Rejection Based on Religion? Sad!

Art+credits+to+Divya+Agrawal%21
Art credits to Divya Agrawal!

Art credits to Divya Agrawal!

Art credits to Divya Agrawal!

Saamia Khan ‘18

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On the cold night of January 28, 2017, New Yorkers flocked to JFK International Airport with one goal: to have their voices heard. Some waved “No Ban, No Wall” posters, while others participated in chants such as “Let them in!,” referring to the detained refugees.

The New Yorkers were protesting the America’s newly enacted immigration policy. President Trump had recently signed an executive order limiting the entrance into the United States by travelers and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, sparking the large-scale peaceful demonstrations against it. The order specifically targeted Syrian refugees, who were to be “barred indefinitely” [1]. Proponents of the executive order saw it as another layer of security to prevent future terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. On the contrary, though terrorism stands as a pressing matter, banning a group of people on the basis of origin is ineffective and un-American.

The term “refugee” refers to someone fleeing persecution, war, or other terrible circumstances. In other words, refugees had no intention of uprooting their lives to move to a foreign country; unfortunate situations instead force people to leave their homeland and completely start their lives over.

For many years, Syria has been the site of a raging civil war stemming from the divide between Shia and Sunni Muslims. In fact, in trying to quell protests, the United Nations found that dictator Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against civilians [2]. Along with the threat of ISIL, ordinary citizens found themselves caught in the crossfire with the threat of death. For these reasons, many people found themselves completely dependent on the benevolence of strangers. Other countries, like Germany and Turkey, have expressed willingness to accept large amounts of refugees, and the United States should follow suit because people are in need of assistance.

Evidently, the United States does not, and should not, allow refugees entrance without a thorough vetting system. Yet, the system currently in place is incredibly rigorous, and the process takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months before a refugee can resettle [3]. After a slew of interviews, medical screenings, and security clearances, refugees might be allowed to enter. Even after the whole process is complete, refugees can be turned away on a moment’s notice.

As Ashley Yang ’17 summarizes, “Personally, I believe that as long as the U.S. uses a strong vetting system, we should still let [refugees] in because the country is built on immigrants. Statistically, it is shown that refugees actually commit crimes at a lower rate.”

In fact, according a report conducted by the Libertarian think tank Cato Institute tells a similar story: “Zero Americans have been killed by Syrian refugees in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The annual chance of an American dying in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is one in 3.6 billion” [4].

Principles like religious freedom stand as the concrete basis for our nation. Compromising our identity in the name of national security is not worth it. Instead, barring of refugees might fuel anti-American sentiment that could cause actual acts of terrorism. Vikram Kalghatgi ’17 opines, “On moral grounds, this is not justified. We shouldn’t operate under the belief that the people we are letting in are terrorists. Refugees are just like normal people, seeking a better life.” People who may have had positive views on America might reconsider these thoughts if arbitrarily turned away.

From a legal standpoint, the president of the United States has the power to direct the executive branch to enforce a certain law in the fashion that he or she details. In this case, Trump has directed immigration officials to put a hold on the entrance of people from these particular countries under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Victoria Lu ’18 details, “Executive orders are informal powers granted to the president and he or she enforces them based on his or her beliefs of what is right. However, that judgment may sometimes infringe upon the basic rights of people, as they do in this case since the refugees are refused entry on the basis of religion. This is a clear violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.”

Trump claims that his order will “protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals,” but the order can be interpreted as discriminatory [5]. Now, it is up to the legislative and judicial branches of government to test the legality and constitutionality of Trump’s order, which have already begun to nullify the order.

Banning Syrian refugees would not inhibit future terror attacks, but may instead fuel more. As Syrians continue to flee their country, America should step up to help those in need. After all, America truly is a country made up of immigrants, and refusing the entry of a certain group does not reflect the nature of our identity. As a country, it is imperative that Americans come together to practically identify the causes and solutions to terrorism. People need to assess statistics and studies before jumping to overarching conclusions that might have long-lasting effects.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/31/us/politics/trump-immigration-ban-groups.html

[2] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54795#.WNaLhBIrJE4

[3] https://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/admissions/

[4] https://www.cato.org/blog/little-national-security-benefit-trumps-executive-order-immigration

[5] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/27/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states

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