On Friday, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that said it was designed “to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.” (Read the full text.)
That sounds great: Who wants to let terrorists in, after all?
Trump’s order prevents people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—all countries that are predominantly Muslim—from entering the United States of America.
So who are the people from those seven countries? Why would they leave their homes and trying to come here? Are they terrorists?
First, people from those seven countries aren’t committing terrorism in the United States: “Since 9/11, no one has been killed in this country in a terrorist attack by anyone who emigrated from any of the seven countries,” the director of Syracuse University College of Law’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism told Politifact. The Orlando shooter, for example, was born in the United States.
Trump’s order also prevented 500,000 permanent, legal United States residents from coming home.
One person affected by Trump’s action is a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic who’s in the U.S. on a visa, and went to visit family in Saudi Arabia—a country not affected by the ban (even though that’s where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from) but because her passport is from Sudan, was forced to leave the country. Read her story.
Who are refugees from Syria, Sudan, and elsewhere?
So if people from those countries aren’t committing terrorism in the United States, who are they? Why are people fleeing and settling in Europe and the United States? Who are these refugees?
Let’s meet a few of them—no politics, just people.
At the end of last year, Frontline aired Exodus, a two-hour documentary that spends time with five people, three of whom are from Syria, one of the countries affected by Trump’s ban. It primarily uses cell phone video and interviews, allowing them to tell their stories—and for us to spend time with them in the moment.
Its director, James Bluemel, said in an interview:
“People have lazy and fearful assumptions about things. That’s not a criticism of anyone, that’s just how we view the world. That’s how the world is often fed to us. And the news is part of that, and the news does scale incredibly well. You watch as thousands of people walk down a road, and the assumption is that this mass of people are going to come and they’re going to live next door to you.
What was missing in the dialogue of the way in which the refugee crisis was reported were the human stories. If someone can watch this film and relate to the person they’re seeing, feel empathy for that person, and by the end of it — no matter what you felt about the refugee crisis — if you’re rooting for that person to succeed, then you’ll reassess your thoughts. That was the hope of the film.
It’s important to unmask and humanize, and remind people that this is a human tragedy.”
If you can’t watch the entire thing right now, at least spend six and a half minutes with an English teacher from Syria named Hassan, who experienced this: