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‘What have we done?’ Somali child in Columbus asks as new Trump travel ban unveiled
WASHINGTON — After uproar, revisions and several delays in release, President Donald Trump issued a new 90-day travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries Monday, arguing the move will keep the country safe from terrorist attacks.
Shortly afterward in Columbus, Omar Hassan of the Somali Community Association fielded a question from one of the younger members of the region’s Somali community.
“What have we done?” the child asked.
Hassan’s reply was swift: “We haven’t done anything wrong.”
Somalia is one of six countries — Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya and Yemen are the others — under the revised ban. A seventh, Iraq, was been taken off the original list after intense negotiations with that nation.
The revised rule also clarifies that those already approved to travel to the U.S. can continue to do so, and makes it clear that both the departments of State and Homeland Security have discretion to admit others in certain cases. Unlike the first order, the new ban contains no preference for “religious minorities” such as Christians persecuted in Muslim countries.
In a missive to supporters shortly after signing the order in private, Trump said, “Just like before, you and I know that the media will do everything in their power to attack and distort this policy that America desperately needs.”
The measure will take effect March 16. In contrast, Trump tweeted of the need for speed after his initial order: “If the ban were announced with a one-week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week.”
In Ohio, the impact is particularly acute in Columbus, home of the second largest Somali population in the U.S. Hassan said his community was disappointed to find their homeland still on the list.
“We are American, and this just makes our community more isolated than it is,” he said. “We are educating our kids, we are enjoying our freedom, we are good citizens, we vote and we are taxpayers.”
The initial Jan. 27 ban caused a furious outcry — spurring protests at airports across the nation, including John Glenn International Airport in Columbus. The order ultimately was suspended by a federal judge in the state of Washington on Feb. 3. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision. Trump’s revised ban was written in an attempt to pass court muster.
But the new plan did little to soothe critics’ concerns.
“This is not about national security,” said Abed A. Ayoub, legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. “This is about Islamophobia and Xenophobia.”
Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township, said the revised order “is little more than a repackaging and rebranding of (Trump’s) prior poorly written, woefully implemented and unconstitutional executive order barring entry for refugees from several Muslim-majority countries.
“Like its predecessor, Muslim Ban 2.0 will not make America any safer and flies in the face of the very ideals and values that have always made America exceptional.”
Though the revised order dropped the original edict’s indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, it still halts the U.S. refugee program for 120 days and reduces the annual number of refugees it allows from 110,000 to 50,000.
Angela Plummer, executive director of Community Refugee and Immigration Services in Columbus, called the new ban “equally as bad.”
She said the revised order still means people currently seeking refugee status will be forced to put their plans on hold, while refugees already in the U.S. who are waiting to be reunited with family members will be separated.
“They’ve filed applications for family members and waited years to go through the process and now the door is being shut.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the ban would continue to target innocent families who were themselves fleeing terrorism or seeking a better life.
“We keep America safe by aggressively going after terrorism, not by shutting our doors to doctors, students and families who are fleeing the same terrorists we are fighting against,” he said.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, was critical of the initial Trump plan, saying it hadn’t been “properly vetted.” He said the new order sets up “a more carefully designed process” to screen those coming into the U.S.
“We have to make sure we know exactly who is entering our country,” he said. “I hope the administration’s assessment of our screening procedures is done thoroughly and swiftly, so that we can resume our immigration processes to permit the appropriate travel of people to and from our country, while keeping us all safe.”
Central Ohio’s two GOP congressmen also approved of the revised order.
“As I said before, it is critical that America has a system in place that works to identify threats originating from countries that are hot spots for terrorism,” said Rep. Pat Tiberi of Genoa Township. He called the revised order “an appropriate step to strengthen our national security and improve our visa vetting process.”
And Rep. Steve Stivers of Upper Arlington said he is glad the order came after more coordination with other agencies.
“I continue to support a more permanent solution to our visa vetting process that also ensures we differentiate between our partners in the region and radical Islamic terrorists.”