When President Trump, on January 27, announced a ban on all immigrants from entering the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries, the move seemed to have been met with significant resistance as protesters marched across cities and outside international airports demanding a withdrawal of the executive order.
A respite, even if only for the time being, came in the form of a judgement by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which temporarily enforced a restraining order on the ban until the case is taken up by a bench of Supreme Court Justices who will presumably question its constitutional credulity.
The order, fascinatingly enough, has not been met with the sort of overwhelming rejection that many of us inferred from the immediate aftermath of its announcement.
In fact, a recent Gallup poll shows that roughly 43% of the country approves of at least a temporary ban on those coming in from these conflicted nations.
This doesn’t come as a surprise, as Trump’s hard stance on immigration is one of the key reasons that populists supported the Trump campaign and endorsed his candidature. The move may have been stopped in its tracks by judicial bulwarks, but Trump has done an major job, even if more in conception than in execution, of reassuring his supporters that he means business.
The reactions to this by other national governments, particularly the US’s allies on either side of the Atlantic, has been variegated.
While John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons in the UK, quashed all pretences of a Speaker’s neutrality and declared that he would block an invitation to Trump to address both Houses in Westminster Hall. Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, displayed an admirable sense of diplomacy, on a state visit to Washington, when he said that it wasn’t his job to lecture the United States on how to govern, in response to a question on the travel ban.
Cordiality is sometimes an elusive practice among adversaries, especially among those of adversarial political beliefs, and the lack of it tends to debilitate any hopes of a middle ground towards progress.
The government in Ottawa, with a gigantic majority of liberal parliamentarians since 2015, couldn’t be more different than the current administration in Washington, with a Republican majority in both Houses.
On contentious issues such as immigration, however, the opinion of the Canadian citizenry seems to be inching closer towards the divisive numbers that we see already in the states.
About 38% percent of Canadians say they’re allowing too many immigrants into Canada while an astounding 67% agree that immigrants should be screened for anti-Canadian values.
The fear that the immigrant population will have trouble integrating into local culture is veritable. Several European countries that opened their borders up to refugees, especially Sweden, now struggle in the face of a lack of coalescence.
Canada’s official stance remains steadfast. Trudeau even admitted that Canada would welcome refugees rejected by the US. While the number of refugees that Canada has taken in is modest in comparison to countries like Germany, it still reflects a resounding opposition to the policy of its neighbour.
How these two contrarian dispositions on one of the most controversial issues of our time will manifest over the next couple of years will not only decide how the region looks at immigration and refugees but also, how the rest of the world will too. The test is underway.