Anyone who knows me well and/or has been following my blog probably has an inkling about how upset I am about Trump's executive order banning the admission of all refugees to the US for 120 days and banning the entry of any citizen of Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, or Iran for 90 days. This move is both discriminatory and downright mean-spirited. Can you imagine having fled your homeland, having spent years in limbo, finally having the chance to settle somewhere, and then having that yanked away from you at the last minute? Even the circumstances that are less extreme are painful to contemplate. As an American who has both studied and worked abroad, I can only imagine how disruptive it would have been to my life if one of my host countries had suddenly decided not to let any more Americans in when I was on the cusp of moving there.
If we're serious as a nation about keeping people safe and saving lives, we have some pretty obvious places to start that don't involve discrimination based on national origin: deaths from car accidents (more than 32,000 in 2013), firearm deaths (over 33,000 in 2014), and opioid overdoses (over 33,000 in 2015).
The idea of discriminating based on nationality is ridiculous to begin with. People are people the world over. I have traveled quite a bit and have met wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) people everywhere I have gone. But I could say the same thing for people in the United States. In fact, I distinctly remember some very notorious homegrown terrorists who were not Muslim: the Unabomber, Timothy McVeigh, and Eric Rudolph all come to mind. Can you imagine if American-born white men had come under additional scrutiny because all three of those domestic terrorists were all white men? Or if we had just declared a moratorium on people having children since our society had raised all three of them?
To be clear, I am against having any sort of list that discriminates against certain nationalities. But I could also poke plenty of holes in the list of seven countries that has been chosen. If we are interested in looking at past terrorist performance on US soil by nationality, let's consider the 9/11 attacks. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Notice that Saudi Arabia is not on the list of seven countries. Again, I don't want to discriminate against the Saudis, either, but I find this fact interesting.
Here's another interesting hole: I think Americans are most worried about ISIS and al-Qaida when they worry about foreign terrorism. Both of those terrorist groups are Sunni, while Iran, a member of the list of seven, is predominantly Shiite. I would be interested to know why it made the list, aside from general feelings some people have that it is a "problem" nation.
Nicholas Kristof has wonderful column today in which he discusses previous instances of fear-mongering against different groups of people in the US and his father's experience coming to the US. It is useful to remember that we are a nation of immigrants and that at some point in the past, someone took a chance and allowed our families in.