Now that the Supreme Court has approved President Trump’s travel ban, what’s next? Trump has argued that the ban is necessary to determine the best vetting procedures for immigrants from high-risk countries. It’s not altogether clear what changes need to be made, especially with so many questions surrounding the terrorist threat from abroad. Why do some people find the radical ideology embraced by ISIS and other terror groups so attractive? And what, if anything, can the U.S. do to combat the spread of this ideology?
The Supreme Court ruled that the travel ban on residents and refugees from Libya, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan can continue as planned. However, the court added a caveat to the ban—if a resident has a credible relationship with a person or entity in the U.S., they are allowed entry. Additionally, visas that have already been approved will not be revoked.
The U.S. has some of the strictest vetting procedures for foreign refugees and those seeking to obtain temporary visas. With these already rigorous procedures, it’s somewhat unclear what can be done to make them more secure. Visa applicants are subject to extensive background checks conducted by the State Department, National Counterterrorism Center, FBI, etc. Then, they are interviewed by an immigration officer who asks them questions about their home country and the nature of their travel to the U.S. Once the traveler arrives at a U.S. airport, a customs official can access all of the information gathered prior to issuing the visa. Travelers must answer more questions and officials take a second fingerprint to ensure they match. Refugees are subject to an even more stringent process.
The U.S. also has officers stationed in airports around the world. In 2015, these officers determined that 10,648 of the 16 million air travelers to the U.S. were inadmissible. Though the process is stringent, becoming complacent in the way we approach immigration may lead to unintended consequences; not only in the U.S. but around the globe.
For example, the European Union has failed to impose any significant limitations on immigration. In fact, the EU imposes fines on member countries that refuse to accept refugees. However, increasing numbers of refugees and immigrants have caused political and social turmoil in many EU nations. The number of terrorist attacks in Europe seems to have dramatically increased in recent years. London, in particular, has been subject to these attacks, with several occurring in the span of a few months.
Looking to Europe as a warning, it is apparent that action needs to be taken to enforce our already strict policies, but what can be done? One aspect of the system that desperately needs to be reexamined is the Visa Waiver Program. This program allows citizens from 38 mostly European countries to travel to the U.S. without visas; unless they are also citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Sudan. Many of the countries included in the waiver are those that are experiencing immigration issues of their own. This program needs to be reformed to ensure that these travelers have legitimate European passports and are not taking advantage of the system.
The process that we use to share information about potentially harmful immigrants may also need to be reformed. The administration needs to find a way to ease the process of sharing information through online databases between different government agencies and officials. Some changes could make it easier to consistently check for national security threats contained in an immigrant’s background.
The controversy surrounding the travel ban raises the question of what has happened to make such stringent procedures necessary. Politicians seek to implement these policies as terrorist groups like ISIS increase in violent activity. Even with such a negative and violent reputation, ISIS has been successful in recruiting efforts, with some people abandoning their home countries to join the group. What causes people to be attracted to ISIS and groups like it?
Part of the ISIS recruiting strategy is its social media presence. Social media advertising convinces young people to celebrate the brutality of ISIS because online videos depict violence in the style of an action movie. The excitement of these films masks what the real acts of ISIS- torture and brutal murder.
Recently, a shocking number of women have left their home countries to join ISIS. Why this emphasis on recruiting young women? On the surface, ISIS seems to offer many freedoms that appeal to women who live in countries where they are not politically/socially equal to men. Many young, vulnerable women feel that joining this group will boost their social status. ISIS uses propaganda that makes women feel empowered. They tell them ISIS provides an avenue to exact revenge on their home countries for holding them back. Such propaganda helps to skew their perspectives, making them believe they are accomplishing social change through senseless acts of violence.
ISIS also promises many recruits a better life, and not only to women abroad. Today there’s a breakdown of American families and a disintegration of communities. Americans once looked after one another, and families and communities gave people a sense of belonging. This isn’t as much the case today, where social media has made people more digitally connected than ever before, but lonelier than ever before.
In Midwest, there’s been a particular uptick in ISIS recruits where there are a larger number of people from the Middle East who have refused to assimilate into American Society. This has also led to an increase in American citizens fighting oversees for ISIS.
ISIS offers individuals these young Americans a chance to go on an “adventure.” A chance to belong to something greater than themselves, giving hopeless kids a sense of mission, purpose, and belonging.
ISIS also entices its recruits with things like free housing, gifts, and other amenities. Recruits are given a sense of identity and embrace the idea that the group is a community that will stick up for them. However, recruits find out the hard way how empty and poisonous this ideology can become.
The U.S. needs to make sure that ISIS recruiters are easily identifiable so we can root them out of our society once they have committed a crime against the United States. Young Muslims need to be educated in their mosque that any act of terrorism doesn’t represent a reformed interpretation of Islam. The good news is that America is not like Europe. The U.S. does an excellent job of assimilating our immigrants to our society. However, ISIS is a group surrounded by much mystery and misleading news coverage, and there needs to be a strong effort to make clear what ISIS stands for is only sorrow and death.
Unfortunately, the fight against terror is not an easy one. Our enemy in this fight knows no nation and doesn’t fight by the rules that govern war. Our enemy is highly motivated to kill and thinks not of their safety since they desire to be martyred. So we have to not only use our military might but our military intelligence to root out the enemy wherever we find them. The travel ban won’t be as effective if our government doesn’t reform the visa waiver program which makes it so easy for ISIS fighters with European passports to get into the United States. In Alabama, there are many high-value targets in Huntsville, Mobile, and Birmingham so we can’t assume that because we live in a rural state that this war won’t come to us. Thankfully, we have some of the best-trained law enforcement anywhere defending us and our way of life. I also believe that President Trump’s Military appointments are the finest we’ve had since the end of WWII. I am glad that our foreign policy will not be governed by weakness but will not back down from showing American strength. I just hope we do not repeat the mistakes of the past and think we can westernize nations overnight.
About the author: A Guest Contributor, Mr. Reid is general practice attorney in Birmingham Alabama. He has worked for Republican leadership in the United State House of Representatives in Washington, DC, and was a health policy advisor to the Governor of Alabama. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 205-913-7406. A description of his practice areas is available at www.reidlawalabama.com.