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Trump’s Muslim Ban Is An Embarrassment To This Country

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Trump’s Muslim Ban Is An Embarrassment To This Country

Muslim-American women fight Trump to save our country

I have never been more embarrassed for this country.

Under the rubric of protecting Americans from terrorism, the Trump regime last week banned travel into the United States by people from seven majority-Muslim nations. And never mind that experts, including the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank, say the combined U.S. death toll in terrorist attacks from citizens of those nations is zero since 1975.

Trump’s ban created predictable chaos around the world. Watching the stranded travelers and bewildered families, I kept wishing I could apologize to those whose lives, careers, and plans were thrown into needless turmoil because a minority of American voters chose to invest a fear-mongering man-baby with the awesome powers of the presidency.

That includes Nisrin Omer, a Sudanese woman who has lived in the United States since 1993. She told the New York Times she was handcuffed, searched, and interrogated for five hours as she returned from Sudan, where she was doing research for a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

It also includes Sarvin Haghighi, an Iranian woman who wound up stranded in Australia after visiting family there. Her husband, a U.S. citizen named Andrew Culley, told Al-Jazeera she was first admitted to this country only after three and a half years of vetting by the Department of Homeland Security.

Most of all, I wished I could apologize to Hameed Khalid Darwish, a 59-year old Iraqi man who was handcuffed and spent nearly 19 hours in detention at Kennedy Airport. Over 10 years, Darwish — at grave risk to himself and his family — worked with U.S. military personnel in Iraq as a translator and contractor. For a man who put himself on the line to further American interests and safeguard American lives to be treated like that upon arriving on American soil is shabby beyond belief. Of course, shabbiness is a hallmark of the new regime.

The one heartening thing in this is that the detentions sparked such a great outcry, with mass protests erupting at airports across the country. Taken in conjunction with the Women’s March that brought huge numbers to Washington a week and a half ago and inspired echoes across the country and around the world, it seems not unreasonable to hope that we are seeing the birth of a mass movement here.

It’s darn well about time. Over the last 25 years, as conservatism has mutated from a respectable ideology to a cult of perpetual lunacy, progressivism has been marked by an often milquetoast unwillingness to fight for its own values. The tea party organized, demonstrated, and became a force in Congress. Progressives wrote think pieces, shared snarky tweets, and complained.

These were people whose forebears once took to the streets to stand down racism, sexism, imperialism, and homophobia. Now — especially in Congress — they were people who were routinely left standing with their figurative pants yanked down around their metaphorical ankles.

Well, progressives need to stop taking boxing gloves to a knife fight. What is at stake here is not any one ideology, but reason itself, decency itself. A muscular and consistent resistance is required now. Pray God, that’s what is taking shape.

Darwish, by the way, went free Saturday after lawyers filed a writ of habeas corpus. “America is the land of freedom,” he told reporters after his detention. “… America is the greatest nation, the greatest people in the world.”

He spoke without irony. He meant it from his heart.

And that may have been the most embarrassing thing of all.

IMAGE: People participate in a protest against President Donald Trump’s travel ban at Columbia University in New York City, U.S. January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/File Photo

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. Independent1 February 2, 2017

    What’s the most frustrating and damning thing about the immigration ban is that Bannon who most likely wrote it, is too ignorant to even realize that any refugee or immigrant who reaches an airport in America has been vetted almost every way possible in order to have gotten to be in an airport or port in America. So that reviewing the existing process, is nothing but nonsensical idiocy; something that could have been easily accomplished without disrupting the lives of thousands of immigrant families by simply having someone come to the White House and explain the process – clearly something too intelligent and rational for anyone currently working at the WH to have understood.

    See this from an article in the Bangor Daily News describing the process by someone who has been involved in vetting refugees/immigrants for years:

    Refugees are already vigorously vetted. I know because I vetted them.

    Whoever wrote this order is evidently not aware that these screenings, procedures and questions already exist.

    The process for any citizen of a Middle Eastern or majority Muslim country to get into the U.S. is tortuous and has become more so every year for the past 15 years, with additional screenings, interviews and other background checks. When I started, Homeland Security officers interviewed four Syrian or Iraqi refugee cases per day; they now interview only two per day to accommodate the range of questions and additional checks that have been added to the process. While the averagewait time for refugee resettlement is 18 to 24 months, Iraqis and Syrians typically wait several years.

    The process starts with the United Nations’ refugee agency. The U.N. conducts a series of interviews and screenings, including home country reference checks and a biological screening such as iris scans. Then U.N. has to decide if a case is suitable for resettlement and which country an applicant can apply to. (Out of more than 65 million refugees worldwide, about 0.01 percent were resettled to the U.S. last year.)
    Another international organization assists with resettlement processing by collecting documents and conducting more interviews with the families, looking carefully for discrepancies. By the time Homeland Security steps in to conduct an interview, the
    officer already has a stack of biographical information on the refugee. Ironically, Iraqis, Syrians and Iranians, who are all now barred from entering the U.S., are far and away the most well-documented refugees we interview. I typically had to review a stack of high school degrees, baptismal certificates, marriage and birth certificates, honors and awards, photos with U.S. service personnel, recommendations from
    American military members, and conscription booklets or cards, which every man in those countries had to carry. Since the U.S. has been in Iraq for more than 10 years, the government has a plethora of information on Iraqis — in many cases, terrorists, criminals and persecutors are recognizable and denied.

    For much more on the vetting process go here:


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