UNTIL RECENTLY, MY Facebook page glowed with the familiar procession of birthday celebrations, exotic vacations, and delicious meals. But the shadows that began to form in November deepened to inky despair upon the issuance, and subsequent arbitrary and aggressive enforcement, of Executive Order 13769. The many refugees I’d befriended while volunteering in Greece turned to social media, crying out as tyranny’s boot crushed their modest dreams: safe and normal lives for themselves and their children.
Apologists for the Order generally rely on two arguments: that the refugee population is riddled with potential terrorists, and that our existing mechanisms for culling such individuals before admitting them into the country have failed. Both arguments are baseless, as highlighted by the many setbacks suffered by administration defenders.
On February 9th, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, admonishing the Department of Justice that the court is obliged “in time of war as well as in time of peace, to preserve unimpaired the constitutional safeguards of civil liberty,” rejected virtually every argument raised by the administration. In doing so, the court noted that “the Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.”
Researchers agree. According to a 2016 study by the CATO Institute, “including those murdered in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 […], the chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion per year.”
In other words, you are about four hundred times more likely to be executed by state or Federal authorities. You are about one thousand times more likely to die of a bee sting. Pretty much the only event less likely to kill you is the Bowling Green Massacre.
If Executive Order 13769 isn’t motivated by any legitimate concern for our safety (indeed, intelligence and diplomatic experts warn that it makes us less safe), then what is its actual purpose? I’ll leave that to you to decide. Meanwhile, tens of thousands bearing valid, legal visas have been turned away: patients seeking emergency medical care; families anticipating long-delayed reunions; students returning to American universities.
Others remain trapped. I know many refugees, each a survivor of a unique, hellish nightmare of murdered loved ones, torture and fear. But some stand out.
I met Moshe, 23, in December. (Of course, that’s not his real name. Does it matter?) He’d spent a year in a Syrian prison, during which he was repeatedly tortured. His crime? Posting a Facebook message casting aspersions on Assad. Moshe eventually escaped, joined by others fleeing for their lives across the Syrian border. One member of the group, a young woman, traveled with her two small children, one a baby. Navigating a rugged and unfamiliar mountain pass under cover of darkness, Moshe carried the infant, while the other climbed hand-in-hand with her mother.
But the path was far too treacherous for a child to conquer. Her tiny legs stumbled; she lost her grip on her mother’s hand, and slipped noiselessly into the abyss.
The slightest sound would invite lethal response by Turkish border guardsmen, Isis militia, or Syrian soldiers. Mourning would have to wait; the group, including the traumatized mother, continued on in stunned silence.
In denying sanctuary to victims of evil regimes, Executive Order 13769 is a gift from this administration to Assad, to ISIS, to Putin. Why would an American President offer such aid and comfort to our enemies?
Again, I’ll leave that to you to decide.
Jackie Menter is a non-profit fundraiser, professional cellist, and activist on behalf of refugees. She travels to Greece to volunteer in refugee camps, and continues to assist refugees from her home. As Chair of the Social Justice Initiative for The Jewish Collaborative of Orange County, she is organizing an interfaith volunteer mission to Greece this summer. Email JackieMenter@gmail.com with questions and visit JewishCollaborativeOC.org/Refugees for more info on volunteering in Greece.