An Unnecessary and Harmful Ban
Customs agents at Dulles forced lawful permanent U.S. residents to give up their green cards this weekend [bold mine-DL], according to a complaint filed Monday in federal court in Alexandria. Tareq Aqel Mohammed Aziz and Ammar Aqel Mohammed Aziz were flying from Yemen to the United States. Both had been granted immigrant visas because their father, who lives in Flint, Mich., is a U.S. citizen.
When they arrived at Dulles Saturday morning, the Aziz brothers were handcuffed and their immigration paperwork was seized, according to the complaint.
They were given documents to sign and allegedly told that if they did not, they would be removed from the United States and barred from coming back for five years. They were not allowed to see attorneys.
Under pressure, their attorneys said, they signed documents they did not understand, giving up their American visas, and agents stamped “cancelled” on those visas. Attorneys are asking for their visas to be returned, the forms they signed to be invalidated and for them to be returned to the United States.
Attorneys said they believe it is possible that many of 50 to 60 other legal permanent residents at Dulles were likewise tricked into giving up their status there [bold mine-DL]. The lawyers said they hope to learn the identities of those individuals through the discovery process.
The Aziz brothers were compelled to buy tickets, at their own expense, for a flight back to Ethiopia, and when they arrived, their passports were confiscated, leaving them in limbo [bold mine-DL].
It is bad enough that these men and others like them were so shamefully mistreated, but the truly obnoxious part is that there is no good reason for the ban that led to this mistreatment. I would call Trump’s order an absurd overreaction, but that would concede that it was dealing with a real security problem. As many people have pointed out over the last few days, it isn’t doing any such thing. The people caught up in the ban don’t pose any threat, and in many cases like the one described above they had already gone through the proper process to be permitted entry and to reside in the country. This wasn’t just heavy-handed enforcement, but was exactly what the order said and what it was intended to do.
Here is another story of how the unnecessary order is causing pointless hardship:
Hager said he was returning home with his family that included his sick mom. They were returning home to the United States where his mother has lived since 1995. As they were waiting in line at the airport in Iraq on Friday, he was told that he could pass through because he was a U.S. citizen. But his family members – including his mom – weren’t allowed, despite holding green cards.
“They destroyed us. I went with my family, I came back by myself. They destroyed our family,” Hager said.
Hager was born in Iraq and fled during the Gulf War. He lived in a refugee camp with his family for four years before settling in the United States. In the 2000s, he returned to Iraq where he worked as a contractor for the United States armed forces between 2003 and 2008 as an interpreter and cultural advisor. He even survived being shot in the back while serving.
Hager’s mother subsequently died from her illness, which might very well have been successfully treated if she had been allowed to return with him.
Obviously, no one in America is safer because this man’s mother was barred from traveling to the United States, and the same is true of the many others who have been needlessly barred entry. Many of these people are being penalized for happening to be from countries wracked by war, and yet the U.S. has been responsible to one degree or another for initiating or escalating those wars. As if helping to wreck their countries wasn’t enough, our government now penalizes them again solely on the basis of their nationality. Iran is the most stable country included as part of the ban, and doesn’t suffer from the same ravages of jihadist groups as many others do, so the banning of Iranians is just petty and vindictive.
Proponents of ill-advised and destructive policies typically don’t want their policies judged by what they do, but prefer that they be judged by what they intended. But if a policy does more harm than good, inflicts pointless hardship on innocent people, and is countering a grossly exaggerated or non-existent threat, it doesn’t matter what the intentions of its authors were. It is still a bad and unnecessary policy, and it should be rescinded as soon as possible.
Update: The Detroit Fox affiliate that reported the Hager story has found that his claim regarding the timing of his mother’s death was false and has corrected their story. That doesn’t change my larger point, but I regret passing on bad information and will do my best to avoid doing so in the future.