Where in God’s Name Were You?

The past 24-48 hours has been nothing short of madness in the United States. On Friday, January 27, 2017 President Trump issued his long-expected Refugee Ban. It is a temporary global ban for a total of 120 days, but it greatly impacts those refugees coming from war torn Syria. It will be in place until Homeland Security, CIA, and other counter terrorism forces can determine and report to the president whether our current process of vetting refugees, particularly from Syria, weeds out possible terrorist elements attempting to gain entry into the U.S. while simultaneously extending the hand of compassion that the United States is known for the world over.

President Trump has also put a travel ban of any sort from the following nations: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, and Libya. Unless an individual has a specific diplomatic passport, that individual will not be allowed to regain entry into the United States for a period of 90, regardless of whether the person has dual citizenship with another country. The president, like the one before him, has sited the following statute which he, again like the president before him, believes gives him the right to unilaterally change, pause, curtail, or tweak immigration law be it temporarily, or permanently:

“To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period described in subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).”

I have several thoughts and feelings over this executive order, so let’s get to it.

First, let’s talk about what this executive order is not (or was not at this point, as a federal judge in New York has issued a stay on certain parts of it).

Contrary to popular belief on Facebook and Twitter, this order is not a ‘Ban on Muslims.’ It may sound good on social media. It may set your heart beating and light that righteous indignation within you, but I promise you, that is not what this ban is. As someone with Syrian blood running in her veins, if I thought this was in any way a true ban on Muslims entering the country, I just might just have taken a train up to Dulles airport to shout my own displeasure with it.

There are just over one billion Muslims in the world, with the highest concentration of Muslims living in Indonesia constituting almost 13% of the Muslim population. The two countries that follow behind are Pakistan and India at roughly 11% each. These three countries comprise about one third of Earth’s Muslim population.

Following those three countries are Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Egypt. It is only when you get to the seventh country that one of the listed nations in the executive order makes an appearance: Iran. Slots number eight, nine, and ten belong to Turkey, Algeria, and Morocco. Out of the top ten countries with the highest number of Muslims, only one of those countries, Iran, makes it into the executive order titled: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States. You can find the ranking I used here.

To be clear, two thirds of the world’s Muslims live within these ten countries. For those that are, and continue to refer to this executive order as a Muslim Ban, you are only showing your level of miseducation on this issue. To think that Muslims only exist in the seven countries sited in the executive order shows a very short sighted view on just how far Islam has spread in the world. Indeed, it spans the globe. Please do not short change this religion by insisting that it is mostly practiced in these seven nations. It is not.

Second, let’s discuss what was actually being done to clear those refugees from Syria and other nations who were coming to the United States. Brian Schoeneman over at Bearing Drift wrote an article in November of 2015 that has been making the rounds again (thankfully), and you can read that article here.

Here are some of the basic parts of the screening process:

  • Applications for resettlement are filed to either the United States or the UN before a refugee ever crosses our borders;
  • There is a separate review through Homeland Security called the ‘Syrian Enhanced Review’ that any refugee whose application has been passed over to the State Department must go through completely;
  • If during the above process any abnormalities or concerns are raised, that refugee is forwarded over to the Fraud Detection and National Security Division of USCIS;
  • A refugee receives an interview from the State Department in the field – meaning the place where they are applying from, be it a camp or someplace else, to determine if that refugee meets the legal qualifications and definitions of the term ‘refugee’.
  • If the refugee clears the field interview process, they go through more screenings and security checks which are conducted by the DoD, the FBI Terrorist Screening Center, and the National Counterterrorism Center – just to name a few;
  • The process takes anywhere between 12-36 months to complete;
  • If it cannot be verified that the refugee is who he says he is, comes from where he says he comes from, and if there is not 100% assurance that he will not present a threat to the United States or her interests, that refugee is not allowed to come here. Period.

President Trump’s most ardent supporters are singing his praises after he issued this executive order, even when fact after fact is levied that no Syrian refugee has carried out a terrorist attack against the United States. No one doubts that ISIS would attempt to infiltrate the refugees, and that is precisely why we have these screenings in place. I do have to ask, however, why there was no concern for ISIS infiltrating the Yazidi Christians who were begging for assistance from the United States? Many, particularly on the Right and Christian-Right, were angry with then President Barack Obama, as they perceived he was doing little to nothing to help them. I myself wasn’t pleased that the Yazidi’s were being hung out to dry, but I was equally as upset with that situation as I was with the Syrian refugee situation. Why weren’t others? There are many republicans in the Christian Right that have a good deal of soul searching to do before they can answer that question honestly.

