Lara Kajs | 7 March 2017 |
On 27 January 2017, US President Donald Trump signed “the Refugee Ban”, an executive order that immediately barred people from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen from entering the United States, and suspended any refugee resettlement for 120 days. The order indefinitely banned Syrian refugees and specifically targeted Muslims. Confusion, panic, and uncertainty ensued, not only in the US but around the world; separating families and leaving thousands of travelers stranded in airports.
Although federal judges halted the original refugee ban, a new order went into effect on 16 March 2017. In the new ban, Iraq was removed from the list and the indefinite ban on Syrians was lifted. However, the entire refugee resettlement program has been shut down for 120 days and no visas will be issued for a period of 90 days to citizens of the six targeted Muslim-majority countries.
Additionally, the cap on refugees resettled in the US has been lowered from 110,000 (set by former President Obama) to 50,000 set by the Trump administration. As with the previous order, the new decree has been sharply criticized as targeting and demonizing Muslim communities inside and outside the United States.
While the Trump administration has argued that the new policies are necessary to keep Americans safe from terrorists, analysis shows that banning refugees, especially those from a few Muslim-majority countries, will not necessarily prevent terrorism. Further, targeting already vulnerable populations fleeing for their lives from conflict and violence, and refusing to help or grant entrance; undermines the core values and ideals that many Americans embrace. The notion that the melting pot known as the United States is no longer welcoming others to its shores, is just un-American.
But the refugee ban – both the original form and the new and improved version is irresponsible. Portraying communities as a security threat simply because of their country of origin, or their religious ideologies are not only misleading but are also reckless.
The Vetting Process
The debate of the vetting and screening process for refugees has been embedded in hyper-politicized discourse. During his campaign, Mr. Trump called for “extreme vetting” and post-election he has continued to make similar demands. By casting a shadow of doubt on the vetting process, many politicians and officials believe that they can use fear to increase the support of policies that discriminate against religion and culture.
The truth is that the vetting process for refugees is a lengthy procedure. In fact, the United States has one of the most intense and stringent vetting processes – more so than many other countries – taking between two to five years for approval and resettlement. Refugees are subjected to severe scrutiny which includes multiple interviews, fingerprint screening, iris scans, and background checks across multiple agencies including the State Department, the FBI, Homeland Security, and US Immigration – all in addition to the initial interview and registration with the United Nations.
Since the start of the conflict in Syria, nearly five million people have fled the country and are hosted in the surrounding countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt, and as much as half of the pre-war population has been internally displaced within Syria’s boundaries. Reports indicated that as many as 400,000 Syrians have been killed in the conflict. While Germany has admitted 300,000 Syrian refugees, the United States has resettled less than 15,000.
In the original travel ban, Mr. Trump called for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S.; however, under the new decree, the ban against religious minorities was omitted. Still, given the president’s previous sanctions against Muslims, many have concerns regarding how the new guidelines will be implemented.
In the immediate aftermath of the announcement of the new refugee ban, there was an outpouring of concern. Senators Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer, as well as The American Civil Liberties Union, spoke out against the decree, vowing to challenge the order. No matter how it is dressed up and reworded, a ban is still a ban, and targeting people based on origin, religion, and culture is discriminatory, and that is unlawful.
Photo Credit: 2017.02.04 No Muslim Ban by tedeytan. Licensed under CC 2.0 license.