AAAS Statement Regarding Executive Order

Department: Asian American Studies

Post Date: February 6, 2017

News Details

What follows is a message from the AAAS Board regarding the recent issuance of President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration. This message is in response to what is most certainly an urgent situation; the Board releases this statement to clearly establish its position as the elected representatives of the Association for Asian American Studies.

February 4, 2017
Message from the Board of Directors of the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) regarding President Trump’s Recent Executive Order on Immigration
The officers, Board, and staff of the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) condemn Executive Order titled, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” which was issued on January 27, 2017. This order, which bans nationals of seven countries from entering the United States, extends to those already approved for travel and dual citizens. The order, notwithstanding declarations otherwise, is guided by, and more importantly furthers, an overt anti-refugee, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant agenda. Such an agenda is bigoted in scope, Islamophobic in nature, and – as Asian American history has repeatedly shown – represents a “dark moment” for the nation.
There is a troubling and unavoidable sense that we, as a nation, “have been here before.” It was through another presidential directive – Executive Order 9066 – that more than 120,000 individuals of Japanese descent were involuntarily relocated and forcibly incarcerated during World War II. This order – driven by false claims involving national security and defense – was issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt seventy-five years ago, on February 19, 1942. Forty-six years later, in 1988, President Ronald Reagan issued an apology acknowledging the wrongfulness of this act. Reagan was certainly not alone in this acknowledgement of unjustified governmental transgression, as evidenced by the same-year passage of the Civil Liberties Act.
Yet another president, Bill Clinton, would award Fred Korematsu (a Japanese American citizen who fought incarceration on Constitutional grounds) the highest civilian honor – the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- ten years later, in 1998. Korematsu was intimately aware of the ongoing legacies of racialized incarceration: he, along with other Japanese Americans like George Takei, stood up for Muslim Americans, South Asian Americans, and Arab Americans in a post-9/11, “War on Terror” imaginary.
Such stands against xenophobia are sadly necessary now. We are alarmed that this presidential administration is embracing exclusion to the United States based on national-origin, echoing historic policies like the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Targeting a group for special treatment based on national-origin is at odds with our constitutional values. We therefore commend the actions of Seattle federal judge James L. Robart, who put a nationwide block on President Trump’s discriminatory order on February 3, 2017.
As an association dedicated to “advocating and representing the interests and welfare of Asian American Studies and Asian Americans,” as an organization committed to promoting “professional dignity in the field…so as to have a positive influence upon American public opinion, society, and government in all areas where Asian Americans are affected,” and as an assemblage of practitioners invested in “the history of Asian Americans and the contemporary issues and problems they face in the United States,” it is very much the AAAS’s interest to tirelessly advocate and support the civil rights and human rights of U.S. citizens, immigrants, and refugees. We understand quite intimately and urgently the potential implications of this order, which threatens to repeat what has time and again been declared one of the “darkest moments” in U.S. history.
As the costs and effects of this executive order become more evident, and as various legal challenges continue to mount, the AAAS promises to remain stalwart in its commitment to the profession and its members. As important is the association’s unwavering support of immigrant and refugee communities along with unswerving solidarity with other scholarly societies and international organizations committed to the protection of human dignity, the maintenance of civil rights, and the preservation of human rights.
As a Board, we welcome the expertise of our members and community. We also understand that such exclusionary actions will have dramatic impacts on our members who work and live outside the United States. We are looking into alternative accommodations and will extend our conference registration deadline for those impacted. We encourage you to email the Board with questions, suggestions, and strategies as we continue to face such difficult political challenges.