Tagged: Refugees

“Give me your tired, your poor . . .I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

New Yorker Cover Statue of LibertyTorch Going Out

I’m utterly horrified and disturbed by so many things right now. (It’s kind of hard to turn in any particular direction and not note something else going down the shitter, whether it be education, or the environment, or protestors’ rights (see my post from Friday).) But right now, IN THIS MOMENT, I am truly heartbroken by the shocking lack of empathy being shown to refugees and immigrants. I’m actually so appalled that I don’t know how to properly characterize it. It feels like such a gross betrayal of all of the better human attributes and is such a showing of unapologetic hypocrisy that I’m a little at a loss.

If you’re not Native American, this is directed at you. If you’ve ever called the refusal of refugees during WWII a “tragedy,” this is directed at you. If you call yourself a Christian, this is directed at you. If you are a United States citizen who is anti-immigrant and anti-refugee and yet still take pride in the Statue of Liberty and our national anthem, this is directed at you. If you are PRO-LIFE, you’d better believe that this is directed at you.

If you read this and you feel uncomfortable, good. I feel uncomfortable writing it. I feel uncomfortable that in 2017, in a globally connected world, we still somehow can’t stop ourselves from being prejudiced assholes who can see pictures of and read articles about drowned children and tormented parents and still say “Don’t come here.” I feel uncomfortable that we compare immigrants and refugees to a bowl of skittles that has a poisoned candy hidden in it. I feel uncomfortable that we rely on the back-breaking labor of immigrants from Mexico and South American countries for our goddamned produce and still say “Get them out of here.” (I’m sorry, did you want that job? You don’t even want to pay people working at McDonald’s a living wage.) And I feel REALLY uncomfortable that almost all of us are the children of immigrants and refugees ourselves, many [most] of whom were treated horribly upon their arrival to this country, and yet some of us still can’t gain enough perspective to find kindness for the new generations.

[And it’s not just in the US; we’re in terrific company. /s Did you know that in Paris, police are teargasing refugees? They’re stealing the refugees’ blankets in freezing weather. They are telling them to get out. These are people who have fled war, who have lost family members, who have lost everything, and the cruelty with which they are being treated is staggering.]

Pull it together, America. Stop celebrating Executive Orders that close our borders. Stop celebrating when ICE deports a mother who has been in this country for 21 years. Start finding your empathy.

  1. If you are not Native American, you come from immigrant stock. Period. Your family didn’t start out as “American.” They were something else, from somewhere else. Your people came here to find opportunity, to flee persecution, to create a life, and when they got here, they did not “belong” the way that you think you do now. And it’s very likely that they were also treated like dirt. Irish? Italian? Didn’t want them. Chinese? Only if they’re doing slave labor out on the West Coast. Hispanic? Absolutely not. (Reminds me, Ted Cruz being anti-immigration is just the epitome of that nonsensical American privilege.) And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a richness in diversity and this country is fast-tracking towards impoverishment.
  2. We have a history of paying lip-service to diversity and then turning around and slamming the doors. We refused entry to Jews fleeing the Nazis during World War II, relegating many of them to concentration camps and death. That is on our heads. We rounded-up Japanese-Americans and put them in internment camps, despite knowing that they posed no threat. And perhaps we don’t want to be reminded of our hypocrisy – of being the “invader other” – and that’s why we have all but wiped out this land’s indigenous peoples (and the ones who are left live in poverty and are dealing with pipelines they don’t want being built across their land). In history, there has only been one time when the immigrants brought death and destruction to our shores, and it was when those invaders were white Europeans, at the birth of our country.
  3. If you consider yourself a Christian and you follow the teachings of Jesus (and actually, those in the Old Testament, too) and you’re anti-refugee, I don’t know what to tell you, I really don’t, other than you’re side-stepping some pretty important parts of the religion. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, biblical stories are FULL OF OUTSIDERS COMING INTO A NEW PLACE and either being treated like crap (which is frowned upon) or by being helped (which is applauded). Like, are you trying to be the Pharaoh? Pro-tip: NOBODY likes him. He’s the bad guy. There’s Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 – “When the stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the stranger.  The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.” IT REALLY CAN’T GET CLEARER THAN THAT, YOU GUYS. Deuteronomy also is in on the action and fairly repetitive: “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.  You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” 10:18-19. The Book of Jeremiah says “Do no wrong or violence to the stranger.” THERE IS SO MUCH OF THIS. Then you have Jesus who WAS a refugee (a Middle-Eastern one, by the way). “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in.” Matthew 25:35. And Romans 12:13 identifies the mark of the true Christian: “…Extend hospitality to strangers…” For heaven’s sake. The Pope has tried to hammer this home, too. If you consider yourself a Christian, and you don’t want immigrants or refugees entering our country, you’re not a terrific Christian. It really is that simple.
  4. “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” That’s all I have to say there. There isn’t an asterisk on Emma Lazarus’s poem that qualifies the message like “except if you’re poor, non-white, non-Christian, and don’t speak English, then you can’t come in here.” I can pull apart the national anthem, too, but it’s pretty easy to see that “land of the free and home of the brave” is kind of inapplicable when you’re too stingy and afraid to welcome newcomers.
  5. If you’re pro-life and you’re only fighting for a cell cluster but not fighting for the lives of disadvantaged children everywhere, you’re not actually pro-life. You are pro-restricting women. You are pro-punishing women for having sex. But if you are turning your back on refugees and their families, if you are being vehemently NIMBY about immigrants, then you are not pro-life. If you are complicit with the United States’ activities that have led to the upheaval in and destruction of Syria but are unwilling to show compassion to those who have suffered from it, you are not pro-life.

