WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) hosted a panel discussion about President Donald Trump’s temporary visa ban, where the group’s policy director suggested the commander-in-chief’s executive order was a “white nationalist effort to change the trajectory of immigration” in the United States.
“Maybe a year ago it would have been crazy to say this,” Jamal Abdi said during the questions and answers segment of the panel. “But we’re in crazy times. This really looks like a Steve Bannon, Breitbart, you know, white nationalist effort to change the trajectory of immigration in this country.” He added:
And so, if you look at how this ban is constructed, it’s not just blocking new people from coming here. It’s ensuring that the people who are already here eventually have to leave. And Iranian-Americans, Muslim-Americans who can remain here, feel like second-class citizens and feel like they’re not welcome. And at the heart of it, I think that’s what this is about. This isn’t about some security argument or even some of the promises on the campaign trail. It’s this idea of changing America’s demographics because of this nationalism.
Factual analyses have dismantled this false narrative put forth by some in the mainstream media. While Trump’s efforts include a strengthening of American nationalism, he recognizes that immigration has played a key role in American history and he supports immigration through a legal means. The type of nationalism Trump envisions is not based on culture or ethnicity. In fact, Trump has rejected cultural or ethnic nationalism and has instead opted for a nationalism based on shared political ideals epitomized by the Constitution and the land those laws apply to.
The panel discussion, titled “Trump’s Ban 2.0: Justified or Discriminatory” also included David Bier, an immigration policy analyst for the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity; Amanda Frost, a law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law; and Barbara Slavin, who is the director of the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative.
All of them were vocally against Trump’s executive order.
“Your risk of being killed by a refugee over the last 40-year period is one in 3.6 billion,” Bier said. “I would note that, furthermore, you don’t need to ban certain countries or certain nationalities to enforce screening procedures in the United States.”
Frost argued that while the temporary ban “violated the due process rights of the people who were affected,” the revised version of the ban, put in place March 6, is “from a due process perspective, much more acceptable.” She attempted to frame the temporary visa ban as a Muslim ban, using “context” from several statements Trump had made while he was still a candidate to make this claim.
However, the executive order is not a Muslim ban. The first order did not mention Islam or any other religion. However, the second order mentions Islam. Specifically, the word “Islam” is explicitly mentioned to note that the ban is not a Muslim ban. It reads:
While that order allowed for prioritization of refugee claims from members of persecuted religious minority groups, that priority applied to refugees from every nation, including those in which Islam is a minority religion, and it applied to minority sects within a religion. That order was not motivated by animus toward any religion, but was instead intended to protect the ability of religious minorities — whoever they are and wherever they reside — to avail themselves of the USRAP in light of their particular challenges and circumstances.
Indonesia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia – the largest Muslim countries in the world – are not included in the 90-day ban. The seven nations initially named in the first version of the executive order were drawn from President Barack Obama’s Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015.
One of the primary goals of the Trump administration’s temporary ban is to push for greater information sharing between the United States and Middle Eastern nations whose nationals are seeking visas to enter the United States. The order is a direct reaction to the rise in Muslim-led extremism throughout much of the Western world. Iran appears on the list due to its status as one of the leading abusers of human rights and sponsors of terrorism in the world.
The White House offered a brief description of Iran, taken in part from the Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2015 (June 2016):
Iran has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984 and continues to support various terrorist groups, including Hizballah, Hamas, and terrorist groups in Iraq. Iran has also been linked to support for al-Qa’ida and has permitted al-Qa’ida to transport funds and fighters through Iran to Syria and South Asia. Iran does not cooperate with the United States in counterterrorism efforts.
NIAC is suing the Trump administration over the temporary ban along with three other groups: the Iranian-American Bar Association, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) and the PARS Equality Center.
“We are, indeed, continuing our legal efforts,” Abdi said. He added the second draft of the executive order weakened their legal claims but suggested, “we still have plenty, plenty of instances” and “the cases actually keep growing.”
He also suggested the ban on Iran would become permanent. “It is in the text of the ban that there is envisioned to be a permanent ban,” he said. He added, “additional countries may be added to the list.” Iraq was removed from the list, which he said was a result of the Iraqi government lobbying the Trump administration.
In the newly-revised version of Trump’s executive order, the White House notes, “In addition, since Executive Order 13769 was issued, the Iraqi government has expressly undertaken steps to enhance travel documentation, information sharing, and the return of Iraqi nationals subject to final orders of removal.” It is not clear whether Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen have agreed to similar arrangements.
Abdi said of Iraq’s removal from the list, “We don’t foresee that same type of connection happening between Iran and any Trump officials. At least, not as far as we know.”
At the end of the panel, Breitbart News asked Slavin if she had spoken with any Iranians who supported the temporary visa ban. “Apart from Saghar, who always comes to my events and says something about the Islamic Republic and how bad they are, no. Because it hurts ordinary people.”
During the questions and answers segment, a concerned Iranian-American activist Saghar Kasraei asked, “why are we supporting the Islamic Republic of Iran right now?” She suggested the focus of conversation should, instead, be on “a genocide of the Syrian people right now because of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Echoing NIAC’s Abdi, Slavin told Breitbart News, “this thing is just a propaganda gift to the regime. I don’t see how anyone in their right minds would support it.”
The majority of individuals who support Iran’s inclusion on the temporary ban say they do so on the basis that the regime is the world’s leading exporter of terrorism, particularly throughout the Middle East, Latin and Central America.
Hossein Khorram, an Iranian-American who “escaped tyranny like most of the 1 million Iranians who came to the United States,” is one of these people. He told Breitbart News he supports Iran’s placement on Trump’s executive order.
Khorram is a Republican activist and a former Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention. He told Breitbart News, “Trump won on the promise to strengthen the security of the American people” and “the Iranian regime poses an existential threat to the United States because they have been able to reach and penetrate the other five nations listed on the temporary ban. They have already dominated their own people, and they are now using the vehicle of terror to carry out the domination of surrounding countries using the nuclear option to carry this forward.”
He extended his criticism to NIAC, which he said “does not represent this community of Iranian expats. They have not reached out to serve the needs of this community. They haven’t tried to reach out to our community. They instead reach to those who think about normalizing relation between the United States and Iran.” He added that the regime has “violated the rights of women, minorities, and children and has blood on their hands.”
Khorram added, “I would say more than 95 percent of Iranian-Americans feel the same way as I do. This group is getting paid to serve a particular agenda. This agenda is serving the Iranian regime’s needs. It’s helping the regime survive. And the only people who don’t know this are the people on Capitol Hill and those in the Iranian government. They have an agenda and their agenda is not an American agenda, unfortunately.”
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