Ambassador Benjamin writes:
With his executive action suspending the admission of refugees to the United States and temporarily halting the entry of citizens from a variety of Muslim countries, President Donald Trump made a quick down payment on a key campaign promise. He also set the U.S. on a disastrous course—one that threatens to weaken our national security and diminish American global leadership.
The order signed on Friday calls for a temporary ban on visas for individuals from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia; a 120-day suspension of the resettlement of all refugees; and an indefinite ban on the resettlement of Syrian refugees.
It is hard to find any real basis for this action. During the campaign, Trump made frequent, unfounded claims that we have a “dysfunctional immigration system” and that unknown people are pouring through our borders. But over the past decade and a half, U.S. immigration enforcement has improved vastly to the point where it bears scant resemblance to the system whose vulnerabilities were exposed on 9/11. Travelers from all over the world are screened three or more times, with their names run through databases that draw on staggering amounts of intelligence and law enforcement information. The process flags all manner of misdeeds or suspicious information.
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We should also expect the order to anger Muslim partners around the world. Shutting the door on Iraqis, on whom we are relying in the ground fight against ISIL, isn’t going to help in that ongoing conflict. As one Iraqi asked on CBS news last night, “How is this our fault? … We are the victims. In fact, American ISIS fighters have come here.” At a moment when U.S. influence in the region is at a low ebb, and Russia, Iran and Turkey are collaborating in Syria and excluding the U.S., the American president should be concerned with building goodwill, not eroding it.
Beyond sending a negative message to Muslims around the world, the decision to stop resettlement of Syrian refugees bespeaks a meanness of spirit that is completely at odds with American values. Indeed, it’s almost unimaginable that today anyone would need to cite Emma Lazarus’s sonnet on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty as a testament to what the nation has stood for, but perhaps things are just that upside down. Although Europe has a problem with uncontrollable surges of migrants, including many from Syria, the U.S. does not, nor has there been a case of Syrian extremists plotting violence here.
In fact, there is so much scrutiny of Syrian refugees that the federal bureaucracy, unprompted by any unwelcome incident, is reinvestigating several dozen Syrians who were admitted to the country even though their vetting was incomplete. (The errors were first discovered in 2015 and corrected last year.) And yet, despite that record, the Trump administration is determined to punish further the victims of the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.
Pretty much anyone but Trump might see the post-election period, when the pressure of the political horse race is gone, as a moment for American leadership. Migration threatens the viability of the European Union as well as the political stability of American allies such as Jordan, Turkey and others. Even beyond Syria, political turmoil and failing economies are driving migrants to leave their homes for safer, more prosperous countries.
The only way to deal with this genuinely global phenomenon is with a mixture of economic assistance to improve prospects in countries from which people are migrating and an international effort to apportion and resettle those who genuinely can’t go back—which would require the U.S. to resettle substantially more refugees than it was before Trump halved the number for the coming year. Of course, it’s not surprising that America’s least philanthropic billionaire—whose name is on scores of buildings used to make profits but on no university edifices, museums or concert halls—wants to pull up the ladder that so many have used over centuries to escape to a better life. And given that his “America First” slogan evidently means giving little or nothing to anyone else, it’s impossible to imagine Trump showing the farsightedness to supply urgent development assistance or to drive a solution for this catastrophe—actions that would bolster U.S. national security in the longrun.
Does it need to be said again? Great countries don’t behave this way.”
Read Ambassador Benjamin’s full article at the link.