As many of you know, I’m an immigrant. My parents and I came here as refugees from the Soviet Union in 1980, so this weekend’s Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” hits close to home.
First of all, let’s get something straight: this isn’t anything new. President Obama in 2011 all but halted visas for Iraqis after two Iraqi immigrants were arrested in Kentucky on suspicion of terrorist ties. Further back, the Chinese Exclusion Act was the first piece of American legislation meant to prevent a specific ethnic group from entering the United States. The left’s Patron Deity of Statist Assery FDR in 1942 turned away hundreds of desperate Jewish refugees on the SS Drottningholm, claiming they were a threat to national security.
It’s a shitty history, but I don’t see the pearl-clutching condemners of Trump’s recent Executive Order mentioning it in their current outrage about the halt to immigration.
There’s some good analysis here, although I’m loath to ascribe malevolence to this order, as the author of the blog does. When analyzing any piece of information it is inadvisable to make an assessment on the state of mind of the subject, unless it’s blatantly obvious. It is not here. The text of the Executive Order says nothing about Islam or Muslims, and 45’s calls for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” provide context into one possible motivation. Alternatively, he could be just keeping a campaign promise, or trying to examine what is needed to improve our visa system before he allows any more refugees into the country. It does not necessarily imply malevolence.
To be sure, the executive order does not say anything as crass as: “Sec. 14. Burdening Muslim Lives to Make Political Point.” It doesn’t need to. There’s simply no reason in reading it to ignore everything Trump said during the campaign, during which he repeatedly called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
So, no, I’m not going to assess malice, where so little evidence for it exists.
Additionally, despite the screeching about Muslim countries where Trump has business interests not being included in the ban, the logic behind including the countries it did include is a bit more complex than that. The list of countries enumerated in the EO was apparently based on one signed into law by the former Obama administration in late 2015. The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act was part of an omnibus spending bill, and the ACLU and NIAC Action — the sister organization of the National Iranian American Council — both opposed the act, which passed despite their protestations.
That said, the author of the blog is correct in that it should be worrisome that the EO, which usually undergoes a rigorous interagency process to ensure it is correctly written and reduce any chance of the order being misinterpreted in any way, was not coordinated with the relevant agencies.
I will leave it to others to make the hefty assessments about the efficacy of the new EO. I’m not an expert on border security, but there’s a part of me that wonders how the hell green card holders, who have already been living and working in this country without problems, all of a sudden represent a threat to national security.
I will say this, however. As an immigrant, I remember how grateful, how honored we were to enter this country! We were vetted – meticulously so – given the fact that we entered this country at the height of the Cold War from a nation that was the primary national security threat to the United States. We waited around in Italy, filling out paperwork and our backgrounds being investigated for more than a month. And the debriefings continued months and months after we crossed the border into the country.
Being allowed into America was always a privilege for us. It was an honor, and we worked hard to pay this country back for its kindness, its freedoms, and the opportunities it afforded us to work, achieve, and succeed. We were willing to do everything possible to be allowed to enter, stay, and ultimately become citizens.
Our first apartment in Brooklyn, NY was smelly and roach infested. No matter how much the building management sprayed, the roaches were everywhere. I woke up in the middle of the night once to get some milk, walked into the kitchen, turned on the light, and found my hand was covered in cockroaches. We raided trash on our neighbors’ curbs for clothing and furniture. The public school I attended had me in a class of 40 kids with no ESL classes, so I sat there day after day, not understanding a word of what was being taught.
Maybe I’m crazy, but there seems to be a certain amount of entitlement to today’s refugees. They expect to be processed quickly, regardless of whether or not the resources exist to vet them properly. They’re entitled to benefits, assistance to needy families, housing, and Medicaid. And yet, some sue because the schools aren’t good enough. They are detained at the airport? Outrage. There’s a temporary ban placed on their entry? Outrage. It’s like they’re entitled to be here. Like they’re entitled to enter because off their plight, regardless of the threat – no matter how insignificant – to our own people.
It strikes me as a bit… presumptive. It’s like their plight gives them the right to come here. Coming here should be an ultimate honor – a privilege granted to those who are trusted to enter, not an entitlement.
Now, I really do have the utmost sympathy for refugees striving to escape violence and bloodshed. My heart bleeds for them, and I would like nothing more than to see these people safe – far away from Asad’s atrocities and Russian bombs. But at the same time, I’ve always said that need is not a claim check, and as someone who has dedicated her life to ensuring this country and her people are safe, our first priority should always be our own people.
To say that I’m torn on the topic is… well.. an understatement.
But as a former refugee, a naturalized citizen, a military veteran, and someone who took an oath to protect this country – someone who understands the desperation of abused, persecuted, and hurt people – I also have to remind myself that the security of this country should always come first.
If it doesn’t, these poor, abused people will have no country to escape to.