The President’s Muslim ban makes us less safe

Last week, our president signed an executive order banning immigrants from several Muslim majority countries from entering the United States including thousands of Syrians seeking asylum from the hellacious conditions of civil war. This policy is unsafe, unlawful, uninformed and un-American.

President Trump’s order wrongly vilifies a group of people on the basis of their religion and nationality and jeopardizes our nation’s ability to lead the world with moral clarity. Our nation is one built and made better by the contributions of immigrants. I strongly believe that our nation has a moral duty to care for the “least of these” among us, words inscribed in the words of Matthew 25 in the Bible, when Jesus asks, “When I was a stranger in your land, did you take me in?” That Golden Rule is shared, in one form or another, by every major religion around the world.

On Sunday, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester and I joined thousands of people at Philadelphia International Airport to send a message to the world that immigrants of all religions are welcome in America and will always be welcome in the First State. On Monday, I joined many of my colleagues in Congress at the steps of the Supreme Court.

For the last four years, I have served as the senior Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. In this role, I was charged with oversight of the Department of Homeland Security – the federal agency tasked with securing our borders and ports of entry, including our airports. I know well the rigorous process already in place that refugees go through to gain entry into the United States. This includes multiple assessments, first starting at the United Nations to winnow down the pool of refugees. Once the pool is narrowed, U.S. officials conduct extensive vetting based on biometric data, criminal history checks and screening against terrorist databases, as well as a face-to-face interview and health screening. All this happens well before any of these applicants ever set foot on U.S. soil. On average, this process takes a year and a half. That’s a long time to wait and a lot of hurdles that a member of ISIS or anyone seeking to do us harm would have to clear if they were going to try to use the refugee program to get to the United States.

On Monday morning, I joined my Democratic colleagues on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in sending a letter to John Kelly, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, urging him to postpone implementation of the executive order until its full implications for refugees, immigrants, and legal permanent U.S. residents, could be fully reviewed. Early this week, I attended a briefing with DHS officials to question them personally about the harmful impacts of these orders and to make sure they are complying with the many court orders that have been issued. In the days since, I have spoken by phone with the Acting head of Customs and Border Protection for an update on their continued actions. I will continue to scrutinize the implementation of the President’s executive action and ensure that the Department of Homeland Security is following the law.

Discriminating against a group of people on the basis of their religion or nationality is not just un-American, it is unsafe. Those most affected by the President’s actions are families, mothers with young children, sons and daughters trying to reach their loved ones who are already here, and those desperately fleeing for their lives. To turn away these people at our doorstep hurts our alliances with countries on the front lines of the war against ISIS – most of whom are majority Muslim. Actions such as this, born out of fear more than a security strategy, only fuel ISIS’s propaganda machine and support its narrative that the West is waging a war against Islam.

There is so much wrong with this executive order. This policy is hurting universities, it’s hurting businesses, it’s hurting families and it’s hurting people who need our help the most. It’s also damaging our relationships with our Muslim communities here at home who work with law enforcement every day to report suspicious activity and insulate themselves from ISIS’s siren song.

This is not the best way to protect Americans. We can fortify our refugee and immigrant vetting process and keep Americans safe without categorically denying safe haven for those who need our help the most. I joined my colleagues on legislation to defund the executive order, as well as legislation to nullify the executive order. I won’t stop fighting until this executive order is defeated once and for all.