If you are anti-refugee and anti-immigrant, you are lacking in empathy and compassion. You are deeply un-American with respect to the lofty ideals this country likes to tout about diversity, tolerance, and being a melting pot. (Although you are likely a true American in the sense that our history is full of bigotry, prejudice, exclusivity, and racism.) If you identify as Christian, you are missing core Christian values, and the label “pro-life” cannot apply to you. You may be scared of the unknown. Many of us are. I hate the unknown. I get weird and anxious about it. But the trick to dealing with that sort of fear is education, not hate and not prejudice. It’s diving in, not avoiding.

The United States of America is really hurting my heart right now. I’d like to think we can do better. We need to do better. The more divisive we are, the more we breed hatred. (There’s a reason ISIS celebrated Trump’s EO.) We can do better, America. Let’s do better.

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Gentle reminder that it takes refugees 18 months to 2 years to get a toe onto US soil.

**PSA: Refugees already undergo VERY RIGOROUS screening.**

Recently, there’s been some [apparent] confusion about the process refugees go through to enter the United States. Here’s the breakdown, step by step, of what a refugee has to do before she can enter the United States as a refugee. (The process can take YEARS – it isn’t some slap-dash, hop-on-a-plane, here-I-am chain of events.) Obviously, this is a list that does not include the nitty-gritty of each step. I’ve included some sources below if you’re interested in reading up on the particulars.

(1) Register with the United Nations;
(2) *Interview* with the United Nations;
(3) Be granted refugee status by the United Nations;
(4) A referral for resettlement in the United States (this involves the UN making an active decision to send someone to the US. Only the most vulnerable people are referred and this number accounts for less than ONE PERCENT of refugees worldwide);
(5) Interview with the State Department;
(6) Go through a background check;
(7) Additional, higher-level, more rigorous background check for some;
(8) Second/Third background check, depending on whether the higher-level check was done (refugee’s name is run through law enforcement and intelligence databases for terrorist/criminal history. The third background check began in 2008 for Iraqis but has since been expanded to all refugees ages 14-65).
(9) FINGERPRINT screening, photo taken;
(10) SECOND fingerprint screening;
(11) THIRD fingerprint screening (the fingerprints are screened against FBI and Homeland Security databases, which have watchlist information, past immigration encounters (including whether the refugee had previously applied for a visa at a US embassy). They are also checked against fingerprints collected by the Department of Defense during operations in Iraq);
(12) The case is then reviewed at US immigration headquarters;
(13) Some cases are then referred for additional review (Syrian refugees, for example, must undergo two additional steps: Each application is reviewed by a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services refugee specialist. Then, cases with “national security indicators” are given to the Homeland Security Department’s fraud detection unit);
(14) Extensive, IN-PERSON interview with a Homeland Security officer;
(15) Homeland Security must give its approval;
(16) Screening for contagious diseases;
(17) Cultural orientation classes;
(18) Matched with an American resettlement agency;
(19) A MULTI-AGENCY SECURITY CHECK before leaving for the United States (this is due to the long amount of time between the refugee’s initial screening and departure, JUST IN CASE anything has cropped up in the interim);
(20) A final security check at an American airport.

