As an Iraqi-American, I would like to comment on both allegations through my own experience of coming to America as a refugee more than four decades ago. But first let me mention some facts.
The United States of America is a sovereign country and the world’s superpower. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, illustrated how radical Islamic terrorism is the clear and present danger facing America.
Mr. Trump has no one to apologize to for his immigration doctrine for the simple reason that coming to America is not a right but a privilege, a privilege that is earned by waiting in line for however long it may take to reach America. Americans are therefore consoled by his position that the fundamental duty of the government is protecting Americans from all enemies foreign or domestic by maximally securing the homeland’s borders and, if necessary, also by extremely vetting certain individuals.
In 1973, I left Iraq for Lebanon ultimately wanting to seek political asylum in the U.S., as Saddam Hussein was rising to power in Iraq. While in Lebanon, the Civil War started and tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians got stuck for years, enduring unemployment, poverty and dangers of war. Yet most refugees were thankful to stay in Lebanon while tolerating such conditions for the purpose of reaching America. Most of us waited not for three months but for three years; I know a family who waited 15 years. Ultimately it all paid off when in 1976 the U.S. resettled these Iraqi refugees in the land of the free and home of the brave.
Being delayed as a refugee is not a new thing. All the previous administrations, since President Carter, delayed numerous refugees and migrants not only for months but also for years. If Americans really believed that coming to America was a universal human right, I assure you that by now the U.S. population might have reached 3 billion, instead of only 325 million.
Lady Liberty has stood tall for decades both representing American values and welcoming immigrants and refugees to America. But, if America is to accomplish her historic vocation by offering her values to newcomers, she must first herself be safe, prosperous and stable. No nation can offer its citizens that which she does not possess.
If America needs to build a wall and vet refugees, then it must be so. If a simple house is to be secured, doesn’t the owner of the house lock the doors at night? What happens if thieves know the door is unlocked? Open borders and easygoing immigration policies are what could inflict the U.S. with the fire that has been burning in the Middle East for centuries. American politicians cannot play with such fire because the losers will be the American people everywhere. Even Bashar Assad, the president of Syria, said recently that there definitely are terrorists who sneak into asylum countries from Syria pretending to be refugees. Securing the U.S. border and vetting refugees brings no damage to Americans in any sense of the word. Today’s Europe is a good lesson to America.
This executive order is applied to refugees coming from those seven countries, whether Muslim, Christian or Jew. This is not a Muslim ban; especially because 90 percent of the world’s Muslims are not included.
If the experience of terrorism on 9/11 was caused by Chinese people, the ban would have been imposed on China; if it were South Americans coming from South America, the ban would have been on South American nations; again, if it were Africans coming from Africa, the ban would have been on African countries. But it is an established fact that since the mid-1990s almost all terrorists were radical Muslim jihadists from the Middle East. More importantly, the seven countries are nations presently undergoing internal wars and have lost bureaucratic control of their populations rendering American consulates unable to check the background of refugees, verify and properly vet every claim made to come to America; jihadists cannot be slipping in our land.
In caring for America’s safety, I am not against refugees, since I was one myself. Being prudent about security and caring for human rights are not mutually exclusive. America shall remain the land of the free and home of the brave, as long as she is secure and safe.
Soro is a bishop with St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Church in El Cajon.