My grandchildren’s other grandfather, Johannes, just arrived this week to meet his newest grandson, Oliver. Lucky for him, Johannes is a German citizen. Had he been a refugee awaiting resettlement into the US, or a citizen of Iran or Somalia, he might not have been able to hold Oliver in his arms. The US government might not have issued him a visa because the Trump administration does not regard the relationship between a grandparent and grandchild as “bona fide.”
The supposed purpose of the US government’s travel ban on nationals of six Muslim-majority countries and suspension of refugee resettlement is to block potential security threats from entering the country while the Administration reviews its security screening.
But not a single one of the 2.8 million refugees admitted to the United States since 1980, nor any national of any the six-named countries, has ever committed a fatal terrorist attack on US soil.
But who cares?
At this point, it is hard to see how the travel ban itself has any “bona fide” connection to national security. In the six months since Trump first signed an executive order barring entry, his administration has had ample time to review security screening. There’s no evidence that it has been in much of a hurry to get that supposedly urgent work done. As cited by an appeals court when it upheld a suspension of Trump’s order, a draft Department of Homeland Security report written two weeks before the order was issued said that citizenship “is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity”.
And with respect to refugees, those admitted to the United States are more thoroughly screened than any of the 181 million visitors and immigrants who enter the country every year. Each refugee undergoes multiple interviews, biometric Interpol checks, as well as medical exams – a process that usually takes about two years. The slightest cause for concern stops the process in its tracks and the person is not admitted.
This week, the Trump Administration reached the annual cap of 50,000 it has sought to impose on refugee admissions this year, and said that no further refugees without “bona fide” connections will be admitted under the resettlement program. Pity the refugees who believed the United States would offer them a lifeline; and pity those who have just one simple wish: to hold their US grandchild in their arms.