If you think refugees are coming over here carte blanche, you need to think again.

Sources:

What’s in Trump’s Executive Order…What’s an Executive Order?

[Of note: this post was originally a Facebook thing I made on January 29 – news stories are up to date as of THEN. I have not gone through and added/amended, but I am including it here as a reference point for the post that follows.]

HERE IS WHAT FOLLOWS: (1) An overview of executive orders generally; (2) a brief summary of Trump’s immigration/refugee executive order; (3) recent developments; and (4) a more in-depth breakdown of exactly WHAT the order says, section by section. This post is a NOVEL; I’m sorry. There was a lot of important information to wade through. Cheers to anyone who makes it through it!

(1) First of all, to get a handle on all of this, it helps to understand some background on what a presidential executive order is and how it functions.

  • There is no Constitutional provision or statute that explicitly provides for or creates executive orders.
  • However, the Constitution instructs the president to “take Care that the Law be faithfully executed” in Article II, Section 3, Clause 5, and typically, most executive orders are rooted in this Constitutional reasoning as the authorization for their issuance as part of the President’s sworn duties.
  • The idea behind this is that executive orders are meant to help the direct officers of the U.S. Executive carry out their delegated duties, in addition to carrying out the normal operations of the federal government.
  • Executive orders MUST be Constitutional – they must be grounded in either a clause that grants the president a specific power OR in a delegation of power by Congress to the President.
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the most executive orders at a whopping 3,522. Most recently, Obama issued 279 during his eight-year tenure (by far not a contender for most issued); Trump has issued 4 as of today, January 29, 2017. (Per the Federal Register’s website.)
  • The Supreme Court may overturn executive orders, as may Congress by (1) passing legislation that invalidates it or (2) refusing to provide funding necessary to carry out the order. The President has the power to veto.
  • However, Congress may also override the veto of legislation invalidating an executive order by means of a 2/3 majority vote.
  • Executive orders require no action by Congress in order to take effect.

(2) The content of Trump’s executive order, titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States”: It has eleven sections and, as I think we all know at this point, it bars all people hailing from seven countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) from entering the US for at least 90 days. Additionally, the order has stopped the admission of ALL refugees into the US for four months. Finally, it calls for a review into suspending the Visa Interview Waiver Program for travelers from 38 countries, including close allies. IT ALSO:

  • Lays the groundwork for a database;
  • Contains language that suggests the prioritization of Christian refugees;
  • Indefinitely prohibits all Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., period;
  • Caps refugees entering the U.S. at 50,000;
  • Implements a biometric entry-exit tracking system;
  • • Sets up some seriously creepy information collection and publication of foreign nationals in the U.S. – like what crimes immigrants commit

(3) Some important takeaways –

None of the countries whose citizens have actually be responsible for terrorism on U.S. soil have been banned. Do with that what you will, but also please note that they also happen to be countries with which Trump has strong business ties. Do with THAT what you will. (http://www.npr.org/…/trumps-immigration-freeze-omits-those-…)

Further, refugees coming into this country undergo an INCREDIBLY rigorous screening process and to argue otherwise is to side-step documented fact. (https://www.nytimes.com/…/why-it-takes-two-years-for-syrian…; http://time.com/4116619/syrian-refugees-screening-process/; http://www.usatoday.com/…/syrian-refugees-trump-e…/97043442/; https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/…/infographic-screenin…; http://www.politico.com/…/i-went-through-americas-extreme-v…)

The Pope is calling us out, HARDCORE. (http://usuncut.com/…/pope-francis-cannot-reject-refugees-c…/)

Protests are erupting at airports around the country. (http://www.usatoday.com/…/protests-erupt-us-airpo…/97201416/)

Several Federal judges have issued a stay on the executive order, due to constitutional concerns, but the Department of Homeland Security appears to be ignoring this, in flagrant violation of the law. (http://www.cnn.com/…/2-iraqis-file-lawsuit-after-being-det…/; http://www.businessinsider.com/a-federal-judge-issued-a-sta…; http://www.npr.org/…/arrivals-to-u-s-blocked-and-detained-a…; https://www.dhs.gov/…/department-homeland-security-response…

