I’ve written about this at length in the past, but it’s hard to avoid having to discuss it again as Donald Trump and his apologists keep arguing that the only goal of the new president’s executive order is to keep America safe and thoroughly vet those coming into the United States.
Refugees, they say, are pouring over the border without going through a tough screening process to ensure the safety of the American people.
As Mr. Trump would say: Wrong!
For terrorists hoping to come to the U.S. quickly and easily, going through the refugee vetting process would be the last route they’d take – it’s incredibly stringent and takes up to two years to even be completed.
As the New York Times pointed out in a 2015 report:
Syrians must pass many layers of security checks before being admitted to the United States, a process that can take two years or longer. In most cases, the refugees do not enter the United States until the very end. They are also subject to an additional layer of checks beyond those for refugees of other nationalities; after the Paris attacks, the House voted to further tighten screening procedures.
The Times noted that there are 20 steps refugees must complete in order to be allowed on American soil. While the normal refugee processing time spans anywhere from 18-24 months, those from Syria often take significantly longer, as CNN pointed out in 2015.
Which is why this tweet from Trump posted on Monday is particularly bizarre and reflects just how little the new president knows about his own country’s vetting procedures:
If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the "bad" would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad "dudes" out there!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2017
Even if terrorists posing as refugees wanted to “rush into our country,” they wouldn’t be able to because of the existing vetting process, which is exhaustive and effectively weeds out militants before the toughest part of the screening even begins.
It should also be noted that, of those who do eventually pass the thorough screening and are approved for resettlement abroad, they are the most vulnerable refugees, like torture victims or medically needy families. The vast majority of them are women and children.
According to USA TODAY, citing data from the State Department, nearly 80 percent of the thousands of refugees admitted to the U.S. are women and children, while a 2015 report from TIME notes that only 2 percent of those allowed are “single males of combat age.”
Despite Trump’s fear mongering, there is no flood of ISIS fighters coming across our border. This was campaign rhetoric meant to scare enough voters into thinking there was a widespread problem – brown people from faraway places – that only he could stop.
In reality, the screening procedures currently in place – the procedures Trump has no knowledge of – already ensure that those coming into the United States via the refugee program are among the most thoroughly vetted people in the world.
And it’s clear the process has worked.
So not only is Trump’s ban largely symbolic, but it’ll shut out some of the most vulnerable people in the world and tarnish America’s image abroad. Worse, it’s already being used as a recruiting tool for ISIS-affiliated organizations.
Donald Trump’s executive order targeting refugees and Muslims seeks to solve a problem that doesn’t exist – and it’s already making America less safe.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.