By Miriam Raftery, Editor, East County Magazine
Hear our interview for KNSJ Radio by clicking the audio link
February 1, 2017(San Diego) – To learn the impacts of President Donald Trump’s executive action restricting refugee s’ entry into the United States, we interviewed International Rescue Committee Executive Director David Murphy and Kathi Anderson, Executive Director at Survivors of Torture.
The order has created “fear for a lot of people” in San Diego, long a welcoming haven for refugees starting with the airlifts of Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s, says Murphy. San Diego County takes in 3 to 4 percent of all the refugees accepted into the U.S. each year.
“Globally, 65 million people have been displaced,” said Murphy. All were forced to flee their homelands due to war, persecution, or other dire circumstances. They cannot go home. Most are living in refugee camps, including many families with children.
The narrative tying refugees to terrorist acts in the U.S. is "false" says Murphy, who notes the vetting process is extensive--and proven effective. Of the 800,000 refugees admitted to the U.S. since September 11, 2001, the l number of refugees who have committed terrorist acts here is zero.
The vast majority of terror acts in the U.S. have been committed by non-Muslims. The couple of cases involving Muslims, such as in Boston and San Bernadino, were not refugees, but people who were born in the U.S. or came here by other means, without the several years of vetting that refugees undergo before they are admitted here (unlike in Euorpe, where some migrated without vetting.)
In recent years, the U.S. had taken in 70,000 refugees a year and in 2016, 85,000 were admitted. Currently, 60,000 of those have been vetted and approved to come to the U.S., which had agreed to take in 110,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017. Trump has now slashed that to just 50,000---and imposed a four month moratorium on refugees from all around the world.
That’s in addition to the 90-day travel ban on people from 7 Muslim nations (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—an abrupt halt that also saw many legal residents from those nations with green cards detained at airports and in some cases, deported. Multilple lawsuits have been filed challenging the order as unconstitutional, but for now, Murphy offers this advice:
- If you have a green card and you are from one of the seven countries included in the travel ban, do not leave the U.S. because you may not be allowed to return.
- If you are a refugee and you have been in the U.S. for a year, apply for a green card.
- If you’re a refugee and you have been in the U.S. for five years, you are eligible for citizenship (unlike other immigrants who must wait seven years). You should take the classes and apply for citizenship.
Of those 110,000 refugees slated to come to the U.S. this year before Trump’s executive order, San Diego County was preparing to admit 3,500 to 4,000 refugees.
“The fabric of America is built upon refugees and immigrants . We cannot forget that, and we should not abandon people in their hour of need,” says Murphy, who notes that many have lost family, businesses and homes, fleeing violence to start over and build new lives in America, long a beacon of hope for the world.
Anderson says that of all the refugees in the U.S., 44% of them have been tortured. “There are 35,000 torture survivors in San Diego County,” she says.
Now, she reports, many of her clients who have endured terrible traumas are once again suffering due to Trump’s order. Many are asking for added counseling services and are worried about their futures and the safety of family members who have not yet been able to join them in America.
“This week that we have been living with our clients has been one of the most shameful weeks that we have ever experienced," Anderson concludes, adding,"This week has not represented the American values that all of us were taught in school, that we hold dear—and we are greatly concerned, not just for the future of our clients, but for the future of our country.”