Immigration is a topic often discussed in my household. Specifically, in 2017, Trump’s Muslim Ban was a hot topic of conversation at our dinner table. As a freshman in high school I didn’t understand the gravity of this domestic policy decision. The Muslim Ban is very different from previous immigration laws in history. First of all, the Muslim Ban targets a large group of people simply based on their religion. The ban is also meant to keep Muslims out not because they will steal jobs or undermine white superiority, but because all Muslims are deemed so-called terrorists and criminals. This generalization is a very dangerous one to make especially coming from our nation’s President. My grandparents, who are immigrants themselves, have a very different story; one that is more of a successful experience for specific reasons.
One of my grandfathers, Baran Tuncer (who I call Dede), grew up in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country. He had the opportunity to accept a scholarship to study at Kansas University where he met my grandmother.
My other grandfather, Rogerio Pinto (who I call Vovô), grew up in Brazil and moved to North Carolina to pursue his Masters in Public Administration at UNC Chapel Hill. There he lived with the Tison family as an exchange student.
Unlike many immigrants seeking asylum, both my grandparents came to the United States for a good education and job prospects. This sets them apart from the majority of immigrants who come simply for a better life. My grandparents were lucky enough to have learned English in their home country schools and perfected it in college. They also lived in the US as students which taught them the customs and traditions of life in America. Therefore, my grandparents never felt much persecution or discrimination because they felt like they belonged. However, this story is very different for other immigrants.
Surprisingly, Turkey is a 95% Muslim country but it was not put on the travel ban with other Muslim countries. Unlike other Muslim countries, Turkey is an ally, a part of NATO, and has a secular government. I asked my grandfather to describe his experiences as a Turkish, Muslim man in America and he explained that he hasn’t had many issues living here. In airports he wasn’t stopped because Turkey wasn’t on the travel ban list even though the country is predominantly Muslim.
Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban was directed against refugees and foreigners from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The Ban reflects prejudices entrenched in our country. The association of Muslims and terrorism that began after the 9/11 attacks still lingers to this day. Americans fear Muslim values that clash with American values of democracy and Christianity. All these factors lead to Americans making a generalization that all Muslims are bad and this attitude has directly affected policy. Through the Muslim Ban, Trump is fulfilling the promise he made to Americans during his campaign: to Make America Great Again. To many Americans, this means making America white and Christian, a category that Muslims don’t fit into.
My grandparents are in some ways examples of immigrants who have discovered the American Dream. However, they took the path of education and assimilation into American society to reach their goal. Many immigrants aren’t as lucky to have a college education or speak English without a heavy accent.
Gerardo Martí says
Very interesting, and great family pictures. I was especially interested in your grandfather’s story as a Turkish, Muslim immigrant.