Trump’s travel bans are flawed: a personal perspective

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Trump’s travel bans are flawed: a personal perspective

Photo credit: Olivia Weinberg

Photo credit: Olivia Weinberg

Photo credit: Olivia Weinberg

By Roya Wolfe, Editor-in-Chief

I am the daughter of an Iranian immigrant. My family came from Iran to America knowing that this country was a country that would accept them, that immigrants were woven into the fabric of the United States.

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was inaugurated into office as President. As a liberal Iranian-American coming from a Muslim background, I was definitely worried. According to donaldjtrump.com, on December 7, 2015, then-candidate Trump called “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” This was frightening for my family and me. Even so, I truly did want to give him a chance. Maybe he wouldn’t follow through with the ban, maybe it was just something he said. Unfortunately, it was not. Following his inauguration, he quickly signed an Executive Order to ban travelers from seven Muslim majority countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. There were strong challenges in Federal lawsuits by such groups as the ACLU and Washington State. In response to such litigation, the Trump administration decided to start over and revise the Executive Order. Although, in my opinion it retains the core problem, which is in essence, that it is a Muslim ban.

On March 6, 2017, Trump issued his second Executive Order to ban travel, labeled by many as “Muslim Ban 2.0.” According to USA Today, this new ban will take effect 10 days after ordered, on March 16, rather than immediately like the first. Although revised, this version continues to discriminate against Muslims. It bans visas, including for refugees, from six majority Muslim countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) for a period of 90 days. Iraq, on the original ban list, was removed because of backlash about interpreters who had helped U.S. military on the ground and because the Iraqi government has agreed to help the U.S. government deport any Iraqis that the DHS deems a security threat.

Washington, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon all asked for a hearing with a federal judge in Seattle before the implementation of President Trump’s newly revised ban, according to CBS News. Hawaii became the first state to “mount a legal challenge to President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban,” according to NPR. Douglas Chin, the Attorney General of Hawaii, stated, “Hawaii has a long history of immigrants. It’s the most ethnically diverse state. Twenty percent of its residents are foreign-born…There are memories of Japanese internment camps.This was just the 75th anniversary of an Executive Order that came from President Roosevelt where, for national security reasons, then Japanese-Americans were placed in these camps. So to us, this is the dark path that we’re trying to avoid and I think we feel like we need to speak up against.” He also discussed the difference in language in the first Executive Order and the second: “You can try to dress up the language or call something different and in a more neutral way, but it doesn’t take away the historical comments that were made by President Trump when he was running for office and then all the way up until as recently as a month ago,” he said on an interview with NPR. Even though there is nothing in the Executive Order that explicitly calls for a ban on Muslims, based on the many statements from Trump and his surrogates during and after the campaign, the intent is to ban muslims. Just because the language isn’t there, doesn’t mean the intent isn’t.

The first and the second Executive Orders have created an untenable situation for Iranian immigrants in the US. The Iranian government does not allow its citizens to rescind their citizenship – it never has. When an American citizen, such as my mother, enters Iran, she is considered an Iranian citizen. When she tries to leave the country, the Iranian government can choose not to acknowledge her American passport and say she doesn’t have a visa or permission to leave, thus trapping her in Iran. Although this was true before the ban, my mother is more fearful to go to Iran. My gravely ill grandfather is currently in Tehran. He is a U.S. citizen, but he is too sick to walk or travel. Most significantly, Iran has issued a ban against U.S. citizens coming into the country in response to President Trump’s ban. My family and I had plans to go to Iran in March, but now we are unable to. I am a U.S. citizen, and I now can’t get a visa to go see my grandfather one last time. The impact of this ban has devastated my family, and we’re only one of many. Please note that I am not trying to dramatize my family’s situation in order to receive pity, that is not what I want. I want dialogue. I want change. I want people to recognize that President Donald Trump’s revised Executive Order is problematic, because it has negative consequences on U.S. citizens that have strong ties to these six countries and on those seeking freedom when coming to the U.S.

While there is a minority of terrorists who are extremist in how they practice their religion, the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and compassionate. Islamic extremism is not Islam. This second Muslim Ban continues to discriminate based on religion, as it completely bans travel for entire countries that happen to be majority Muslim. Citing the safety of our country, Mr. Trump ignores the facts. The majority of 9/11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia. I would like to note that I don’t believe there should be a list at all, it’s just that the lists’ logic is completely flawed, so when I note countries that are not on the list it is just to highlight the flaws of the revised Executive Order. According to Bloomberg Politics, President Trump does business with Saudi Arabia in their commercial city Jeddah, and no bans are instituted for Saudi Arabia. Other nations like Egypt and Turkey are also not on the list, and both nations endured high-profile terror attacks in 2016 and both are nations that President Trump has business ties with. Mr. Trump said in an interview with Breitbart News that “I have a little conflict of interest, because I have a major, major building in Istanbul.”

According to The Atlantic, “Nationals of the seven countries singled out by Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015” and zero have been committed by Syrian refugees in US history. Our focus should not be on blocking legitimate refugees seeking a safe haven. The Syrian refugee crisis is the largest human migration crisis of our times, with legitimate victims – women, men, children, and elderly, who have nowhere to go. The thought of Syrian refugees, whose plight we’ve seen documented extensively during the past five years, not being allowed to come to the United States is also devastating.

Refugee vetting, is incredibly thorough here, and there is no excuse for a country built by immigrants to turn its back on the neediest victims of war. According to CNN, the US screening process for refugees takes 18 to 24 months. First, the United Nations screens them. CNN states, “The UN only refers those whose life, liberty or health are at significant risk. If someone is found to have committed a crime, that person doesn’t qualify for resettlement.” After the UN conducts its vetting process, the US does its own vetting involving “eight federal agencies, six different databases, five separate background checks, four fingerprint and biometric checks, three in-person interviews and two inter-agency checks.” If the refugees are then allowed to come into the United States, they face another screening and security check at a US airport. To put it simply, the process is quite thorough.

The Statue of Liberty says: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Syrian refugees are yearning to breathe free, and the fact that the United States’ government is turning their backs on them is heartbreaking. This is a sad echo of American History, when our government turned away a ship of 900 German Jews in 1939, according to Vox News. Shortly after that, the United States “rejected a proposal to allow 20,000 Jewish children to come to the US for safety.”

 

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