Trump’s discriminatory policy from taking effect and preventing refugees and immigrants from being deported.

This is not over. There are still people stranded outside the US who legally reside in the US because of this unconstitutional move on the President’s part. The Judge’s order only covered the folks currently in transit and as such it’s only a first step. This deplorable action (in my opinion) by our executive branch is continuing to cause damage and likely will cause damage into the future.

As citizen of the US, I have the right to say all of this. I have the right to speak out against this. This fundamental right is ensconced in the US Constitution. I have the right to free speech. I also have the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Americans are using that right. People are protesting (mostly non-violently) – calling their representatives and senators in unprecedented numbers – as they should when they believe the government is doing the wrong thing. It is the 1st amendment of the US Constitution that gives us this right. President Trump would do well to remember this.

These are the things that make America great – our Constitution, Americans standing up to say this is not the America I want. Our country was built on immigration, the president himself has strong ties to immigration – his mother was an immigrant, his wife (and his ex-wife) is an immigrant. Increasing diversity, tolerance and ensuring equal opportunity for all citizens and soon-to-be citizens is what makes America truly great, and that is what I will try my utmost to help maintain.

About Sylvia McLain

Girl, Interrupting aka Dr. Sylvia McLain used to be an academic, but now is trying to figure out what's next. She is also a proto-science writer, armchair philosopher, amateur plumber and wanna-be film-critic. You can follow her on Twitter @DrSylviaMcLain and Instagram @sylviaellenmclain
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1 Response to The president needs a civics lesson

  1. Mark Field says:

    Stanford University has already seen problems, below is an extract from a letter sent by Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne to the Stanford community on Saturday January 28th – this was when news of the ACLU legal challenge was just being reported.

    “We are quite concerned about the experience of one of our students upon returning to the United States from Sudan late Friday. This graduate student, a legal permanent resident of the United States, was detained for several hours at Kennedy International Airport, and handcuffed briefly, upon trying to return from a research trip. While thankfully she was released, we are enormously concerned about the anguish this episode caused our student and her family, and what it may suggest for others in similar situations. An unfortunate consequence of the new policy appears to be that students and scholars from designated countries are, for the moment, effectively detainees in this country.”

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