What are we so afraid of?

(Credit: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
(Credit: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)


Donald Trump says his travel ban is about keeping bad people out of the United States:

So who exactly is our president afraid of? Maybe it’s the Al Zoubi family, who fled their home in Daraa, Syria at the beginning of the civil war in their home country and spent years as refugees in Jordan before being resettled in Michigan almost two years ago:

Perhaps it’s Dr. Suha Abushamma, an internal medicine resident at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic who was forced to board a flight back to Saudi Arabia, where she was born and raised, because she carries a Sudanese passport. While Saudi Arabia isn’t included in Trump’s ban, Sudan is. If she were carrying a Saudi passport she would have breezed through.

Meanwhile, less than a third of Americans actually believe the travel ban will make them safer.

Over the weekend Trump’s surrogates were denying that the president’s executive order amounts to a Muslim ban, claiming that it’s not about religion, but about danger. So, between 1975 and 2015, just how many people have been killed by acts of terrorism committed on U.S. soil by nationals of the seven countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – named in Trump’s ban?


After pouring through reams of material from databases, media reports, court documents, and so on, Cato Institute immigration expert Alex Nowrasteh concluded:

Trump’s action “is a response to a phantom menace.” Over the last four decades, 20 out of 3.25 million refugees welcomed to the United States have been convicted of attempting or committing terrorism on U.S. soil, and only three Americans have been killed in attacks committed by refugees—all by Cuban refugees in the 1970s.

Zero Americans have been killed by Syrian refugees in a terrorist attack in the United States.

Between 1975 and 2015, the “annual chance of being murdered by somebody other than a foreign-born terrorist was 252.9 times greater than the chance of dying in a terrorist attack committed by a foreign-born terrorist,” according to Nowrasteh.

So where have foreign-born terrorists hailed from? The top-four countries, in terms of responsibility for murders, are Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon, none of which are covered by Trump’s order.

But in the face of all this misguided fear, some beacons of hope continue to shine brightly, even as the Trump administration seemingly works its hardest to extinguish the light.

It begins

trump lady liberty head
NY Daily News, Dec. 9, 2015.


Per the New York Times this morning:

President Trump on Wednesday will order the construction of a Mexican border wall — the first in a series of actions this week to crack down on immigrants and bolster national security, including slashing the number of refugees who can resettle in the United States and blocking Syrians and others from “terror prone” nations from entering, at least temporarily. …

The border wall was a signature promise of Mr. Trump’s campaign, during which he argued it is vital to gaining control over the illegal flow of immigrants into the United States.

Mr. Trump is also expected to target legal immigrants as early as this week, White House officials said, by halting a decades-old program that grants refuge to the world’s most vulnerable people as he begins the process of drastically curtailing it and enhancing screening procedures.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time the United States has turned it’s back on refugees fleeing war and genocidal brutality in the name of national security. We did it to the Jews too.

After Germany annexed Austria in March 1938 and particularly after the Kristallnacht pogroms of November 9–10, 1938, nations in western Europe and the Americas feared an influx of refugees. About 85,000 Jewish refugees (out of 120,000 Jewish emigrants) reached the United States between March 1938 and September 1939, but this level of immigration was far below the number seeking refuge. In late 1938, 125,000 applicants lined up outside US consulates hoping to obtain 27,000 visas under the existing immigration quota. By June 1939, the number of applicants had increased to over 300,000. Most visa applicants were unsuccessful. …

In a highly publicized event in May–June 1939, the United States refused to admit over 900 Jewish refugees who had sailed from Hamburg, Germany, on the St. Louis. The St. Louis appeared off the coast of Florida shortly after Cuban authorities cancelled the refugees’ transit visas and denied entry to most of the passengers, who were still waiting to receive visas to enter the United States. Denied permission to land in the United States, the ship was forced to return to Europe. … Of the 908 St. Louis passengers who returned to Europe, 254 (nearly 28 percent) are known to have died in the Holocaust. 288 passengers found refuge in Britain. Of the 620 who returned to the continent, 366 (just over 59 percent) are known to have survived the war. …

During the second half of 1941, even as unconfirmed reports of the mass murder perpetrated by the Nazis filtered to the West, the US Department of State placed even stricter limits on immigration based on national security concerns.

Have we made America great again yet?