'Why is my family a national security threat?'


Farah Marcolla's life has been upended by the stroke of President Donald Trump's pen.

The United States government hired the Iraqi citizen - then a young cofounder of her family's engineering firm - to manage construction projects on a Baghdad military base during the Iraq War. Her husband, bodyguard and driver were killed in retaliation for her work with the Americans. In 2012, after 4.5 years of waiting, Marcolla and her two sons came to America on a special immigrant visa for U.S.-affiliated Iraqis. But her parents and two sisters in Iraq are still awaiting approval. And now, with Iraqis included in a sweeping executive order that suspends entry into the United States by refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, she worries they'll never get to safety.

"Now all of a sudden why is my family a national security threat?" asked Marcolla, a green card holder who lives in Virginia. They were vetted before working for the U.S. military in Iraq, and Marcolla had to pass multiple background checks and security clearances before she finally got her U.S. visa. For years before Trump entered office, the rest of the family was trapped in an endless circle of bureaucratic hell called "administrative processing." They now fear they'll never escape it.

Marcolla's family's case illustrates the absurdity of the perceived threat posed by refugees and immigrants from the "banned" countries. The executive order - which entails a 120-day suspension of entry for all refugees and indefinite suspension for Syrians; a 90-day entry ban for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen; and extra screening for green card holders with dual nationality from those countries - makes little sense, given that there have been no fatalities in the United States caused by extremists with family backgrounds from those countries.

Trump's measures will do little to make America safer. In fact, the unintended consequences could seriously harm the United States by damaging diplomatic relations, lending fodder to U.S. enemies, or inviting retaliation.

"I am loyal to the U.S. government, and I will always be," said Marcolla, 35, who has since married an American and will sit for her U.S. citizenship exam next week. "I understand the attacks in Orlando and San Bernardino were a big influence and give us a bad reputation. But those are extremists, and they don't represent us."

The executive order's title declares a noble endeavor: "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry to the United States." But in reality, this is about politics, not security. Numerous studies show one's chances of being killed in an immigrant-linked extremist attack in the United States are infinitesimal, if anything. One recent report by the libertarian Cato Institute found that the likelihood of an American perishing at the hands of a foreign militant on U.S. soil is 1 in 3.6 million. The chance of being killed by an extremist refugee is even smaller: 1 in 3.64 billion. And nearly all deaths from immigrant-linked extremist attacks through 2015 - 98.6 percent - come from a single event: Sept 11.

According to another report, by Duke University's Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, Muslim-American extremists killed 54 people in 2016 - and the majority died in one horrific attack: the June mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub. By comparison, nearly 12,000 Americans die in gun homicides yearly. Shouldn't Trump set his security priorities based on these cold, hard numbers? Or are "alternative facts" so tempting as to permanently distract him from addressing national security risks that affect much broader swaths of Americans?

There's an important reason for those low fatality rates. Our immigrant and refugee vetting system works, and it is already extreme.

"Well over 90% of refugees worldwide are not considered for resettlement, because they have to be referred by the [United Nations Refugee Agency], and fewer than 1 percent are ever resettled to any country," said Betsy Fisher, policy director of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), a legal aid and refugee advocacy group.

IRAP has helped Marcolla and thousands of others through the years-long, 21-step clearance process to enter the United States. It includes at least three background checks and interviews with U.S. consular officials. Refugee applicants may be disqualified for small mistakes such as confusing details of their life's timeline. And they must provide significant documentation. For example, as part of Marcolla's visa process, she had to go back to her home in Babylon, Iraq - which she fled after armed men killed her husband and bound her to a stairwell - to retrieve extra paperwork.

Experts across the spectrum, from refugee-rights activists to current and former government officials, have said Trump's order on immigration does little to combat terrorism. A temporary pause can prompt authorities "to devise a better system for vetting refugees, to the extent we have deficiencies," said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former terrorism finance analyst for the U.S. Treasury Department. But he is not aware of any problems, he added, noting that the Trump administration has so far not addressed the root causes of the refugee crisis: long, overlapping wars in the Middle East.

As for harm to diplomatic relations, the order has already drawn global backlash. Iraq, for its part, has asked Trump to "reconsider" the travel ban following calls from its parliament to "retaliate" by barring American citizens from entering their country. (Small reminder: Iraq is a U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic State and hosts 5,000 American troops.) Even U.S. diplomats are acting out. State Department officials circulated a memo Monday which stated the ban's end result "will not be a drop in terror attacks in the United States; rather it will be a drop in international good will towards Americans and a threat towards our economy."

