Today we honor World Refugee Day, a day in which we acknowledge and stand with refugees, who have been forced from their homes due to war or human rights abuses. On this day, it is important to examine how the current administration has handled these refugee crises across the world – starting with the 2017 Muslim travel ban, which barred nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the country. As an intelligence and information security professional, I believe this ban is an ill-conceived policy that does not help to resolve immigration or national security challenges.
During my official government assignment in Switzerland, I met with several Libyans and Syrians who had lost their homes and loved ones due to government conflict, militant rebel insurgency, and agricultural hardships caused by climate change. Many of these refugees – entrepreneurs, diplomats, widows, and orphans – were displaced and seeking help in a time of crisis.
The United States is at war in varying degrees in four different countries in the Middle East and North Africa – Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen – as well as continuing its “longest war” in Afghanistan. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of displaced migrants in the Middle East grew from about 5 million to about 23 million. The conflict in Syria that followed 2011’s Arab Spring protests left about 2 million Syrians internally displaced by the end of 2012.
Given that immigrants from the seven countries included in the ban – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen – have not killed a single person in a terrorist act on U.S. soil over the past 16 years, the security argument is weak. This immoral, unwise, and botched travel ban on Muslim-majority nations adversely affected the primary allies of the United States, such as the Kurds in Iraq and Syria who have been instrumental in the fight against the radicals of ISIL.
The Trump administration is not the only one to introduce and implement discriminatory bans on the Muslim community. In 2004, France was the first European country to ban the burqa in public. It started with a clampdown on students in state-run schools displaying any form of a religious symbol. But in April 2011, the government went further by bringing in a total public ban on full-face veils.
In August 2018, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reported that more than one million Uighur Muslims (who are a minority group based in China’s westernmost Xinjiang region) have been detained in internment camps and were allegedly undergoing “re-education” programs. With the implementation of the Muslim ban, however, the U.S. lost any claim to respecting human rights and warmed our seat at the table besides the likes of authoritarian China. Despite the administration’s current strained relationship with China, the ban demonstrates U.S.-China alignment, which is to isolate and detain humans of the Islamic faith.
In a 2017 press release, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Helotes) noted the implication the “Muslim Ban” would have on the safety of American troops in the banned countries, the massive effect it would have on trust and relations between the United States and its allies, and how it would help terrorists gain sympathy and recruit fighters. Essentially, fewer nations will want to work with us, fewer will trust our word, and even fewer still will want to fight alongside us if and when we need them.
I encourage our U.S. representatives to sign the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Non-immigrants Act (NO BAN Act). The NO BAN Act would immediately rescind the Muslim ban, refugee ban, and asylum ban, ending these discriminatory orders and abuses of authority by the Trump administration.
The scope of the NO BAN Act includes important changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by outlawing discrimination in the entry of immigrants or non-immigrants based on religion. The bill would further protect against discrimination based on race, sex, nationality, place of birth, and place of residence already in place.
As a proud native Texan and an American, I am encouraging Congressman Hurd to rally his supporters and peers to vote to repeal the Muslim ban. As both Congressman Hurd and I were taught, the U.S. government recruits the best and the brightest to be the sharp tip of the spear for freedom, truth, and national security. Repealing the Muslim ban is a moment when we have to be the sharp tip of the spear and stand up for those that cannot defend themselves.