If Trump can threaten my rights, he can do the same for any of us

By Reza Aslan, who is the author of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” and the host of CNN’s new original series “Believer With Reza Aslan,” which premieres at 10 p.m. ET March 5.

(CNN) When I was 7, my family fled a violent revolution in Iran that had transformed our country from an oppressive secular dictatorship to an even more oppressive religious one. We arrived in the United States with nothing but a single suitcase each. We had no money, no jobs and no place to live but a cramped, one-room motel we could barely afford.

This was during the Iranian hostage crisis — 444 days in which Americans were held captive in the US Embassy in Tehran. People would routinely shout at us on the street, call us terrorists, tell us to “go back home.”

It didn’t matter that we had no home; we had abandoned everything and everyone we knew for an uncertain life in a foreign land precisely because we were fleeing the same repressive regime that our neighbors were so frightened of. What mattered was that we looked different. We seemed different. And so we became the enemy.

And yet we knew that no matter what happened, we had the law on our side. That was, after all, the entire reason we had come to the United States. While many of our friends and family members in Iran fled to France, Germany and the United Kingdom, we chose America because we knew what America meant. We knew what it stood for. We were certain we could weather any attack on our faith or ethnicity because the US Constitution — which we had heard so much about in Iran — would be our shield against the fears and prejudice of our neighbors.

Today, the man whose job it is to enforce that Constitution is taking yet another step toward abandoning the principles upon which it was written. Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order that will effectively bar citizens of a number of Muslim countries — including Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Syria — from entering the United States. The reported plan would be a first step in Trump’s repeated promise of a ban on all Muslim immigrants.

Trump will argue that he has the law on his side, citing the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212(f), as precedent for his executive action. The act allows the president to deny entry into the United States by any alien deemed detrimental to the interests of the country. It was passed in response to the anti-communist hysteria that gripped the country in the 1950s — an absurd reaction to a nonexistent threat that every schoolchild in America is now taught was irrational, unfounded and in violation of all the norms and values upon which this country was founded. (Sound familiar?)

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