“It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.” -Donald Trump to Congress
Last night, President Trump effectively laid down the gauntlet to open borders advocates and placed the onus for defending mass Islamic migration squarely on their shoulders. After all, shouldn’t we all agree, regardless of our political ideology, that we should only admit immigrants who love this country and its values and who are not just escaping Islamic sectarian strife so they can implement Shariah on our shores?
The same message Trump delivered last night should guide his political resolve to keep as much of his original immigration order intact as possible. Media outlets are now reporting that the new order will not include Iraq in the temporary moratorium. While the media seems to have a penchant for getting these reports wrong, if this is indeed true it would be a mistake.
Iraq is the poster child of dangerous immigration
By far, Iraq is the most problematic of the countries on the original list of seven countries from which Trump restricted visas. According to data I compiled from the DHS Yearbook of Immigration Statistics and the State Department’s refugee database, we have admitted roughly 123,000 immigrants from Iraq just in the seven years between 2009 and 2015 and another 13,191 refugees since January 2016 (non-refugee categories for 2016 have not been reported yet). Thus, the problem of mass migration from the Middle East is embodied more through Iraqi immigration than any other country on the list.
Moreover, the Iraqi refugee program is a prima facie threat more than any other country because we admit both radical Shiites and Sunnis so long as each can claim persecution by the other group. Iraq is saturated with Sunni and Shiite Jihadist elements, yet each group is able to claim refugee status if they can show they are persecuted based on their minority status in a given neighborhood. We have brought roughly an even amount of Sunnis and Shias in through refugee status in recent years. Ironically, radical elements of both Sunnis and Shias have been admitted to places like Bowling Green, Kentucky, and there are now stories of violence erupting between them! We have brought the sectarian problems to our shores by ironically admitting immigrants — not based on their love for our values or on account of being a persecuted minority — but based on the sectarian violence itself.
Clearly, there are those in the administration urging Trump to lay off of Iraq precisely because that is the source of more immigration than any other country in the region. But given that, by all accounts, it appears that Trump is backing down on applying the moratorium to current visa holders and is only implementing it prospectively, there is no reason to omit Iraq.
Some might suggest that a moratorium on Iraq might be problematic because of the individual contractors and interpreters who have helped our military during the war. However, the order is already written to grant discretion for officials to admit any specific individual and Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) can easily be exempted from the moratorium. Besides, not all is well with the SIV program. In fact, the poster children for reckless vetting were those two Iraqi interpreters arrested in Bowling Green for plotting a terror attack.
It's about values, not just raw terrorism
There were other recent problems with Iraqi refugees as well. Last year, Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, and Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, two Iraqi refugees of Palestinian descent, were arrested for allegedly providing material support to ISIS shortly after being graced by our “compassion.”
A highly cited report published by the Center for Immigration Studies found that no fewer than 72 individuals from the seven countries on Trump’s list were convicted of terrorism charges in the United States since the September 11 attacks. 19 of those 72 (or 26.4 percent) came from Iraq. The only other two double-digit countries in that figure were the failed states of Somalia and Yemen, which exported 20 and 19 convicted terrorists respectively.
The report is based on a 2016 Senate document outlining the extent of the threat of migrant-driven terror. Of the 580 total people convicted of terror charges in the same time frame, at least 380 of them were foreign-born.
According to court documents, Al-Jayab allegedly wrote to a friend last year that “America will not isolate me from my Islamic duty.” That is the key point. It’s not just about terrorism in itself. Over 90 percent of Muslims in Iraq support Shariah law. How many more of the 135,000+ Iraqi immigrants since 2009 or the roughly one million or so Middle Eastern immigrants since Obama took office share those same sentiments? Can anyone who loves America — liberal or conservative — really say we should allow people into this country who do not cherish our values?
Furthermore, some preliminary reports indicate that Trump will omit the provision requiring the State Department to prioritize refugees who are persecuted religious minorities. Again, this could be fake news, but such a move would fly in the face of Trump’s entire immigration agenda. The entire point of the refugee program is to bring in persecuted religious minorities instead of individuals who are simply living in miserable conditions in Third World countries or engulfed in perennial sectarian civil wars. And in fact, Section 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42)(A) of the INA requires the State Department to prioritize persecuted religious minorities.
Buttressed by his home run speech last night, Trump should not back down on his immigration plan, which is fully covered and even required by current law. If anything, he should add countries like Saudi Arabia, where we bring in up to 78,000 foreign students each year. He should demand that Congress back his policies against the courts by defunding refugee and visa programs from dangerous countries for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Now is not the time to back down; now is the time to double down.