DURHAM, N.C. (RNS) — Long before President Trump’s travel ban, barring entry to the U.S. from several mostly Muslim countries, and before millions of Syrians and Iraqis fleeing civil war began flooding Europe and trickling into the U.S., there was another wave of Muslim migration to this county.
Almasa Bass was among them.
She and about 130,000 other Bosnian Muslims, known as Bosniaks, settled in the U.S. as a result of the bloody conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Arriving in Washington state as a teenager alongside her parents and her younger sister, Bass started life anew — learning a new language and a new culture and adopting a new national identity.
On World Refugee Day (June 20), established by the United Nations to draw attention to the plights of the world’s 68.5 million displaced people (about 25 million are refugees), Bass is grateful to President Clinton and the U.S. for providing her family refuge and a home.
But she looks around with sadness at the difference 20-plus years have wrought.
“When we came here we felt welcomed. We never felt any vitriol, and to this day I never felt any animosity because of who I am,” said Bass, 41, who now lives in Durham, N.C., with her husband and 8-year-old son.
Trump has slashed the total number of refugees who will be admitted into the U.S., from 110,000 in fiscal 2017 — a bar set by former President Obama — to 45,000 in fiscal 2018, which started in October.
He has pushed for a crackdown on asylum seekers, a reduction in immigrant visas and the construction of a border wall. His “zero-tolerance” policy calls for criminal prosecution of all those caught illegally crossing the border. And in recent weeks he separated parents and children at the border.
It’s part of a larger post-World War II rethinking about refugees and other migrants happening not only in the United States but across Europe, too, said Niklaus Steiner, director of the Center for Global Initiatives at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.