Trump announces ban on immigrants to USA

Fall of a symbol: A mock-up of the Statue of Liberty overwhelmed by a tsunami. © Getty

Was yesterday the day America died? Founded by immigrants and a beacon of hope and freedom to the rest of the world, the United States is closing its borders and cutting off its aid.

When Americans sing their national anthem, they celebrate: “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. Inscribed on the Statue of Liberty in New York is their message to the rest the world: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

But not any more. Yesterday, Donald Trump announced a 60-day ban on immigrants seeking permanent status in the US, in order to fight the “invisible enemy” – his term for the coronavirus. His opponents call the plan “xenophobic scapegoating” and part of a strategy to blame the virus on other countries.

In times of crisis, the world has always looked to the richest and most powerful nation for leadership and support, from the Marshall Plan to the Ebola epidemic. But this time, the United States has turned inwards. Its leaders are squabbling over how to manage the crisis at home, whilst suspending aid to the World Health Organisation.

Isolationism has been a theme of Trump’s presidency. He pulled the US out of key international talks on the climate crisis and tore up trade agreements. But that was before the world faced the biggest health and economic crisis in a generation.

And China is stepping into the US’s shoes, shipping protective mask and gowns to Europe and the Middle East. Jack Ma, China’s wealthiest man and major philanthropist, has donated virus test kits to every single African country, spreading goodwill and positive headlines across the continent. America is nowhere to be seen.

As if to underline US’s decline, yesterday, another national symbol took a tumble. For the first time in history, the price of oil fell so low that producers couldn’t give it away. It was once so valuable, it was known as black gold – but the coronavirus lockdown has dried up global demand. The US is the world’s biggest producer and economists believe we may never return to pre-coronavirus levels of consumption.

So, the world doesn’t want American oil and the US doesn’t want the world’s poor, nor will it lead the fight against coronavirus. Surely, it’s time we asked the question: is America history?

Decline and fall

Some say, it’s all over for the USA. It was a country forged by immigrants escaping poverty, disease, and war. A nation that the world could look to in times of crisis. Now, we face the biggest global catastrophe in living memory and it is other countries – not the US – that are leading the way. Although it will continue to be a powerful country, it will never inspire us in the same way again.

Others say, don’t write the USA off just yet. It’s still the richest country in the world, with powerful cultural influence. Besides, other countries have also closed their borders and are focusing on protecting their own population – the US is facing the same challenges. Throughout its history, the United States has gone through periods of isolation, looked inwards and then out again. Presidents and their policies have come and gone. Its story is far from over.

You Decide

  1. What is the most powerful country in the world?
  2. Will the United States still be around in a hundred years time?

Activities

  1. Draw a poster to show what the word freedom means to you.
  2. Trump calls the coronavirus the “invisible enemy”. Write a story about invisible aliens arriving on Earth. How do they treat us and how do we treat them?

Some People Say...

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th president of the United States

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The US began as a settler society. So, the overwhelming majority of its population are descended from immigrants. This has had a profound effect on American culture and identity. Although President Trump has not yet signed the order, when he does, it will be the first time in history that all immigration into the country will have been suspended. However, because of the lockdown, there are currently very few people travelling in and out of the US. So, the suspension will be mostly symbolic.
What do we not know?
There are some big assumptions in this debate. First, is it really true that freedom and liberty are core American values? Some will argue that the US was founded on the African slave trade, or that it has the largest prison population in the world. Secondly, what makes a country powerful? It is the size of its army, the quality of its ideas, or the popularity of its films? Finally, can one man – Donald Trump – really change the fate of a country forever?

Word Watch

Statue of Liberty
A joint French-American project, finished in 1886, the statue celebrates the abolition of slavery and international friendship. Its original name was Liberty Enlightening the World.
Xenophobic scapegoating
Xenophobia is the fear of foreigners; scapegoating is the blaming of innocent people. Because the virus is believed to have started in China, Chinese communities all over the world have faced abuse and discrimination.
Marshall Plan
Following World War Two, the United States spent billions of dollars rebuilding war-torn countries in Western Europe.
Ebola epidemic
The US led a massive project in 2014 to fight an Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which killed over 11,000 people.
World Health Organisation
The US is the biggest donor to the international body that coordinates the fight against infectious diseases, including Covid-19.
Isolationism
Throughout American history, some presidents (like George Bush and Barack Obama) have promoted co-operation and intervention in world affairs. In contrast, Trump talks about putting Americans first and not being restricted by international treaties.
Philanthropist
Someone who donates generously to good causes. American philanthropy has been very important in creating a positive image of the US around the world.
Black gold
USA was the first country to industrially mine oil in the 1850s and its rapid growth and rise into a global superpower was based on the world’s growing demand for oil.

Subjects

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