Trump’s “Extreme Vetting” Undermines National Security

Feb 13

A President who received only 46 percent of the votes and currently stands at 36 percent approval ratings, has undone what the past two President’s assiduously avoided – signal to the world that America is at war with Islam, not just radicals who want to do us harm. Trump’s executive order approving “extreme vetting” that blocks visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries and imposing an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria, while prioritizing Christians suffering religious persecution, is a giant step down the slippery slope of using religious litmus test for public policy and a fulfillment of Trump’s campaign promise of a “Muslim ban.” Americans of all shades and backgrounds have reacted angrily to what appears not only to be a violation of the Constitution but also a fundamental alteration of American exceptionalism so aptly carved on the Statue of Liberty, “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-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

To every objection that American’s are now raising, the reply from the Trump camp has been “but he won!” Yes he did win an election that he doubts was free of illegal voting. But more importantly, if “he won” is the operative answer to every Presidential action, then on what basis was Barrack Obama denied a vote on his Supreme Court nominee, despite winning elections twice with clear majorities? The unbridled hypocrisy of the “he won” logic is a telling sign of the Trump Presidency. Instead of showing moral courage and political fortitude standing up to a President’s clearly un-American actions (like acting Attorney General Sally Yates did), our Mayor Lenny Curry and Congressman John Rutherford are sheepishly riding Trump’s coattails.

There is time for politics and there comes a time when our common decency and values must outweigh our political tribalism. Exasperating the problem further, the executive order on “extreme vetting” is cruel, misguided and laced with conflict of interests. The seven countries that are on the banned list (Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Iran), also happen to be countries we or our allies are currently bombing or have violently intervened in the recent past. Iran is a possible exception where our interventions were in the form of sanctions and covert cyberwar. The irony is inescapable. First we bomb or destabilize a nation and when the most vulnerable amongst them seek our compassion and mercy, we say no entry.

The “Muslim ban” is misguided, because it will not make Americans any safer. Charles Kruzman, professor of sociology at University of North Carolina, has compiled a database of violence by Muslims in America. The report also makes clear that violence by Muslims account for less than 1 percent of all murders in America last year. Moreover, many of the plots uncovered and stopped by law enforcement was the result of tips from within the American Muslim community. Alienating this community will make it harder for the community to self-police.

Finally, missing from the list of countries are places like Saudi Arabia (home of 15 out the 19 hijackers), or Pakistan (home country of the San Bernardino attackers) or Afghanistan (home of the Orlando attacker) or Kyrgyzstan (where the Boston bombers spent their childhood). Also, escaping bans are places like the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, places with significant Trump business interests.

The temporary ban on refugees defies any logic. According to the U.S. State Department, of the nearly 785,000 refugees admitted since 9/11, “only about a dozen, a tiny fraction of one percent of admitted refugees, have been arrested or removed from the U.S. due to terrorism concerns that existed prior to their resettlement in the U.S.  None of them were Syrian.” If a terrorist wants to come to the U.S. to harm us, there are many easier ways of entry than the onerous refugee resettlement process.

ISIS and al-Qaeda have been pushing the narrative that America is at war with Islam. No American President walked into their trap. Until now. The fact that Trump’s executive order banning Muslims was signed on the day that marks the scourge of Holocaust exhibits the utter disregard with which the Trump administration holds humanitarian plight of refugees and those who are most vulnerable to violence. The last time we turned our backs on refugees was in 1939 and 254 of them were murdered by the Nazis.