On Friday, Trump signed an executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” This order has sparked massive outrage from U.S. citizens and political leaders around the world who are dubbing it the “Muslim Ban”. Over the weekend, across 45 states, there have been 83 different protests in opposition of the executive order.
So what does this executive order call for? What does the vetting program currently look like? What has the public response been? Will this executive order protect America or stir fear and resentment? These are some of the questions that arose in my mind when hearing about this bold action. I decided to research the executive order for a better understanding of the situation and share with you my findings. By no means am I an expert, but my research has found answers to these questions that we all have been asking and opened doors for even deeper questions to be examined.
What does “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” call for?
It requires immigration authorities to, “immediately deny entry to the United States to anyone from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen for 90 days; suspend all refugee resettlement for 120 days and reduce the number of refugees resettled in the country to 50,000; and to prioritize refugee claims ‘on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality.’” The last part describes that people of minority faiths (i.e. Christians) in those 7 countries be given special treatment and priority to enter the U.S. as refugees.
The executive order, which you can read the full text of here, begins by stating its purpose where it claims that the visa-issuance process and the refugee resettlement program have failed their duty to prevent terrorists from entering our country.
It also rightly admits that due to war and civil unrest in these countries that the likelihood for these places to breed terrorists is much higher, but fails to acknowledge the role the U.S. plays in those deteriorating conditions. Perhaps another set of questions for another time.
Trump has argued that the refugee screening program could still be exploited by terrorists which is why he is calling for a temporary halt to the program, giving his Secretary of State time to review the application and screening process. Beefing up security sounds fine, but then why cut the number of refugees to be admitted in 2017 by half? That is a deliberate denial to help people who are suffering from a crisis that the U.S. has played a large role in creating. How is that consistent with our American values?
What does the current refugee resettlement process already look like?
According to a BBC article, the U.S. process to resettle Syrian refugees is long and strict, “involving numerous federal agencies and intense background checks.” This looks quite different from the process that most of Europe has in place, countries who have been opening their doors to refugees and helping them resettle with more ease.
For a Syrian to relocate to America they must go through a four-step process. The first step is to leave home and find a camp run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a neighbouring country. It is only through one of these UNHCR refugee camps that they can become eligible for permanent resettlement in another country.
The second step is to obtain a referral for resettlement which is determined by the UNHCR. They decide for whom resettlement makes sense and to which country they can apply to. From there, the State Department takes over the referral and the Department of Homeland Security decides the approval of each individual application.
Step three is the U.S. vetting process, which may take up to 2 years and has a roughly 50 percent acceptance rate. Applicants are subjected to "the most rigorous screening of any traveller to the US," an official told reporters. These rigorous screenings involve, “extensive in-person interviews about their experiences with conflict, as well as the collection of both biometric and biographic information that is cross-checked with the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and in some cases, the Department of Defense.”
The final fourth step is the resettlement process where refugees are introduced to their new community and partake in programs that help them integrate into the society more fluidly.
So, the process seems rigorous already but the U.S. seems to be too afraid to take in the refugees. According to the UNHCR, “ten thousand people have been referred for resettlement in the U.S., but the U.S. has not processed their applications yet.” There are also 4,289,792 registered Syrian refugees around the world, yet only 2,370 Syrian refugee have been admitted into the US since Oct 2001. This shows that there has already been little effort on part of the U.S. to help Syrian refugees. It is already hard enough for refugees to seek asylum in the U.S., so what kind of message does this executive order send?
What has the response to this executive order been?
While the 83 protests happened across the country this past weekend, Iran’s Foreign Minister took the order as an insult and responded by banning all US citizen from entering Iran. There was also a call to delete Uber for not supporting the taxi driver strike in NYC, and Starbucks vowed to hire 10,000 refugees over the next year.
One Sudanese woman who was detained at JFK airport went on Democracy Now to describe her experience.
Another big question that has been circulating is if this executive order is discriminatory. On Twitter, many people are using the hashtag #MuslimBan to weigh in:
Some people have even taken to fighting against the label, using faulty logic like this:
he reason why this argument does not hold up is because of the language embedded in the executive order that was mentioned earlier, which prioritizes refugees of particular religious beliefs making it a ban specifically targeting Muslim refugees.
It is directly targeting Muslims and improperly labeling them all as potential terrorists. This is discriminatory.
The ultimate question: does this executive order further protection for Americans?
Some would say yes. If you halt all immigration and refugee resettlement from these war-torn countries, then you won't be letting any terrorists in. But as we know from the San Bernardino shooting, much like other similar tragedies on American soil, one of the shooters was an American-born citizen. In the interest of protecting America from extremist terrorism, we cannot overlook the discussion on how people are being radicalized. Does this executive order fan the flames for further radicalization? ISIS can very easily turn this order around and use it for propaganda to radicalize those already living as American citizens.
So, does this executive order ultimately protect America, or breed fear and further resentment?