World

At best, 'Muslim ban' is irrational reaction

Is Trump simply mistaken about risk posed by refugees or is it discrimination?

WASHINGTON: Ms Farah Marcolla's life has been upended by the stroke of US President Donald Trump's pen.

The US government hired the Iraqi citizen to manage construction projects on a Baghdad military base during the Iraq War. Her husband, bodyguard and driver were killed in retaliation for her work with the Americans.

In 2012, after 4½ years of waiting, Ms Marcolla and her two sons came to the US on a special immigrant visa for US-affiliated Iraqis.

But her parents and two sisters in Iraq are still awaiting approval. And now she worries they will never get to safety.

"Now all of a sudden, why is my family a national security threat?" asked Ms Marcolla, a green card holder.

They were vetted before working for the US military in Iraq, and Ms Marcolla had to pass multiple background checks and security clearances before she finally got her US visa. Her family's case illustrates the absurdity of the perceived threat posed by refugees and immigrants.

The executive order - which entails a 120-day suspension of entry for all refugees and indefinite suspension for Syrians; a 90-day entry ban for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen; and extra screening for green card holders with dual nationality from those countries - makes little sense.

Mr Trump's measures will do little to make the US safer.

The unintended consequences could seriously harm the US by damaging diplomatic relations, lending fodder to US enemies, or inviting retaliation.

In reality, this is about politics, not security.

Numerous studies show one's chances of being killed in an immigrant-linked extremist attack in the US are infinitesimal. The libertarian Cato Institute found that the likelihood of an American perishing at the hands of a foreign militant on US soil is one in 3.6 million.

The chance of being killed by an extremist refugee is even smaller: one in 3.64 billion.

Nearly all deaths from immigrant-linked extremist attacks through 2015 - 98.6 per cent - come from a single event: Sept 11. According to another report, Muslim-American extremists killed 54 people last year - and the majority died in one horrific attack: the June mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub.

By comparison, nearly 12,000 Americans die in gun homicides yearly.

There is a reason for the low fatality rates. The US immigrant and refugee vetting system works, and it is already extreme. Experts across the spectrum, from refugee-rights activists to current and former government officials, have said Mr Trump's order on immigration does little to combat terrorism.

Mr Jonathan Schanzer, vice-president for research at the conservative Foundation for Defence of Democracies and a former terrorism finance analyst for the US Treasury Department, noted that the Trump administration has so far not addressed the root causes of the refugee crisis: long and overlapping wars in the Middle East.

The order has already drawn global backlash. Iraq has asked Mr Trump to "reconsider" the travel ban following calls from its parliament to retaliate by barring American citizens from entering their country.

At best, Mr Trump's order is an enormous, irrational overreaction to the actual risk posed by refugees and immigrants to the US. It directly feeds into the fears extremists hope to spread through their attacks.

And at worst, it is a thinly veiled attempt to fulfil his discriminatory campaign promise of a "Muslim ban". - REUTERS

Tania Karas is a freelance 
journalist reporting on 
refugees, migration policy 
and human rights.

middle eastunited statesRefugee