Vail Daily column: White fright bolsters Muslim ban |

Vail Daily column: White fright bolsters Muslim ban

Jack Van Ens

President Ronald Reagan opened doors to immigrants. Donald Trump slammed them shut by banning U.S. entry to foreign nationals and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

Haven’t Muslim and Christian Syrian refugees suffered enough, without forced peril caused by Trump’s heavy-handed crackdown on non-white immigrants?

Even The Wall Street Journal rejects Trump’s anti-constitutional immigration ban that clearly discriminates against Muslims who aren’t terrorists. President Reagan fought against the 1920s Republican Party’s ban of immigrants and refugees from countries whose residents were considered “inferior.” Then the GOP feared interracial marriage and that working-class Caucasians might lose jobs to “inferior immigrants.”

“When Ronald Reagan spoke on foreign policy,” writes commentator Michael Gerson, “tyrants sat uneasy on their thrones and dissidents and refugees took heart. When Donald Trump speaks on foreign policy, tyrants rest easier and dissidents and refugees lose hope.” Sad!

The Wall Street Journal scorns Trump’s racially motivated ban against immigrants. “… his refugee ban is so blunderbuss and broad,” warns Wall Street Journal’s editors, “and so poorly explained and prepared for, that it has produced confusion and fear at airports, an immediate legal defeat, and political fury at home and abroad. Governing is more complicated than a campaign rally,” (“Trump’s Refugee Bonfire,” Jan. 30, Page A14).

Opening the ‘golden door’

Trump’s ban against Muslim and Christian Syrian immigrants enrages Americans who respect three patriotic principles President Ronald Reagan endorsed for all people. His pro-immigrant stance reveals why Trump’s ban is unbiblical, anti-capitalist and un-American.

Like Moses reciting the Ten Commandments, Ronald Reagan started his 1980 presidential campaign with the Statue of Liberty in the background. He revered Lady Liberty because she opened the “golden door” to immigrants.

Such eloquence is based on repeated biblical declarations. “Sojourner,” “stranger” and “alien” are scriptural synonyms for “immigrant.” “For the Lord your God …is not partial and takes no bribe,” declares scripture. “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner [immigrant], giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner [immigrant] therefore; for you were sojourners [immigrants] in the land of Egypt,” (Deuteronomy 10: 17-19).

The Bible is crammed with similar passages Trump ignores. God rescued Hebrew immigrants from Egypt and transplanted them into the Promised Land.

The pistons in the engine

Trump’s ban also undercuts capitalism. Reagan’s openness to immigrants rose from more than an altruistic impulse. Immigrants’ hustle and work grew a robust economy.

Reagan returned to Lady Liberty six years into his presidency, delivering a heart-pounding Fourth of July speech. To patriots everywhere. President Reagan declared that opening borders to both trade and immigrants revved capitalism’s engines and made America great.

Reagan believed immigrants delivered an economic stimulus, a tonic that invigorated the body politic. Paid low wages, refugees started as grunt laborers. They saved and sacrificed in order for their children to succeed. Unskilled refugees worked at jobs whites wouldn’t touch. Skilled immigrants excelled at jobs that made the Silicon Valley prosper. Such immigrants functioned as pistons in the engine of American business success.

By bolting the door to Muslim and Christian Syrian refugees, Trump revives un-American racial policy against newcomers, reminiscent of the 1920s Republican Party. “America must remain American,” intoned GOP President Calvin Coolidge when he signed the Immigration Act of 1924. It stemmed the immigrant tide into the U.S. from countries that weren’t predominantly Christian, Protestant northern European nations.

The 1920s Republicans feared Slavs from Eastern Europe, Jewish nomads, Roman Catholic Italians and Japanese or Chinese “Orientals.” Such “inferior stock” would taint pure white bloodlines.

‘Hello, Freedom Man’

Many white Americans accepted Darwin’s survival of the fittest doctrine. They believed in a then-pervasive pseudo-science of eugenics aimed at preserving white identity. The best pool of citizens was compared to race horses with the right breeding. White America must ban “socially inadequate” groups, such as Italians or Eastern European Jews.

Reagan rejected Darwinian eugenics that Thomas Jefferson OK’d. Wrote Darwin: “Man scans with scrupulous care the pedigree of his horses, cattle and dogs before he mates them; but when it comes to marriage, he rarely takes such care.”

Stick to purebreds among horses and humans taught Jefferson in a racist creed. “The circumstance of superior beauty is thought worthy of attention in the propagation of our horses, dogs and other domestic animals, why not that of man?” asked TJ.

Reagan rebutted such racist pseudo-science in his 1989 farewell address to the nation. He told a story that moistened his eyes and choked him up. On a North China Sea patrol, an American sailor came upon a “leaky little boat” filled with refugees fleeing to America from Indochina.

“Hello, American sailor,” a refugee shouted from his skiff to the American ship that rescued him. “Hello, freedom man,” the refugee repeated. Reagan said such a reference revealed America’s soul. He was right. Trump’s ban against Christian and Muslim refugees is unbiblical, anti-capitalist and un-American. It’s all wrong.

The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (, which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.