Trump is playing politics with national security

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Story highlights

  • In one fell swoop, Trump has dismantled our entire immigration policy
  • The refugee admissions program is the worst path a potential terrorist could take if they intend to commit violence in the US

Amy Pope is currently a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. She most recently served as the deputy assistant to the President and Deputy Homeland Security Adviser on the National Security Council staff. The opinions in this article are those of the author.

(CNN)Donald Trump's Executive Order on immigrants and refugees violates our founding principles, threatens our global credibility, and recalls our darkest moments as a nation. Worse, it undermines our national security and puts the lives of US citizens at greater risk.

Since the attacks of 9/11, there have been no successful foreign terrorist attacks on our homeland. Thanks to the tireless work of national security professionals, we have implemented a sophisticated mechanism to identify bad actors well before they cross our borders. With every new threat, the process is enhanced.
After the Paris terror attacks, President Obama strengthened the visa waiver program and imposed stricter requirements on partner countries. Until now, these measures have been updated, taking into account our current capabilities, our key strategic alliances, and the impacts on the American public. The latest Executive Order turns this commonsense process on its head.
In one fell swoop, the Executive Order dismantles our entire immigration policy. This is not just about Syrians or refugees. Under this new policy, a widowed mother with her young children fleeing ISIS or Assad's brutal persecution are prevented from securing safe haven; an Iraqi translator, targeted because of his service to US forces, is turned away; thousands of Burmese, Congolese, and Central Americans are denied entry.
The policy was clearly signed without any regard for implementation or understanding of our existing screening processes. Tens of thousands of refugees are stuck mid-process; dozens are stranded at airports; dual-nationals are uncertain whether they can travel or if they will be stopped at our borders. