The U.S. refugee resettlement program has been a source of far more angry rhetoric than facts in recent years, and President Donald Trump’s executive order Friday, Jan. 27, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” only inflames the situation.
That order bars any citizen of seven predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — from entering the United States for 90 days, suspends the refugee resettlement program for 120 days, and stops the acceptance of Syrian refugees until further notice.
The chaos that ensued at U.S. airports in the first 24 hours after the executive order’s signing caused the United States global embarrassment.
Legal immigrants with green cards who were not new to the United States but had traveled abroad were detained when they tried to re-enter the country. Visitors, new immigrants and refugees who had done everything required by U.S. law and had begun their trips earlier in the week also were stopped, the victims of rules being changed midjourney. Citizens of the seven banned nations reportedly were removed from U.S.-bound planes.
Protests popped up at airports where people were detained, including Hartsfield-Jackson. A federal judge quickly issued a temporary order to prevent those held at airports from being sent back to their home countries but did not say they had to be admitted to the United States.
We hope the Trump administration learns a lesson about the foolishness of instituting such a sweeping order with immediate effect and without proper implementation instructions for the agencies charged with enforcing it.
We also hope that the administration not only clarifies or revises the order so that it doesn’t apply to legal permanent residents of the United States, but also never again acts against people who have made it through the lengthy, expensive process of legal immigration to this country. While illegal immigration and the future of illegal immigrants are areas for legitimate debate, those issues must not cause harm to legal immigrants, who are inarguably one of the sources of this nation’s greatness.
We are most concerned, however, about the refugee portion of this executive order because the president has so much control over the resettlement program and because this action adds to the “alternative facts” involved. It is a myth that refugees lack thorough vetting, just as it is untrue that their numbers are overwhelming social services (private agencies provide the necessary support) or that terrorists are infiltrating the nation as fake refugees (no cases have happened in the United States, where bad actors can get across our porous borders in many easier ways than pretending to be refugees).
Trump’s decision to cap the number of refugees at 50,000 a year is disappointing at a time when the world has a record refugee population. But the total is in line with the numbers admitted annually until President Barack Obama doubled the cap for fiscal 2016 in response to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean.
We wonder, however, whether Trump has any intention of resuming refugee resettlement after the 120-day moratorium. The rationale for the suspension is to review and toughen the security screening procedures for refugees. But the vetting process already takes years, involves individual interviews and checks against all government and law enforcement databases, and was enhanced in 2008.
The executive order is addressing a nonexistent security flaw. It’s an action that endangers lives and undermines our moral standing for no reason, and it’s a worrisome sign of a president who takes too much pleasure in wielding power and not enough in protecting our individual liberties.