This Isn’t Who We Are…

At least, it shouldn’t be. We are, at this moment, treating people who waited months or even years for an opportunity to come to the US as criminals.

Trump’s ban on immigration from certain “high-risk” countries is in effect, and is already causing harm. Who is it harming?

  • Students, academics, professionals, and visitors who filed the required paperwork, were vetted by the Department of State and the FBI (at least),  and were approved for legal entrance into this country.
  • Refugee families fleeing poverty, oppression, war, and persecution.
  • Individuals that put themselves and their families at risk supporting US military operations, who were no longer safe in their home countries because of the assistance they provided.
  • Lawful Permanent Residents, who live in the US but may have been abroad on business or vacation.

Customs and Border Protection, in implementing Trump’s Executive Order, either turned these people away or detained them at their respective airports. I do not mean to demonize the people at CBP; they are doing as they have been instructed, and I’m sure most could not afford to quit in protest. (Though, for consideration, I might offer that if enough of them refused to carry out the directive it might get more attention than a protest. Perhaps there could be an argument related to the interpretation of the order as not applying to previously approved visas and immigration benefits.)

What is most upsetting about this ridiculous order is how absurdly random the process for determining the countries has been. Even if the countries are experiencing extraordinarily disruptive events, and even if there are bad actors know to operate in these countries, that does not mean that the risk is inherent in every individual within the country. Two things are important to note: we have a robust vetting process (contrary to Trump’s continued assertions that we have no vetting process), and no immigrant from any of the countries on the ban list has been carried out a terror attack in the US.

If Trump wants to target a genuine vulnerability then he could put a moratorium on the Visa waiver Program. A fake passport can put a nefarious actor claiming to be from a friendly European nation on a flight to the US with no vetting at all. If there is a genuine security concern about a terror group infiltrating the US, this mechanism would be far easier than waiting for years in the hopes of being approved as a refugee, or trying to get a fake passport by the US DoS.

This is going to lead to what we call second- and third-order-effects, likely in the form of reciprocal bans on travel by other countries (Iran has already announced their intent to implement a travel ban), and in the form of higher risks to US travelers abroad as they interact with foreigners who have been directly or indirectly impacted by this action.

Please, contact your state representatives and governor, contact your congressional representatives, contact CBP, contact the white house (if there is still a channel to do so), and SHOW UP at the affected airports to show solidarity with those who come to this country legally seeking opportunity,a better life, a better education, or just a visit to Disneyland.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

(Emily Lazarus, The New Colossus)

Remind the world that this is not who we are.

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3 thoughts on “This Isn’t Who We Are…

  1. we have this notion of ourselves, its really very kind and generous as an assessment of who we are.

    im not saying that we are scum, just that we exaggerate our most noble qualities. it may come as a shock that we arent as great as we say. but we really arent. the right isnt. the left isnt. one of these days, you may even prove that libertarians and greens arent. (that will be a fine day, because it will take a lot of waking up to get to where that even matters.)

    theres a lot of convenient finger-pointing in politics. heres my feeling about it:

    when bush was in office, i considered it a nightmare. i couldnt wait for the left to replace him. then they did. hope again! literally. and what happened to the bush legacy. did it end? of course not– inertia. did it get eroded? not too significantly. did people start defending bush-like policies once a left-wing face was put on them? vigorously.

    “oh its not us, we have a republican majority in congress!” “oh, so youre against this, then?” “well no, but its not our fault!” a-ha! this is why we will be screwed when it comes to politics forever. the lines of division are mostly false. dont believe me? you research SENATOR clintons publically available votes– on immigration policy, on the iraq invasion, and on the trumps wall. its not about a republican majority. the left just isnt that far from the right. behind a bullhorn? sure. behind a senate bill? not really.

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    1. You bring up some interesting points, and I want to make sure I clarify mine.

      My initial writing is clearly political in the sense that it deals with a sensitive matter with regard to the body politic. I did not mean it to be partisan. I singled our Donald Trump as the proponent of this particular action because he is its principal champion. Others who support this action are not uniformly Republican.

      Support stems from a misunderstanding of the current situation and the reality of certain threats. In general, everyone supports the idea of keeping people in the US safe. Action to stem immigration or entry into the US from high-risk areas of the world until such time as we have a better system for vetting sounds reasonable. This premise ignores the facts about risks to this country, where we have a robust process for vetting immigrants, terror attacks carried out in the name of Islam barely register as a likely cause of injury or death, Muslim terrorism is not as prevalent as radical right-wing terrorism (at least through 2015), and where the key players in Islamic terror attacks have not been carried out by most of the countries targeted in this action for the last 42 years. (Somalia is an exception that I failed to address in my initial post.) On this specific executive order, the risk assessment focused incorrectly on the state of the country of origin (or perhaps on the number of business interests, as some assert) instead of individual risk by the person admitted or the susceptibility of the system to circumvention.

      Regarding how great we are, I don’t mean to overstate. We aren’t all great, all the time. We are all subject to form,s of tribalism – the “us vs them” mentality – that is hard-coded into human DNA. It’s a useful survival tool in an environment of scarcity, but can get in the way of a modern functioning society. From politics, to religion, to any other topic, we have a tendency to demonize and marginalize the opposing view. It takes concerted effort to avoid this particular pitfall, as it is just part of being human.

      I think we should hold ourselves to a higher standard, not because we are actually great, but because this country’s constitution provides a calling and impetus top be better, to be more generous, to be more compassionate, to be more tolerant. We, the collective body of citizens of the USA, have failed to live up to our constitutional mandate from day one. But we have gotten better. We should continue to try to do better. And in order to do so, I think we have to assess and correct when we have moved in the wrong direction. We won’t always agree on what that means. The best we can do is to try and discuss these things openly.

      My point on this topic is that blocking people who have already been vetted should not be turned away simply on the basis of their country of nationality. That sort of arbitrary discrimination is something that I thought we had learned was not productive.

      Thank you for reading.

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