President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees diminishes America and makes Americans less safe.
Overall, the order is a serious impediment to our fight against ISIS and other radical groups. It neatly fits into their long-standing narrative that the U.S. is an enemy of Islam and must be attacked. As with our invasion of Iraq, the jihad groups will use this as a recruitment tool to enlist terrorists to kill Americans. Coupled with the President’s recent musings that we should have taken Iraq’s oil, and still might, it will discourage the Muslim allies we are working with to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The order imposes a temporary ban on visas for people from Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Syria, and Sudan. Who would want to build a hotel in any of those places at present? Strangely, the order does not apply to the counties that produced the 9-11 terrorists –– Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon. Better countries for hotels?
Section 5(c) of the order proclaims that the “entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States.” That is simply wrong. Candidate Trump acknowledged that the U.S. invasion of Iraq led to the rise of ISIS. That group, together with the Assad regime, created the massive flow of refugees out of Syria. It is irresponsible to deny refuge to the victims of the crisis we helped to create. Further, we are relying on the Syrian Muslims to combat ISIS. We have troops embedded with those allied forces. It is a kick in their teeth for America to turn away their countrymen who are fleeing Assad and ISIS for their very lives. It is certainly not helpful to the safety of our embedded troops.
The order calls for changes in the vetting process for Syrian refugees, despite the fact that the U.S. has the strictest and most lengthy refugee screening process around the globe, particularly for Syrians. Most of the Syrian refugees are women and children and there do not appear to be any instances where Syrian refugees have engaged in conduct detrimental to U.S. interests.
Section 5(d) of the order limits the entry of refugees from all countries to a total of 50,000. This is a 50% reduction. This will seriously impede the entry of Iraqis and Afghans who risked their lives to help American forces. We have already been shamefully stingy with visas for these people. Many have been murdered by those who consider them collaborators. We are morally obligated to give them refuge.
The order proposes to grant priority to refugees who claim to be Christians. Christians have undoubtedly been horribly persecuted but ISIS appears to brutalize people of all faiths. It may be that Shiite Muslims suffer even more at the hands of the ISIS butchers. This country has not been about religious tests in the past and should not be in the future. We became a haven for people of all faiths who were persecuted in their homelands. That is one basis upon which we base our claim of exceptionalism. Are we ready to forfeit our claim of moral superiority?
Congress has the authority to undo the provisions of the executive order that are most detrimental to the interests of our country. Knowing our Congressional delegation’s past opposition to lawmaking by executive order, our representatives should be willing to step in. Let’s call on them to act and keep America a great nation.
Jim Jones is the recently retired Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court. He served on the court for 12 years. He lives in Boise.