Sands of Time

All Shook Up . . . and no time better to work it out

Here we are in February with our month’s lifeskill, Time Management. Wow! January was quite the month. With all the cabinet and appointment confirmation hearings getting done and more to come, where do you even begin in this month?

For this article, I will leave confirmation hearings aside for now and will come back to our nation’s healthcare reform/replace/repeal odyssey in the month ahead. At this moment though, it seems not only our nation but the globe is “all shook up” over President Trump’s Executive Order (EO) to restrict US travel for seven (7) muslin-majority countries for the next 90 days to allow for more extreme vetting (EO, January 27, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/27/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states).

These seven countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. According to Pew Research Center, there are 49 Muslim-majority countries in the world, representing 74% of the world Muslim population. Even since 1995 under President Clinton, these seven countries named in Executive Orders and other governmental announcements are definitely not new to the ongoing watch list and travel restrictions placed on them over the past several decades (view President’s Clinton’s 1995 State of the Union address). Also, under the Obama administration, these countries were named in a Department of Homeland Security announcement , Further Travel Restrictions for the Visa Waiver Program, on February 18, 2016.

The Obama Administration was continuing its implementation of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 with the addition of Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as three “countries of concern”, limiting Visa Waiver Program travel for certain individuals who have traveled to these countries. This step made February 2016 to add these countries involved a “. . . series of actions over the past 15 months to strengthen the security of the Visa Waiver Program and ensure the Program’s requirements are commensurate with the growing threat from foreign terrorist fighters, many of whom are nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries.”

So, it seems President Trump is actually following much of what Obama, Bush, and Clinton had been doing for years. Yes, each administration modified the way they conducted themselves, either to further restrict or to ease travel in and out of the US. For some, Trump’s EO is considered much broader in scope and affect, attempting to do a more thorough vetting. The difference supposedly between this new EO and Obama’s efforts was the 2015 law did not entirely ban travel to the United States or admission into the United States from those countries. It seems Trump wants a tighter rein on the vetting at least for these seven countries.

In terms of people being affected, Trump claims only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. And the airport problem was a Delta computer outage. According to Daniel Bush, Fact checking Trump’s new immigration order (PBS, January 30, 2017), “The American Civil Liberties Union estimated that between 100 and 200 people were immediately impacted by the order. The New York Times reported that 173 people overseas were blocked from boarding planes to the US . . . According to CNN, at least 170 people with green cards were admitted into the U.S. through Sunday afternoon.”

It seems the numbers are still quite small in spite of the outcry and protesting going on. Is it possible to look at some of the words in a section of the official purpose (Section 1) of Trump’s Executive Order and gain a constructive view? I hope so.

Section 1: “The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans. And while the visa-issuance process was reviewed and amended after the September 11 attacks to better detect would-be terrorists from receiving visas, these measures did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States.”

In addition, Trump included this protection clause in Section 1 (note the words in the last sentence, which some say is a first for an EO): “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.”

 

My hope here is we all can keep this in perspective with the many administrations that have been trying to keep us safe while insuring and reassuring those in our country with a visa or other documentation. Yet, for so many how can you reconcile so much upheaval and misinformation being thrown around? If I were to summarize possible reasons I would say it was first a messy mix between the way this administration handled presenting it over time to authorities across the nation and world, along with the way it was put out to the news.
Much of the media itself is also more than just culpable for fear and uncertainty as they did their “cut-away” and inflammatory reporting, incorrectly calling it a “muslin ban.” Then add the political battering going on fueling our passions. I guess it all depends on what camp we are loyal to, where we get our “news,” and how we filter what we believe.

Again, my hope here is that, no matter what camp we are in, we can calm down from being “all shook up.” Let’s take some time to work it out as things unfold and are put into historical, not political, perspective. Can we free ourselves from the extreme passions of our own “camp” and find the solid ground where we can move forward together? Let’s continue to work it out. Ok?