John McCain and Lindsey Graham are not having it. (http://www.mccain.senate.gov/publ…/index.cfm/press-releases…)

And now it looks like Department of Homeland Security is backing up a bit… Keep fighting! It has an effect. (http://thehill.com/…/316790-kelly-entry-of-lawful-permanent…)

Two Philly-area Republican Representatives have broken with the rank and file and come out against the ban. Word is, they’re catching a lot of flack from the Republican leadership. We should all be applauding them. (http://www.philly.com/…/Two-Philly-area-Republicans-break-w…)

The ACLU is booming. “From Saturday to late Sunday more than 290,000 donors had sent the ACLU $19 million—the organizations typical annual average is $3 million. That figure, as well as the growth in membership, was “unprecedented,” according to Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s executive director.” (https://www.theatlantic.com/…/todays-news-ja…/514865/14273/…)

(4) TRUMP’S EXECUTIVE ORDER UNPACKED

THE SECTIONS (I’m summarizing, I suggest reading the full text of the order if you’d like to get it in its full form – http://www.cnn.com/…/text-of-trump-executive-order-nation-…/; https://www.nytimes.com/…/annotating-trump-immigration-refu… – annotation)

SECTION 1: Lays out the purpose of the order. Specifically, it discusses the threat of terror from foreign nationals and further suggests that terrorists will pretend to be refugees in order to infiltrate the country (more on this later). It also states, “In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”

SECTION 2: Defines the underlying policy: “It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States; and to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes.”

SECTION 3: Suspends the issuance of visas and other immigration benefits to “nationals of countries of particular concern.” This section gives instruction to the Department of Homeland Security and bans the entry of people from the seven countries listed above for 90 days. It also states that the Secretary of Homeland Security may submit the names of additional countries whose people should be treated similarly.

SECTION 4: Implements uniform screening standards for all immigration programs. Specifically, “the development of a uniform screening standard and procedure, such as in-person interviews; a database of identity documents proffered by applicants to ensure that duplicate documents are not used by multiple applicants; amended application forms that include questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent; a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be; a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest; and a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.” **If this sounds like an allusion to a database, it is.**

SECTION 5: Suspends the U.S. Refugee Admittance Program for 120 days. Applicants already mid-process may be admitted after completion of revised procedures (which are to be determined by the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security). After 120 days, “the Secretary of State shall resume USRAP admissions only for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have jointly determined that such additional procedures are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.” ALSO:

  • Secretaries of State and Homeland Security are to prioritize refugee claims made on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in that individual’s country of nationality. **If this sounds like a way to prioritize Christian refugees, you are correct.**
  • Syrian refugees are prohibited from coming to the U.S. until Trump says otherwise.
  • No more than 50,000 refugees may under the U.S. until Trump says otherwise.

SECTION 6: Suggests that the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security rescind the exercises of authority in Section 212 of the INA relating to terrorism grounds of inadmissibility. (I’m digging to try to figure out what this means, as the Immigration and Nationalities Act already prohibits those with terrorist ties/past from entering the US.)

SECTION 7: Orders the Secretary of Homeland Security to expedite a BIOMETRIC ENTRY-EXIT TRACKING SYSTEM for all travelers to the U.S., and to submit reports to the President.

SECTION 8: Suspends the Visa Interview Waiver Program indefinitely.

SECTION 9: Order Secretary of State to make sure that immigrants’ home countries have reciprocity with the US in terms of a visa’s validity period and fees. If they don’t, then the US will adjust its visa validity period/fee schedule/treatment to match that of the foreign country.

SECTION 10: Order information collection and publication on:

  • Number of foreign nationals in U.S. who have (a) been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the U.S.; (b) removed from the U.S. based on terrorism activity, affiliation, or material support to a terrorism-related organization; or (c) ANY OTHER NATIONAL SECURITY REASONS since the date of the order.
  • Information on the number of foreign nationals in the U.S. who have been radicalized/engaged in terrorism-related activities, provided support to terrorism-related organizations.
  • Information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including honor killings, in the U.S. by foreign nationals.
  • ANY OTHER INFORMATION (how vague) relevant to public safety and security as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, INCLUDING INFORMATION ON THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF FOREIGN NATIONALS CHARGED WITH MAJOR OFFENSES.

SECTION 11: Lays out the parameters of the law of the order.