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Fecteau: Reconsider the Ban on Syrian Refugees

Monday, January 30, 2017


Call me an idealist, but I believe the United States should embrace inclusiveness and acceptance at every turn. Our country is the most innovative in the world because of the diversity we’ve come to embrace. Sadly, we’ve appeared to have lost that as of late. I am upset to say we’ve turned our backs on many of the qualities that make the United States such a tolerant, innovative country. 

This is exemplified by President Donald J. Trump’s latest executive action on refugees. Trump recently signed an executive order entitled "Protection of The Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into The United States." This action stops refugees from predominantly Muslim countries coming to the United States for 120 days and suspends Syrian refugee indefinitely. Some of the countries that are banned, such as Iraq, are working with American troops to crush the so-called Islamic State. 

Mr. Trump explained these executive orders were "To ensure the sacrifices of our military are supported by the actions of our government." I am deeply offended a President who never served his country would strive to erode the values our country holds so precious by citing our veterans as a justification. This action only weakens our country’s diversity at a time when innovation is needed more than ever.  

This questionable policy shift amounts to failing those most in need, at a time of crisis. Since the war in Syria began, half a million people have been killed, and millions more displaced. The Syrian regime has employed chemical agents against thousands. 

While Islamic terrorism has received considerable publicity as of late, the danger from Muslim extremists on American soil is relatively insignificant. According to a University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill study, in 2016, out of around three million Muslims in the United States, merely 46 Muslim Americans attacks were related to terrorism at home or aboard. Furthermore, Muslim terrorism makes up only one-third of a percent of the killings in America. 

What killed most people you should ask? In 2016, over 11,000 American lives were lost because of gun violence not linked to terrorism. You hear nothing uttered about gun violence, do you? It is easy to let intolerance prey on our fears, but our priorities aren’t on par with reality. 

Muslim terrorism should be a consideration, but not the top priority. Some have cited the Islamic State-inspired terrorist attacks across Europe as a reason to be worried. Unlike in Europe, the United States already vets refugees thoroughly before arrival. This is why Trump’s refugee decision is so baffling. We already have extreme vetting in place, which is why less than 1% of refugees are resettled in the United States. 

For those that support the refugee ban, I ask you to please think if the situation were reversed. What if your family was in limbo, starving, hoping for a better life? Trump’s executive actions attempt to unweave the diverse fabric that makes our country great – something Mr. Trump so aspires us to be, again.  

Many look to America as a light of hope in a cruel world. Mr. Trump changed that with the stroke of a pen, turning his back on those who need us most.   


Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) of Pawtucket, Rhode Island was a Democratic candidate for office in 2014 and 2016. He is a former White House national security intern and Iraq war veteran. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewFecteau


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