Donald Trump’s Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals” proposes to suspend the refugee admissions program for 120 days, lower the cap of accepted refugees to 50,000, indefinitely block all Syrian refugees and ban all visitors from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. Furthermore, within the text of the executive order, Section 5.b. states that upon resumption of the refugee admissions program, it directs the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security to “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religions-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” Make no mistake, this is Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban.’ Such unabashed religious and nationality-based discrimination extolled by the Trump administration is anathema to the founding principles of our country.
Refugees are men, women and children who are fleeing their homeland because of persecution, war or violence. Half of all refugees are children. They are vulnerable populations seeking safety, stability and freedom from persecution.
To lump all refugees from Syria, and other Middle Eastern and North African countries, in with terrorists is bigoted, prejudicial and wrong. The refugees that come to the United States have gone through a rigorous 18 to 24-month vetting process initiated by the United Nations and continued by the US State Department who utilize law enforcement and intelligence databases to run thorough background checks on each refugee. They are interviewed, fingerprinted and screened via further FBI, Department of Defense and Homeland Security databases.
The toll of this ban is already apparent — not just to the refugee families who had arrived immediately after the signing of the executive order and those who’ve had their hopes and dreams dashed by now cancelled plans to resettle in the US — but the chaos and confusion shown by the disorganized rollout of the EO has been damaging to US businesses, colleges and universities, as well as our geopolitical strategy — especially in the Middle East where local interpreters have risked their lives to aid the US military in local operations. This executive order does not make us safer, but rather puts us at greater risk when we can no longer be trusted by our local translators, interpreters and other allies abroad.
While I am sincerely troubled by the Trump administration’s executive order, I am heartened by our New Paltz village and town council’s joint resolution in support of local refugee settlement. Further, I am grateful for the efforts put forth by Church World Services Poughkeepsie and the Mid-Hudson Valley Refugee Solidarity Alliance in collaboration with local churches, synagogues and other faith-based organizations, local businesses our village and town councils, as well as the faculty, students and staff at SUNY New Paltz, Vassar College and beyond to support and advocate for continued refugee resettlement within the US and the Hudson Valley.
Melissa Y. Rock