At best, Trump's order is an enormous, irrational overreaction to the actual risk posed by refugees and immigrants to the United States. It directly feeds into the fears extremists hope to spread through their attacks. And at worst, it's a thinly veiled attempt to fulfill his discriminatory campaign promise of a "Muslim ban."

"I understand the national security of the United States is the most important thing in the entire world," Marcolla said. "And I understand the role of the president is to protect the people."

"But this is too extreme. And for those of us who put our lives on hold waiting to come to the U.S., it's a devastation."

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

The answer is that Trump is an idiot.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

The answer is that Trump is an idiot.


4 ( +4 / -0 )

To be clear, President Donald Trump imposed a 90-day restriction on travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen until vetting procedures are established to protect the people of the US of A.

On the other hand, over a billion other Muslims are absolutely not affected, including Indonesia, home to 12.7% of the world's Muslims, Pakistan (11.0%), and India (10.9%).

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Trump says he's going to place a temporary ban on Muslims entering the US. Trump gets elected. Trump bans as many Muslims as he can actually ban using an executive order. Trump supporters say 'it's not because they're Muslim'.

Post truth©

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It's because the majority of people who believe and support jihad come from Iraq and the Middle East area. It's because the citizens of these countries are getting their heads severed and left on the street for all to see, and the people do nothing to combat it; instead they flee into countries where the lifestyles and values of those countries are in opposition to those of the Muslim world; it's because they don't love the country, people, lifestyle, values of the people whose countries they want to bum rush; it's because your faith is very inflexible, yet you expect others to accommodate your religion (e.g., how many halal restaurants are established for Muslims abroad? How many bars, pork noodle shops are available for western tourists in the Middle East?) It's because in the west we believe that a women's body is beautiful, natural, and above all, not a source of evil; it sickens some of us to watch your women in our societies obscured from platonic view from head to foot; it's because we believe women should enjoy sports and activities that happen outside the home. It's because a western women in your countries must follow the local law and wear a hajib in public: because the sight of women's hair sickens you the way your hajib sickens us, yet you go up in arms if a country, such as France, bans it. It's the counterpart to your ban on exposed hair. We comply, you complain.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Farah, you have to stay in you're home country. Same applies towards you're family. How will these countries rebuild, prosper if their best and brightest leave these countries? What academic, social and financial capital will improve these backwards countries if they take the cowardly and easy way out of abandoning their fellow countrymen?

We need to reject them and tell them to fix their countries as opposed to constantly running away. We cannot take in all of the worlds neediest people.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@Strangerland: Trump supporters say 'it's not because they're Muslim'. Post truth©

Trump and his supporters have not been hiding the fact that they are concerned with Islamic extremists. Trump merely took the seven Muslim countries that Obama has already targeted for travel restrictions and implemented a temporary suspension of visa issuances until a review of immigration procedures could be completed.

In order to claim "Post truth©" your "facts" must be factual. There is no alternative.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Trump and his supporters have not been hiding the fact that they are concerned with Islamic extremists.

But they're trying to claim that Trump's ban on Muslims isn't a ban on Muslims, even though he clearly said he wanted to put a ban on Muslims, then went on to enact a ban on as many Muslim countries as he could from within an executive order.

Post truth©

In order to claim "Post truth©" your "facts" must be factual

I just listed all the facts.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Marcolla’s family’s case illustrates the absurdity of the perceived threat posed by refugees and immigrants from the “banned” countries.

Not a ban. That is a blatant falsehood. Muslims are free to enter the US from over 40 Muslim countries.

Wow! Stark interauricular minimalism.

wear a hajib in public

your hajib sickens us

Imagine having to wear a court official. The horror!

Farah, you have to stay in you're home country

with you're American husband?

What academic, social and financial capital

PARENTAL ADVISORY attempt at intelligent argument, but...

will improve these backwards countries

the mask slipped. Hey ho.

reject them and tell them to fix their countries as opposed to constantly running away

shame on those Iraqis for breaking their country!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Obama placed a ban on the same countries...Nothing was said...Now, just because Trump wants more vetting done on immigrates from these countries.. The lefties panties are all knotted up...I support Trumps ban...Those who don't ..Stay in your own country...It's just that simple...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Eh, its clearly said she was in admin processing for many years before Trump.. so what does he has to do with it at all.. maybe instead of waiting she will in fact get a clear NO, or maybe even YES answer... just more bullshit writing

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites