This weekend, I commiserated with a refugee friend. We first met in a taxi. He was driving us home from the airport.
During our short taxi ride, I learned he had been a successful grocer in his home country; his family had fled a civil war; but not before he had been shot in both knees.
Here he was, in Boise, rebuilding his family’s life.
Since that first meeting, he has worked harder than anyone I know. He now owns three cars and has created jobs for his Idahoan drivers.
He and his family are generous, hardworking people, enriching our community and its economy.
They are Muslim.
President Donald Trump’s order excludes refugees like my friend. It and the rhetoric surrounding it are disconnected from factual reality.
Terrorists find simpler ways into this country than the refugee resettlement process.
After dismal months or years in a refugee camp, refugee vetting lasts for months and years. It includes multiple interviews and screenings with a series of governmental agencies. It does not need to be any more comprehensive or “extreme.”
Since the 1980 law that established it, the vetting process has admitted about 3 million refugees to the United States. Until two months ago, none of those refugees had committed a recorded terrorist act. None.
Shortly after Election Day, a Somali refugee injured 11 people at Ohio State University. No one died. It was described as a “terrorist” attack.
The alleged “lone wolf terrorist” was shot and killed within minutes at the scene. He was 10 when his mother and 6 siblings fled Somalia, 14 when they arrived in the U.S., and was an accomplished 18-year-old Ohio State student when he died.
It was reported he had feared for his safety as a Muslim and “may have been” influenced by Islamic State propaganda.
So what has the president accomplished?
He has put an angry, anti-Muslim face on America and further fueled anger and despair. A real boost for Islamic State recruiters.
He has violated our humanitarian heritage as a country of refugees. Anyone who has befriended a refugee knows of the horrors they have fled and the hope America has represented for them.
He has continued to foment an ignorant xenophobia. Anti-Muslim attacks and threats are on the rise.
He has placed a further drag on our economy, by pushing away honorable people who, like my friend, want to pursue “the American dream.”
While the president closes our doors, Canada has reiterated its openness to refugees and celebrated its growing pluralism. The American dream has moved north.
Finally, this episode is shameful. While humanitarian and refugee crises have proliferated in the world — some of our making — we have become the least welcoming of all developed countries.
Bans do not protect us. Exclusion, unemployment, failed education, discrimination and despair are the causes of terrorism — and make for susceptible Islamic State recruits.
Welcome, inclusion, empathy, good will, decent housing, jobs and educational opportunities for refugees are the better strategy.
Our best defense is our best humanity.
Jerry Sturgill was the 2016 Idaho Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate. He has worked as a lawyer, CEO and investment banker. He and his family live in Boise.