On Friday, January 28, 2017, President Donald J. Trump made a monumental blunder by blocking all immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries and halting the flow of all refugees into the United States for 120 days. According to Trump, these policies will protect American citizens from Islamic terrorism. In reality, Trump’s executive order will damage the reputation of the United States abroad and alienate the world’s Muslim community of over one billion, causing immeasurable harm to American security.
The United States prides itself on being a hospitable country where people of all ethnicities and affiliations have a chance to thrive. By banning immigration from a handful of Muslim nations, Trump has undermined the values which America claims to stand for. Though the administration claims its ban is not religious but rather anti-terror, Trump’s decision to place seven majority-Muslim countries on the blacklist certainly has religious connotations. Further, the ban has a clause suggesting that members of “minority religions” in the blacklisted nations be allowed entry. Essentially, this enables Christians and Jews from the seven banned nations to immigrate, while barring Muslims. Such a move is not only immoral but also threatens America’s security by undermining the nation’s image abroad. In order to hunt terrorists, enforce the law, and gather intelligence, the US is constantly cooperating with allies worldwide. By enacting xenophobic and widely-condemned policies, Trump has jeopardized America’s reputation, which lessens the willingness of foreign informants and governments to assist the US.
The immigration ban will damage relations with two countries in particular: Iraq and Iran. Iraq is an American ally whose soldiers and citizens fight tirelessly against ISIS. By banning Iraqi citizens from entering the US, Trump has disrespected the people who tackle Islamic terror on a daily basis. As a result of the ban, America’s counterterror operations in Iraq will be debased and American soldiers in Iraq may be targeted more intensely. Iran, for its part, has elected a relatively moderate president, and relations were improving to the point where Iran’s nuclear program could be suppressed diplomatically. Instead of continuing to work with Iran, Trump has chosen to validate Iranians’ fears that America is their enemy. It would not be surprising if Iran were to increase its militant activities and beef up its military pursuits in the wake of Trump’s immigration ban.
Trump’s order also halts the acceptance of all refugees for 120 days. To the citizens of countries which have absorbed millions of refugees, such as Turkey, this decision implies that the US is not willing to shoulder its share of the relocation burden. It also threatens America’s image as a beacon of prosperity and safety for the world’s displaced, a reputation America obtained by opening its arms to the world’s displaced and persecuted.
Proponents argue that the ban could save multitudes of lives. However, it does not appear that Trump’s executive action will reduce terror attacks at all. Immigrants from the seven nations Trump blacklisted, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, are not particularly likely to become terrorists. In fact, the grand total of deaths caused by terrorists from the seven banned nations since 1975 is zero. The majority of Islamic terrorists hail from other nations, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which are not included in the ban. For this reason, Trump’s characterization of the ban as “anti-terror” has little merit.
Rather than reducing deaths to terrorist attacks, Trump’s actions will likely have the opposite effect. Islamic terror thrives on the notion that America is “the enemy.” When America shows compassion towards Muslims, Islamic terrorists have difficulty convincing people to fight the US. When America shows animosity and hatred towards Muslims, it is easy for groups such as ISIS to find recruits for their “jihad.” American Muslims, many of whom are now separated from their friends and families by the ban, will feel persecuted and resentful, driving them into the arms of radical recruiters and likely increasing terrorist activities in the United States.
Of course, ensuring domestic security should be a priority of every administration. Unfortunately, Trump’s executive order will have the opposite effect. By harming America’s reputation and banning immigration from Muslim nations which do not present a significant threat, Trump has dealt a serious and lasting blow to America’s security.