Article By: Carmen Monroe
Do NOT stop the presses.
As of this writing, legal immigrants – holders of visas – are being detained at JFK International Airport. It has become imperative to make it clear:
• Immigrants and refugees are not terrorists.
• Banning immigrants and refugees is not the same as stopping terrorists.
• Immigrants and refugees are less likely to be criminals than the average native-born person.
• Immigrants strengthen our economy.
Under the guise of protecting the country from terrorists, POTUS’ most recent controversial Executive Order bans entry to visa holders and immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days; stops entry of refugees for 120 days; suspends entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely, and demands a new screening process for entry into the US.
Detractors point out that these are Muslim-majority countries with no involvement in recent attacks on US soil, and that countries notably missing from the list are places where POTUS has business interests.
These criticisms bear scrutiny, but the fundamental lie tucked inside the order is also alarming. The very premise of the executive order in question – that it is an attempt to crack down on terrorism – belies the fact that there is already a rigorous screening process for immigrants and refugees, and widens the path to a deportation process that is already a spectre of horror among those whose lives it overshadows.
Even before a discussion of Muslim-majority countries, forgotten Syrian refugees (many of whom are children), or conflicts of interest (all major problems in their own right), there is a missing element in the conversation:
There appears to be little questioning about whether an immigration and refugee problem even exists in the United States. A lot of silence on facts about the ways this order – and too many other places to count – wrongly link legal immigrants and refugees to terrorists.
Even a cursory look into the process for admission of refugees and immigrants into the US reveals extensive logging of biometrics (that’s at least fingerprints, blood type, and iris scans); security screenings by agencies that include the FBI, State Department, and Department of Homeland Security; Interviews by USCIS; and thorough medical screenings. Throughout the process, previous parts of the screening are rechecked. If there is any doubt about someone’s lack of risk, they are denied entry.
If their application is approved, they are admitted and monitored. If they raise no flags for a year, immigrants are able to apply for a green card, which begins another set of vetting processes. To clarify the point: the process an immigrant or refugee endures before ever stepping foot on U.S. soil is already very strict.
Immigrants make up only 14% of the U.S. population (as of 2015). The U.S. accepted 85,000 refugees last year – less than a tenth of a percent of its total population, and at a time when globally almost 1 out of every 100 people are unable to return to their homes. Compared to similar numbers in European countries, the number of foreign-born citizens in the U.S. is both low, and increasing slowly.
More importantly, immigrants pay taxes, start businesses, create jobs, enlist in the military to protect our country, and everything that average American citizens do.
Couched in these Executive Orders is a language of insult, fear, and hatred. Hidden in discussions of ‘illegality’ are pockets of limbo where a traffic violation leads to the expulsion lawful residents, where due process is stripped away in immigration court proceedings, and where families who did everything right remain divided.
The 45th president makes grave assumptions about Muslims, the countries on the ban list, immigrants, and refugees. He blatantly insults intelligence agents, law enforcement officials, and military personnel who risk their lives for the level of safety evident in America, writing that “the Federal Government has failed to discharge [its] basic sovereign responsibility” in matters of immigration.
POTUS paints a picture of a country held in the grip of violent extremists and bumbling officials, then plays on sensationalized fears, laying the groundwork for an agenda of hate and harassment for those who legally seek the American dream, many of whom are among the most vulnerable people on the planet at the moment.
Executive Orders do not create new laws, but they give us a very clear look at the current Administration’s priorities, and the way it intends to carry out its agenda. Right now, the agenda is a twisted reaction to a minimal threat that promises to encourage the very problem it claims to fight.
American Immigration Council, https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/criminalization-immigration-united-states
Pew Research Center, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/10/05/key-facts-about-the-worlds-refugees/
Pew Research Center, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/10/05/u-s-admits-record-number-of-muslim-refugees-in-2016/
US Department of State, https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/immigrant-process.html
White House Archives, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2015/11/20/infographic-screening-process-refugee-entry-united-states
White House Archives, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2012/07/12/ten-ways-immigrants-help-build-and-strengthen-our-economy
James Cridland (CC BY 2.0)