Over the weekend, President Trump issued an Executive Order titled, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” It essentially halted the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program for 120 days, indefinitely banned Syrian refugees from being resettled – including those already in process – and suspended nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries including Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Iraq and Syria.
This decision, which has prompted a flurry of criticism across the U.S. and indeed the world, appeared to be a rushed attempt by the administration to make good on a campaign promise of “extreme vetting.” However, it has instigated chaos as the broadly worded document was difficult for the relevant state agencies and officials to implement effectively. Leaving many stranded or detained at airports, including individuals with proper visas and green cards.
The administration has stood firm on the issue, despite thousands protesting outside airports in Boston, New York and Washington D.C., as well as several judges ordering for stays and 16 different state attorneys general citing the order as “unconstitutional.” Even Pope Francis ridiculed the ban indirectly, stating “the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions.”
President Trump himself has sent several tweets defending the ban to keep out “the bad guys” and refused to acknowledge the order’s anti-Muslim sentiment (even though he said while signing the order that it was meant to root out “radical Islam” and the administration would prioritize Christian refugees). Many are left asking that if this order was indeed meant to “root out terror” within this administration’s understanding of what that means, why not include other countries or territories like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Chechnya or Afghanistan where perpetrators of attacks in the past originated from?
If this is all about “security,” why not ban citizens from Latin American countries heavily involved in the drug trade, or Communism or maybe just Mexicans in general? Didn’t Trump refer to them as security threats on the campaign trail too? Why include specifically Iraq, Syria and Yemen – three countries where the US not only has continued military involvement, but also where no citizen has ever had a successful, fatal terror attack on U.S. soil.
The fact is that the U.S. is bombing their civilians, but refuses to offer them any help. Once they try to flee however, away from the sound of our own Reaper drones buzzing overhead, we categorize them as a threat. If they can’t flee, and they can’t survive on their own beneath our bombs, where else can they turn? Groups like AQAP say, “come to us.”
Politics appears to be playing more into Trump’s Executive Order than any logical security measure (counter-terrorism experts worry alienating Muslims and leaving civilians in these conflict zones with no help will play into ISIS’ rhetoric that the West does not accept Islam). In fact, this newest episode in America’s political drama is reminiscent of other shameful moments in our history.
Al Jazeera in a recent article, pointed out six other times in the nation’s history that individuals were banned due to “security” concerns.
- The Chinese Exclusion Act signed in 1882 by President Chester A. Arthur
- Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in World War II by President Franklin D. Roosevelt
- The Anarchist Exclusion Act signed in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt
- The Internal Security Act of 1950 passed by Congress in 1950 despite being vetoed by President Truman
- Ban on Iranian citizens during the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1970 by President Jimmy Carter
- Ban on HIV positive persons under the US Public Health Service under President Ronald Reagan – that was only lifted in 2009 by President Barack Obama
I’m ashamed today for such a short-sighted, ill-mannered, bigoted policy that fails to encapsulate the nuance of the issues regarding terrorism and conflict, and plays right into the hands of the enemies Trump says he wants to protect us from. These orders and policies affect real people. Real humans with families and dreams too. In fact, they impact some of my closet friends and colleagues.
So I guess the question is, how far are we willing to sacrifice our ideals, beliefs, and morals in the name of safety from an enemy that may-or-may not be imminent? Last I checked, more Americans die from heart disease, cancer and suicide than terror-attacks. Where are the executive orders on those issues? Oh wait, there is repeal-and-replace…
Also check out this informative piece produced by my colleague, Molly Thomas called “Trapped in Iraq” for Context with Lorna Dueck.