An Open Letter to the President

A lot of people are upset about Trump’s executive orders to build a wall between the US and Mexico and to bar refugees from predominantly Muslim countries torn apart by war. I’m one of them. I’d like to share the words of our President in his most recent order banning refugees and compare those words to the facts we know from research. Then I’m going to a share a very personal perspective on why I’m furious with the President. I have a question for anyone who reads this towards the end of this post.

“The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans.”

Fact: The terrorist who perpetrated 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Lebanon. None of those countries are a part of Trump’s executive order, and he has business ties to both Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

“And while the visa-issuance process was reviewed and amended after the September 11 attacks to better detect would-be terrorists from receiving visas, these measures did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States.”

Fact: The San Bernadine shooter was a US citizen. So was the Orlando shooter. So was the shooter at Fort Hood. And the Boston Marathon bombers. According to a former counterterrosim agent at the State Department, no act of terror has been committed by a foreign national coming into the US since 9/11, and according to the Migration Policy Institute, of the 784,000 refugees admitted during that time, only three have been found to have links to agents of terror. If you like math, that equates to 0% of admitted refugees having committed an act of terror and .000004% having links to someone responsible for acts of terror.

Trump recently gave an interview with the Christian Broadcast Network where he stated, as verified by the New York Times, that Christians in Syria were “horribly treated” and alleged that under previous administrations, “if you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible… I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.”

Fact: In the 2016 fiscal year, according to Pew Research Center nearly as many Christian refugees were admitted to the US (37,521) as Muslim refugees (38,901).

And now, for the coup de grace… “the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred.”

Fact: the President signed this order, implicitly targeting people of a certain faith to be banned from entering the US on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

During WWII, because of fears that Nazi spies would infiltrate the US this country restricted Jewish refugees from entering the country. This while they were being systematically hunted and killed by the Third Reich, because they were an “other” to be strategically blamed for the challenges of the German economy and society at-large in order for the Reich to coalesce total power of the government.

My wife’s family is Jewish. My father in-law’s father was one of Kastner’s Jews and his mother thankfully was able to flee during Kristallnacht.

Last year I went to Yad Vashem, the Jewish Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. I walked through the exhibit halls, and I walked through a history beyond anything anyone should have to comprehend. I saw miniature models that laid out how the concentration camps worked to methodically end the lives of Jewish men, women and children. I saw the very piles of shoes, coats and bags that German soldiers forced Jewish people to toss as they marched them to certain death. Not replicas, the actual garments of people whose lives were forcibly taken from them. I also saw samples of the propoganda in German media that seduced and brainwashed people to believe hateful, ignorant things about another which allowed these atrocities to take place.

A reminder of how powerfully destructive the manipulation of ignorance and fear can be (image via Jerusalem Shots)

I watched as my in-law family was overcome with emotion remembering the transgressions and trials their family faced. I found myself feeling a sadness I have never known in that moment. I found myself thinking about how blessed it is that their family — now my family — survived.

I think now, today about how many families didn’t survive because of US policy during WWII that was based upon fear and some degrees of anti-Semitic attitudes. I think now about the facts of today regarding Muslims in the US and around the world (or Latinos, for that matter) — the FACTS — and how they’re being twisted to fit a new fear, a new hate of an “other.”

What is this if not bigotry? What is this if not hatred born out of misplaced fear? What is this if not the tiniest seed of authoritarian, fascist thinking that flies in the face of American values, principles and even the words of the US Constitution?

No. This cannot stand. This must not stand. It is time for we Americans who love what our country was founded upon and has stood for across two centuries to stand up.

I will not be silent while the broadest brush is used to paint an entire people, to mislead the people of this country into making another terrible mistake that leads to a repeat trek down a dark path. “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Mr. President, this action is unfit for someone of your office. In (some of) the words of your own chief council, maybe it’s time for you to put the pen down, keep your mouth shut, educate yourself and listen to the warnings echoing from history.

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