There should be no doubt that, as Americans, we are all concerned about the threat of terrorism. Keeping our country and our loved ones safe is our first priority. That’s why when you hear President Trump and members of his administration talk about the travel ban, it sounds like a relatively harmless and easily justified means to reach the most important end: to protect America and Americans. Trump and his administration explain the ban as a “temporary” measure to keep “radical jihadists” and “bad dudes” out of the country. According to the administration, the deportations, detentions, and “additional screenings” impact “only a small percent” of travelers and it’s worth it to “keep America safe.” But when you take a closer look at the law, there is a clear disconnect between what the White House says about the executive order and the actual language and implementation of the order.
Here are some factual examples to consider:
• THE ORDER TARGETS THE WRONG COUNTRIES: The order targets nationals from certain countries (i.e. Iran) that have NEVER been linked to or arrested for any acts of terror on American soil. On the other hand, other countries whose nationals HAVE been linked to acts of terror (ie. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, U.E.A) are not included on the list. So then why are certain “bad dudes” who have committed terrorist acts free to enter the U.S. while others, who have never done so, are barred from entry?
• THE TEMPORARY BAN IS NOT SO TEMPORARY: The “temporary” 90-day ban is not truly temporary when you read the actual text of the order. The order suspends the issuance of immigration benefits to nationals from the 7 listed countries for a period of 30 days, during which time various U.S. government agencies are to determine the additional information needed on applicants and immigrants from the listed countries in order to better determine whether that individual is a threat to the United States. Then, those listed countries are given 60 days to provide the U.S. government the requested information. If they fail to do so, the suspension will remain in effect indefinitely. By virtue of the fact that these 7 nations are on the list of banned countries and the fact that they are also sanctioned countries, we know that the U.S. sees these nations as hostile states acting against U.S. interests. Therefore, it is unrealistic to expect that any country will provide the U.S. with information about their nationals. As a result, this ban will not actually be temporary, a fact that Trump and his advisers had to have known from the start.
• THE ORDER ASKS GOVERNMENTS BELIEVED TO SPONSOR TERRORISM TO PROVIDE INFROMATION ON TERRORISTS: For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the listed countries are willing to respond. Will the U.S. government even trust that information? Let’s use Iran for an example. Trump and the U.S. government believe that the Iranian government supports and sponsors terrorism globally. In fact, supporters of the ban repeatedly refer to the governments of those countries on the list as terrorists. Are we then asking a regime that is believed to sponsor terrorism to give us true and accurate information regarding potential terrorists and terrorist threats? Will that keep America safe?
• THE ORDER COMPLETELY DISREGARDS OUR CURRENT STRINGENT LAWS REGARDING THE ISSUANCE OF IMMIGRATION BENEFITS TO FOREIGNERS: When the current administration talks about the ban, they make it seem like our government has no system in place for vetting foreigners and that anyone can just come to the U.S. on a whim. The administration uses this argument to explain why “additional information” is needed from the listed countries in order to ensure our country’s safety. This is simply not true. The United States government already has extensive security measures in place when reviewing applications or petitions from ANY and ALL foreign nationals for immigration benefits. When an individual wants to enter the U.S., or obtain immigration benefits, that applicant is required to provide detailed information regarding their background including but not limited to information on their parents, spouses, children, employers and employment history, all previous residences, any issues with law enforcement, and convictions or criminal or violent history. In addition to gathering all this information, the U.S. government conducts an extensive background check on each applicant. These checks can last for several months, and in some cases, have even gone for years. Are these measures not enough to keep America safe? What additional information will the Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of State, and Director of Intelligence come up with to require the governments of the 7 countries to provide? And is it realistic to expect those governments, deemed by the U.S. to be acting against U.S. interest, to provide us with information regarding their nationals?
Regardless of one’s political affiliation, we are Americans first and we should put America and our American values first. When facing a discriminatory order that targets individuals based on national origin and religion and thereby undermines long held American values, we should at the very least look at the language of that order to see whether it achieves the stated goal. In this case, the goal of the order is in the name: PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES. But instead, it targets a group of nationals most of whom have not been linked to acts of terror in the U.S. At its core, it is asking governments and countries the U.S. believes to sponsor and support terrorism to provide the U.S. with anti-terrorism intelligence. For these reasons, the order does not make rational sense.
Since its issuance on January 27, 2017, the vague and overbroad order has done nothing but cause confusion, chaos, and division in our country. Our government has spent millions of tax payer dollars implementing an order resulting in the denial of entry, deportation and detention of hundreds of valid visa holders and legal permanent residents of the United States. Thousands of lives, including those of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, have been impacted by the order. Families have been torn apart. Our judicial system has been flooded with cases nationwide. And all for what? To implement an order that tears away at the principles embodied in our Constitution while doing little if anything at all to keep our country safe.