This, of course, brings me to my third point; why these nations? The 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by 19 hijackers predominately from Saudi Arabia, but also from Egypt, UAE, and Lebanon. The Fort Hood terrorist attack was an inside job, as U.S. citizen and Virginia-born Major Nidal Hassan committed the atrocity. The Boston Marathon bombers were originally from Chechnya and were radicalized while living in the United States. One of the two San Bernadino shooters, Syed Farook, was a U.S. born citizen of Pakistani descent. His wife, Tashfeen Malik and the second shooter, had entered the U.S. on a K-1 visa and was a lawful permanent resident originally from Pakistan. Interestingly enough, Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2013 to meet and marry Malik. The Orlando Nightclub shooter was, yet again, a U.S. citizen who self-radicalized and pledged his loyalty to ISIS shortly before he went on his mass murder spree. In the executive order, President Trump specifically sites ‘honor killings’ as a reason to ban entrants the seven listed countries:

“In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.” – President Donald Trump (Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States)

Yet, Pakistan, one of the most egregious users of this disgusting and inhumane practice, remains unmentioned in the president’s executive order.

None of the countries sited in the executive order, and which the terrorists listed above are connected to, appear in the ban. I have no issue with restricting travel from hotbeds of terror; after all, immigration is not a right, but a privilege. I do, however, begin to have a very big problem when countries which have produced terrorists that have committed recent atrocities on our own soil are left out of that ban. Furthermore, it is painfully clear through the recent attacks we have suffered as a nation that ISIS and other extremist groups are relying on self-radicalization and home grown terrorism tactics to accomplish their goals. This is a ‘feel good’ executive order for those who supported Donald Trump; nothing more.

Then, we have our fourth matter of concern, which seem to be the cowboys over at Homeland Security. When this executive order was signed and released, officials over at DHS were telling members of the press that this order also extended to green card holders and legal permanent residents – members of our society who had done nothing to lose that privilege, except to take a trip out of the country at the wrong time. One of those green card holders making her way back to the U.S. was detained at LAX last night during the uproar. She has her citizen ship hearing in two weeks. Read more here.

I have read through the executive order twice, and I can find nowhere in it where legal permanent residents/green card holders were mentioned as a blanket group to target and detain. By all means, my Esquire friends, if I have missed that section, please point me to it. Furthermore, there have now been at least three federal court orders to cease any detainments of green card holders, but reports from airports around the nation are that not only are the detainments ongoing, but those green card holders are being denied to speak to lawyers who are there on their behalf. You can read more about that here and here.

It was reassuring to hear White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus assert that this ban does not apply to legal permeant residents, but if that is the case, the president should’ve gotten on the phone to the federal agencies that had yet to match their actions to his assurances. The fact that the White House and these federal agencies are even skirting the line of not adhering to a court order goes beyond disturbing, and I doubt my republican friends would have stood quietly by if President Obama had done the same.

Finally, my fifth and final observation goes to those who have been yelling and screaming since Friday afternoon, many of them ardent supporters of the previous administration. I’m speaking about those in this nation who are pure ideologues who sing the praises of one of their own, but when the opposing side does the exact same thing, organizes ‘last minute’ protests at airports and brings the house down on social media:

The howling from you on the temporary ban, executive over reach, and abuse of power is as disingenuous as it is late. Where were you these past eight years? Where were you when Iraqi refugees were prevented from coming here for 6 months in 2011? Where were you when President Barack Obama ordered the drone strikes of an American citizen, an action which killed that individual, without due process? Where were you when he signed executive order after executive order that the courts smacked down as unconstitutional? Where were you when Yazidi Christians were begging for airlifts out of the war zones?

Where in God’s name were you? You certainly weren’t at the airports, or protesting, or wreaking the havoc you are today. You weren’t deleting a business’s app on your iPhone. You weren’t organizing marches or knitting hijabs.

This is what happens when you allow the politicians you like to get away with whatever they want simply because they are on the same political side as you. I have major issues with this executive order; in fact, I’m down right pissed off and disgusted by a great deal of how this has been managed. But your condemnation of this would ring a little truer, just slightly more on key, and people such as myself would take you a bit more seriously if you’d been as outraged over the past eight years as you seem to be now. Do not think for one single moment that your hands are clean; indeed, they are just as dirty as those pounding their chests and cheering today.