An Iraqi who had risked his life serving as an interpreter for US forces was detained overnight and handcuffed Saturday after he got off the plane in New York City. Another former interpreter had to cancel his plans to move to the US. A young Somali man who had been living in a refugee camp in Kenya for years, had been cleared for resettlement in the US, and was preparing to leave, has now been told he can’t come.
A refugee family from Syria who had already boarded the plane for their promised asylum in the US were removed and told they couldn’t come. Also taken off their plane and turned away: an Iraqi family with valid visas who had sold their home and everything they owned to be able to move to the US.
At the San Francisco airport, a non-Muslim Iranian man with a valid visa, coming to the US for his first meeting with his brothers and mother in six years, was sent back home. A Stanford University PhD student – a legal immigrant with a green card – was detained, handcuffed, and grilled about her thoughts about terrorism.
Amazon, Microsoft, and other tech giants are scrambling to help stranded employees who work in the US with green cards or temporary visas.
All weekend, the media added examples. Two University of Massachusetts professors who had been in France for a scientific conference: detained at Boston’s Logan Airport. An Iranian scientist with a valid visa, preparing to move to the US: prevented from boarding her plane. An Iranian scientist headed to Boston to do cardiovascular research: plans canceled.
Academics planning to come to the US for conferences, foreign students at US universities who had been abroad visiting families, elderly people preparing for long-awaited trips to the US to visit relatives: all of them carefully vetted previously and cleared. Now, they’re wrapped up in Trump’s nativist, extreme-vetting net.
OK, so a few people were inconvenienced. Maybe some felt humiliated. Maybe some were frightened. “That’s a small price to pay,” as Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway put it, to protect millions of us from terrorist attacks.
We’ve had terrorist attacks, certainly, large and small. But the big one, on September 11, 2001, was planned and executed predominantly by people from Saudi Arabia, which isn’t on Trump’s banned-nations list. And the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings were carried out by two young legal immigrants from… the Soviet Union. The oldest still had Russian citizenship. (Russia’s not on Trump’s banned-nations list either.)
The other attacks that were apparently inspired by foreign terrorist propaganda – San Bernardino, Orlando – were carried out by US citizens who said they got that inspiration from the internet. Trump has banned entry of human beings with a legal right to come here, not the internet. (Not yet, anyway.)
If we had any doubts before, now we know: Donald Trump plans to do exactly what he promised during his campaign. And as the weekend’s chaos shows, he doesn’t understand the ramifications of those promises, nor does he care.
That’s frightening enough. Worse, though, his vice president and key Republican leaders in Congress don’t seem to care, either. And given their intelligence and their experience, we have to assume that they do understand the ramifications.
So the chaos may continue. As I read the news spilling out Sunday morning, I imagined Vladimir Putin and his close aides following the same reports from their side of the world. And laughing. Slapping their thighs, raising their glasses in a toast, and laughing.
I don’t imagine Chinese leaders are reacting much differently. And we don’t have to guess how actual terrorist groups will use this in their propaganda.
All the way through the dreadful election campaign, I kept trying to convince myself that Trump doesn’t represent most Americans. This isn’t who we are. It isn’t.