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Michael Bradley’s response to the immigration ban matters

Speaking out against oppression and bigotry provides hope.

Soccer: International Friendly Women's Soccer-Japan at USA Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order limiting travel and immigration from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia. The order also limits and reduces the number of refugees admitted into the country, with Syrians outright banned. The impact of the executive order has been devastating to people with ties to these seven countries. Individuals with visas to the United States have seen their visas revoked and are included in the minimum of 90 days travel bar, which means that students, health workers, and even an Oscar nominated director have been banned. The celebrated British runner Mo Farah questioned whether he could return to California where he trains because of his Somali birth. Most of those who had the misfortune of departing before the order was signed and arrived without knowing what happened were detained, with many deported and barred from returning to the US for five years. On Friday and over the weekend, the ban extended to green card holders, people who have been vetted and awarded permanent residency to the United States. That has meant that families have been separated, with traveling spouses and children trapped abroad. The total ban towards green card holders from these countries has been dropped according to the presidential administration, though the policy is still not clear going forward.

Grant Wahl interviewed USMNT captain Michael Bradley after the match against Serbia and asked him what he thought of the new policy. Bradley gave a little bit of a vague answer; however, he later clarified on his Instagram account.

Michael Bradley’s words mean a great deal to me. I am not from Iraq or Iran or Libya or any of the other countries listed. Nor is my family from any of those nations. But, as an American Muslim, these actions terrify me. It terrifies friends I have who don’t know if they will be able to see their family, even if that family is in Europe. It terrifies my fellow students who are in the United States to further their education and are worried that they might not be able to go home. We are terrified that this order will be expanded to other countries, both Muslim and not. We are terrified of this executive order. Of this Muslim Ban. And, yes, Bradley is right when he calls it that. That is exactly what this is. Trump said as much on the campaign trail. Rudy Giuliani said as much on the news this weekend. The legalese itself barely hides its intent with language favoring minority groups in countries that are overwhelmingly Muslim. The targets were not named arbitrarily. They are the weak and the fearful; people fleeing violence and civil war and crushing authoritarian regimes. Yes, there are other Muslim majority countries not being targeted. While these countries, nations with more stable situations and larger economies, have been excluded, that does not mean they will be safe for long.

Muslims make up an estimated 1% of the American population, largely consolidated in urban areas in New York, Texas, California, and Michigan. The past 15 years haven’t exactly been easy for us here in the US. A puny 1% that is so, so vulnerable and yet, constantly and unceremoniously demonized. A study of the New York Times suggests that the newspaper treats cancer more positively than Muslims. I can tell you, it sucks to be called a terrorist. It sucks to be avoided or given weird looks for your complexion. My social media feed is split between soccer, friends and family, and a string of mosque arsons, defaced property, hate crimes, assaults, and murders. When I walk in for Friday prayer, the Mass for Muslims, I am reminded by the police officer on guard at the gate that this is not necessarily safe. That, like the Quebec mosque over the weekend, someone could easily slip in and wreck savage devastation. This is the context of this executive order.

My family and I are very proud Americans. Very proud Muslim Americans. My parents left a well-off life in Pakistan so that my father could have more opportunities as a doctor and so that their children could benefit from a stable environment and good education. My father now splits his time treating veterans at the local VA and poor individuals in the rural midwest. We still have a newspaper clipping covering my mom’s swearing in ceremony in the basement. I am a soccer nerd and a writer and a law student. I aspire to help make this country better. And yet, we are scared that, when we try to return from our trip to Thailand and Pakistan, we may have trouble getting back home. I am a legal student and I know that this is against my rights as a citizen, and yet, I can’t promise my family that we won’t face problems. This executive order is a statement that we are not welcome. That we are not real Americans. And it hurts.

It is statements like Bradley’s, like Alejandro Bedoya’s and Greg Garza’s, it is tweets from Becky Sauerbrunn, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and others that help provide hope. Hope that, yes, I DO belong here. That I have a right to be here, to dream of something better. It is when players like Bradley choose to say something and stand next to the likes of Bill Hamid and Kekutah Manneh that I feel like I belong. When they choose to represent America as a nation that is inclusive and welcoming. A country where a national team player could come from anywhere and be anyone, including me and Iraqis and Iranians and Libyans and Sudanese and Yemenis and Somalis and Syrians. When players make statements like this, it validates all of us who believe that the United States represents hope for a better tomorrow.