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Editorial

Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB

02/01/2017

Abbot Peter NovecoskyTrump creates controversy

President Donald Trump continues to make waves, and to dominate the news, with his almost-daily executive orders. Most of them are issued to fulfil campaign promises, and most of them are changing the order of business in America.

In addition, his decisions are sparking large protests not only in the United States but around the world.

His Jan. 27 executive order to restrict the entry of all citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries into the U.S. brought a large outcry of opposition from Catholic leaders across the U.S. It also created a state of confusion for officials at airports and elsewhere who are in charge of deciding who can now be allowed to immigrate to the U.S.

The Protection of the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and bans entry from citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia for 90 days. It also establishes a religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.

Giving priority to Christian refugees, however, is opposed by religious leaders in the Middle East.

It would be “a trap” that discriminates and fuels religious tensions in the Middle East, said Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic patriarch. “Every reception policy that discriminates (among) the persecuted and suffering on religious grounds ultimately harms the Christians of the East,” said Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad. He added that any preferential treatment based on religion provides the kind of arguments used by those who propagate “propaganda and prejudice that attack native Christian communities of the Middle East as ‘foreign bodies’ ” or as groups that are “supported and defended by western powers.”

“These discriminating choices,” he said, “create and feed tensions with our Muslim fellow citizens.”

Commenting on the effects of the presidential memorandum locally, Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., said the order erodes the United States’ commitment to the protection of refugees, weakens America’s security and harms its standing in the international community. “At a time when war and persecution have driven more people to flee in search of safety than any other time in modern history, we need to protect refugees rather than reject them out of misplaced fear,” she said in a press release from Silver Spring, Maryland.

Among other effects, she said, the order would halt the refugee resettlement program for 120 days, reduce by more than half the number of refugees resettled in 2017 to 50,000, suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees and suspend immigration from several Muslim majority countries.

“Operating out of fear does not serve the nation’s interests,” she commented. “In fact, refugee resettlement serves the nation’s security interests. In addition to intellect, ambition, and an ethic of hard work, refugees often bring language and cultural skills needed by our national security agencies.”

The refugee resettlement process includes extensive security checks performed by the Department of defence, the FBI, the National Counterterrorism centre, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, she pointed out.

Trump says he wants to end terrorism, not help it spread. Hopefully, saner heads will prevail in his administration.