Cow.ar.dice: (-is) – n – Lack of courage; esp., shamefully excessive fear of danger, difficulty, suffering, etc. In one line Webster succinctly sums up what the Trump administration thinks of us. How else would you explain the reflexive action of banning desperate, war ravaged people, many of whom are women and children, from entry into the United States? Their only offense being that they are escaping a part of the world that is unraveling in a frenzy of political and religious intransigence.
So who are these people and why are they so unwelcome in this immigrant nation? The first part of the question is easy. They are people coming from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Yes these seven countries were identified by President Obama as places of concern, just not quite in the way the Trump administration has characterized. And yes these countries had nothing to do with 911 or the subsequent attacks in the United States. But I don’t want this to devolve into accusations about who said what and which countries are more terrorist prone than others. I want to stay focused on why we, in the person of our President, feel compelled to ban anyone coming from these countries.
That leads to the second part of the question. Why ban people who are fleeing an intolerable situation? Again the answer seems pretty obvious. We don’t want to let anyone in that would do us harm. That’s not cowardice; that’s just common sense. So what’s the issue here? Why are people risking frostbite on local street corners to protest the travel/Muslim ban? (Full disclosure: I’ve been one of those frostbitten folks in the recent past and intend to be again.)
Originally the TSA was stopping anyone coming from the seven countries, visa or not, green card or not. No one got in. Students going to graduate school couldn’t get in. People who had been living here legally for years couldn’t get in. People who had risked their lives and the lives of their families by helping American forces couldn’t get in. And why couldn’t those people get in? Because someone in the crowd might be harboring ill intentions. The thought was that someone might get through. Someone might get us, and so to avoid getting got, everyone has to be barred from entry. Now we’re starting to walk down the dark halls of cowardice.
Lets look at the conditions someone has to meet before being granted access to the USA. They have to present a passport and or visa, or be coming from a country where we have a visa waiver program, like France or England. If you are a Canadian citizen you don’t need a visa at all, but you still need a passport. And if you are coming from the seven aforementioned countries, you don’t get in, and then you do get in, and then you don’t get in again, and then you do get in maybe.
In addition, the bar for entry is set pretty high if you are from the Middle East. It can take up to two years and involves multiple background checks from multiple agencies. That process has been in place since the last administration and seems extreme enough to me.
If you’re a refugee fleeing a war zone you probably won’t take the time to stop by the American consulate for a face to face. That’s something you can deal with when and if you reach a safe place.
My point is we have a robust process in place now so an outright ban on countries that have not contributed to terror attacks on us seems a little too extreme. Particularly when you consider the situation these people are trying to escape.
This is not to say that letting refugees in from that part of the world does not pose a certain amount of risk. But when weighed against the humanitarian crisis we are all facing, that risk seems acceptable.
The last time I checked, the American people are not inclined to cowering behind walls, physical or bureaucratic. We are not a people that frets too much about possible tragedy. On the contrary, we tend to take adversity in stride and come out stronger in the process.
The people of Syria, and Yemen, and Libya, etc. are enduring social conditions we can’t imagine. They are being forced onto a world that is increasingly unwelcoming. It is cowardice to turn your back on those thousands of people in need after they’ve been “extremely” vetted because of the possibility that one or two malefactors might get through. We are not that country.
Could someone slip through and end up detonating a bomb in a mall? Yes they could. Could someone drive a truck through a crowd of people? Again the answer is yes. Are we willing to take those risks to save the lives of literally tens of thousands of men, women, and children. I would like to think the answer is, once again, yes.