Over the weekend, President Trump signed a controversial executive order that prohibited individuals from seven Muslim-majority nations to travel to the United States for the next three months. Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, all countries identified by the Obama Administration as “hotbeds for terrorism,” were listed in President Trump’s immigration halt. In some ways, this order mirrors a similar one presented by the Obama administration in 2011. While many praise this order for its heavy emphasis on America’s safety, many others believe the rhetoric and implantation of this order has crossed a line.
Inconsistent Terror Targeting
The logic behind the selection of these seven countries comes from the recommendation of the Obama administration, who flagged each of the seven countries for fostering terrorism.
The breakdown in communication and lack of standardized vetting greatly contributed to the events of September 11th; the foundation for the order’s main justification of the halt is built around these events.Improving those processes and standards is a step in the right direction; however, this order is inconsistent and incomplete. The halt leaves out two major terrorism contributors: Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Saudi Arabia contributed fifteen of the nineteen attackers in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and (according to a 2016 Washington Times article) funded radical Muslim mosques and charities during that time as well. These countries are known for contributing to terrorist organizations but are also significant allies of the United States.
The absence of countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt suggest that the halt has deeper political meaning than the words on the page may suggest. When we read between the lines, we begin to see a clear target placed on the Middle East’s most vulnerable Muslim countries.
This situation and the specific selection of countries shows that American safety is secondary to the administration’s primary objective of halting Muslim refugee intake. The countries selected for the executive order further validate that more political forces are at work in this order, calling into question the administration’s true intent.
Approved Visa Issues
The order also halts all immigrant and nonimmigrant visits to the United States from the selected countries, regardless of previously approved visa or green card statuses. Fox News and many other major news outlets reported that a federal judge granted an emergency stay for the 170 people with valid visas who were denied entry into the country as of Saturday night; however, the stay is not a solution. The fate of these individuals lingers until the stay expires.
Sara Williams of The Telegraph shares a story of an Iraqi and former United States Army interpreter, named Younes. Younes is now separated from his family after having spent two years filing the proper paperwork for his visa. Despite risking his life and the lives of his family to assist in Operation Iraqi Freedom, he will have to wait to find safety. Younes’ brother also assisted the military and now resides with his own family in Seattle. However, despite his valid green card status, Younes cannot reunite with his brother due to the new restrictions imposed by the Trump administration.
Unfortunately, this story is not unique to Younes. Many refugees and former aids in Operation Iraqi Freedom are now stranded in hostile territory after years of trying to gain proper admittance to the nation they risked their lives to support. These brave individuals are now forced to pay for those choices without any opportunity to receive aid from the country they defended.
Many proponents of President Trump’s order cite President Obama’s tighter restrictions on Iraqi refugees in 2011 as a defense. Obama’s administration put these restrictions into place after two Iraqi refugees were arrested and charged with terrorism in Kentucky. While the stream of Iraqi refugees slowed considerably during the Obama administration, no official halt was put into place.
Both the Bush and Obama administrations were committed to the security of those who were in danger; however, the current administration seems uninterested in aiding the helpless. A country founded by immigrants fleeing religious persecution has now turned away those who are attempting to flee a similar persecution. The concept is antithetical to the ideology that has formed our country.
Christian Refugee Prioritization
While we are abandoning the Christian value of charity that has established a strong foundation for our society, we are simultaneously prioritizing the Christian refugees in the countries affected by the halt. President Trump had already expressed a desire to focus on helping Christian refugees to the Christian Broadcasting Network; however, now his intent has been made policy in the real world.
The executive order clearly has a strong bias in favor of Christian refugees over Muslim refugees. The order also has multiple uses of the phrase “honor killings” to reference people who could be detrimental to American security. This is a stereotype that lumps the peaceful Sunni Muslims in with the much smaller and more extreme Shia Muslims, as well as labeling all Muslims as extremists. The obvious favoring of Christian refugees is not in line with traditional American ideology, nor the Christian values America was built upon.
Positive Aspects of the Order
The order lays out a new system to ensure that the vetting process for visa and green card approvals is thorough and complete, stating how September 11 demonstrated a breakdown in both vetting and ability for federal organizations to effectively communicate to stop an attack.
The new standards that President Trump put forward attempt to bridge gaps between agencies and create ease of communication where bureaucracy once stood in their way. The reform between these agencies is a very positive progression in security for our nation. Even after the order expires, increased communications between federal agencies greatly benefit the counter-terrorism effort.
Overall, I do not believe that this executive order will be effective in the long run. The situation paints a horrible picture of the Trump administration and the United States as a whole. President Trump must understand that his actions speak for everyone who proudly calls themselves Americans and his actions must reflect the values that built this country. While President Bush and President Obama may have not reflected all American’s political ideology, they maintained the core of the American values that connect and bind us all. President Trump is not making any attempt to maintain those values, and it is reflecting poorly on every single citizen of our country.
Edited by Cassidy Spradlin & Mallory Golski