At 4:42 p.m. Friday President Trump signed an executive order in which his delusions about Muslims and refugees became a wrenching reality for people seeking to enter or return to the United States.
With the stroke of his pen, Trump blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. He also suspended entry by all refugees for 120 days. Refugees from the brutal conflict in Syria were banned indefinitely.
When Trump proposed a ban on Muslim immigrants during the campaign, it provoked bipartisan criticism. Then, with almost no notice, it became U.S. policy. Emergency judicial rulings in several cities temporarily blocked aspects of the executive order, including the deportation of travelers detained at airports who are citizens of the seven targeted nations. But the blanket ban on refugees and new immigrants remains.
Whatever its legal status, Trump’s order surely violates the nation’s values and will likely encourage the terrorism it intends to prevent. It presents a propaganda bonanza for ISIS and other jihadist groups hostile to the United States and it will stir fear and create heartache for Muslims who are American citizens or permanent residents.
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The order cites the Sept. 11 attacks as a reason to bar immigrants and refugees, but the ban does not apply to Saudi Arabia, the home country of 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers. Meanwhile, all terror events in the U.S. since the 2001 attacks have been carried out by people who are American citizens or here legally.
CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen said on Saturday that the ban is “not going to make any difference to the terrorism issue, which is overwhelmingly a United States problem. Because 9/11, of course, was carried out by 19 foreign-born Arab terrorists, I think we tend to conceive of this as a problem that comes from outside, when in fact, it’s really a problem that is internal to the United States right now.”
Disruption and confusion
The ban was imposed with Trump’s typical mix of incompetence and cruelty. The federal agencies responsible for immigration and border security learned of the order at the last minute. There was confusion about who was banned and who wasn’t.
Refugees who waited more than a year to be vetted have been blocked. Their security clearances will lapse before the ban ends and they’ll be back at the end of the line. Families that had prepared to open their homes to refugees have had their good intentions suspended. Children anticipating the arrival of a parent and spouses about to be reunited had their hopes dashed.
In an especially bitter twist, the order affected Iraqis who had helped the United States during the Iraq War. They were denied entry, even though they’d been approved for resettlement and faced risks for their cooperation with the U.S. if forced to stay in Iraq.
The order banning refugees based on religion was signed on Holocaust Memorial Day by a president oblivious to history. And the order justified the ban with language deaf to irony. It says in part, “The United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred... or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”
Apart from its moral and legal failings, the executive order promises to create significant economic problems. It will affect tourism, airlines, universities, businesses and hospitals and may invite retaliation as some countries ban American citizens and corporations.
Civil liberty lawyers, the American Muslim community and advocates for immigrants and refugees have spoken out against this executive order. But their voices must be joined by business leaders and, most importantly, by congressional Republicans.
A ban on immigrants and refugees does not protect the nation. It attacks its image, its commerce and its ideals. Americans must oppose it and demand that this order – not immigrants – be banned.