President Trump’s executive order halting refugees from entering the United States for 120 days has been attacked as un-American and unfathomable by protestors who have made it clear that, as far as they’re concerned, refugees are welcome in the United States.
But it’s hard to take these protestors seriously when, five years ago, President Obama similarly banned refugees from a specific Muslim country due to security concerns – and back then, the left didn’t seem to mind much.
In 2013, an ABC News investigation made a startling discovery: a terrorist who had built IEDs in Iraq to kill U.S. troops had used the refugee program to move to the United States in 2009. Despite the vetting process, he made it through and moved to Kentucky.
After an intelligence tip, the FBI launched an investigation and Waad Ramadan Alwan was finally apprehended in 2011 in an undercover sting. (You can read the whole remarkable story here.) But the terrifying revelation prompted the government to look into just how flawed the process at the time was:
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many more than that,” said House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul. “And these are trained terrorists in the art of bombmaking that are inside the United States; and quite frankly, from a homeland security perspective, that really concerns me.”
Here’s where it gets interesting. During the subsequent investigation, while the vetting process was under review, the State Department quietly stopped processing Iraq refugee applications for six months, even for those who had assisted U.S. forces:
As a result of the Kentucky case, the State Department stopped processing Iraq refugees for six months in 2011, federal officials told ABC News – even for many who had heroically helped U.S. forces as interpreters and intelligence assets. One Iraqi who had aided American troops was assassinated before his refugee application could be processed, because of the immigration delays, two U.S. officials said.
There is little daylight between Obama’s 2011 refugee ban and Trump’s. Obama’s ban targeted a Muslim-majority nation; Trump’s targets seven (a list formed by Obama, by the way.) Obama’s ban was prompted by concerns that terrorists in Iraq could use the program to infiltrate the United States; Trump’s ban was prompted by concerns that terrorists in these seven countries could use the program to infiltrate the United States. Obama’s ban was put in place while the vetting process went under review; Trump’s is designed to do the same thing.
Here’s one key difference, though: Obama’s six month ban was actually longer than Trump’s, which only lasts 120 days.
Obama’s 2011 policy may have been justified, or it may have been overzealous – either way, it didn’t send protestors pouring into the streets. No one was slamming Obama as un-American for putting American security interests ahead of foreign refugees.
Which begs the question: are these protestors genuinely concerned about refugees? Or are they more concerned about using this issue as a wedge to oppose Trump?