President Donald Trump signed an executive order that effectively lays a strong foundation for instituting a ban against Muslims, as he pledged to do during his presidential campaign.
The executive order asserts hundreds of foreign-born individuals were convicted or implicated in “terrorist-related crimes” since the September 11 attacks, which is a gross exaggeration.
As in-depth coverage by the New America Foundation showed, “The large majority of jihadist terrorists in the United States have been American citizens or legal residents. Moreover, while a range of citizenship statuses are represented, every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident.”
“In addition, about a quarter of the extremists are converts, further confirming that the challenge cannot be reduced to one of immigration,” according to the think tank.
The countries of origin for 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon. They were not targeted by the executive order.
Nevertheless, Trump provided a victory for toxic xenophobic and Islamophobic forces in the United States and issued an executive order that suspends entry into the country of any immigrants or non-immigrants of particular concern.
The countries are not named in the issued executive order, but the draft included Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. These are Muslim-majority countries, many of which the U.S. has played a role in destabilizing or perpetuating warfare that has created refugee crises.
Syrian refugees are explicitly banned, even though they do not present an existential terrorism threat to the U.S. at all.
It instructs security agencies of the U.S. government to put together a list and add additional countries. This means the list adopted a few months from now may expand at any time.
The order calls for security agencies to develop a “uniform screening” program that would include “a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicants’ ability to make contributions to the national interest.”
It lowers the number of refugees that will be admitted in 2017 from 110,000 to 50,000 refugees.
Additionally, agencies are instructed to “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals 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.”
Farhana Khera, president and executive director of Muslim Advocates, called the order a “first step on the road to the Muslim ban the president promoted during the campaign.”
“It relies on grotesque and bigoted stereotypes about Muslims and Islam perpetuated by hate groups,” Khera added. “This bigotry will now be elevated to the level of official U.S. government policy.”
“We are deeply concerned that Muslim visitors and immigrants, and only Muslim visitors and immigrants, will be singled out and asked, for example, whether they harbor bigotry against LGBT communities or faith communities that are not their own; repugnant views, but a test unfortunately even many Americans would fail,” Khera contended.
“Donald Trump is plunging the lives of first and second generation Americans into disarray and uncertainty,” the National Iranian American Council stated. “We have heard from countless Iranian Americans whose lives are going to be upended by this action. We have talked to parents who will be prevented from reuniting with their young children, students who will not be able to return from conferences abroad, and spouses who will be held in limbo away from their loved ones.”
Melanie Nezer, vice president for policy and advocacy of HIAS, which was founded in response to the exodus of Jewish emigrants from Russia in the late 19th and 20th centuries, emphasized the fact that Trump signed the order on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
During World War II, the United States turned back the S.S. St. Louis, a boat of refugees which sought safety from Nazi persecution. They wanted to reach Cuba and then travel to the U.S., however, they were turned away and forced to return to Europe. At least 250 of those Jewish refugees were killed by Nazis, and the boat was turned away for many of the same xenophobic reasons articulated by Trump in his order.
Nezer pointed out the world is experiencing one of the worst global refugee crises in history, with at least 65 million people displaced from their homes. It is a bigger refugee crisis than after World War II. What Trump has done will make the crisis worse.
James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, condemned the section of the order that prioritizes Christian refugees over Muslim refugees. It is a policy of “prejudice and fear” intended to dramatically alter U.S. immigration law and to dramatically transform the U.S. refugee resettlement program.
“It is bigotry in its worst form,” Zogby declared. “I am an Arab American Christian. I resent my religion being privileged over that of Muslims, and I can tell you having spoken with religious leadership in the Middle East, they are deeply resentful and fearful of this because it will put them at risk in the countries they currently live.”
“We do not want to see Donald Trump favoring Christians. It will hurt them and put them in a dangerous position,” Zogby added. “People like Ted Cruz and Senator [Jeff] Sessions and Donald Trump are not the advocates for Christians in the Middle East. They do not need their advocacy. What they need is to be treated as equal citizens in the states where they are and they have relationships with Muslims in those states working toward that end. This will harm them rather than help them.”
The executive order takes the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to a whole other level, said Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, the director for the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law.
Wadhia reminded, “In the wake of 9/11, special registration or the NSEERs program began at ports of entry and targeted visitors from certain countries. The program was a disaster. It provided no security value, overwhelmed the government, and had the purpose and negative effect of singling out people based on their religion.”
The Trump administration, blinded by their prejudice and fears, do not seem to care about the evidence that the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERs, failed.
NSEER required “non-citizens to register when they entered the U.S., a process that included fingerprinting, photo taking, and interrogation,” according to a CNN summary. It required a regular check-in with immigration officials as well as the deportation of any violators. It explicitly impacted Arabs and Muslims. President Barack Obama officially ended this program in December.
Neema Hakim, spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, called the NSEER program “obsolete” and said “its use would divert limited personnel and resources from more effective measures.”
Men and boys from twenty countries were expected to register, but they were never prohibited from traveling to the United States. Trump has taken the framework of NSEER and recreated it in mutant form.
Fahd Ahmed, the executive director of DRUM, suggested the order will escalate the demonization of immigrants, refugees, and Muslims. It will “serve as a justification for the implementation of forthcoming such as registrations, raids, detentions, and deportations of immigrants and refugees from Central America and beyond.”
It also will have the effect of making Muslim and refugee communities more vulnerable to hate crimes.
Jen Smyers of the Church World Services Immigration and Refugee Program highlighted the story of an Iraqi refugee family, which has two twin 18 year-old daughters in Iraq. They experienced processing delays and have not been allowed to join their family in the U.S. They are separated. The order may mean they are unable to reunite with family for months.
There are a number of refugees, who are scheduled to arrive in the U.S. on Monday. This order disrupts a vetting process that started for some individuals more than a year ago. They will not find safety in America because of Trump’s order.
An earlier draft contained a section for the creation of “safe zones” for refugees in and around Syria. According to Zogby, this would have committed tens of thousands of U.S. troops to maintain these zones and likely drawn the U.S. deep into a ground war in Syria. The administration removed this section before it was signed.
Toward the end of the executive order, there is a part requiring transparency on the number of “foreign nationals” charged with terrorism-related offenses, the number of “foreign nationals” who are “radicalized” after entry, and the number of types of acts of “gender-based violence against women, including honor killings by foreign nationals.”
This is a grotesque product of anti-Islam racism, and this so-called transparency will be the propaganda that Trump uses to justify and indoctrinate American citizens into supporting his immigration and refugee bans against Muslims of the world.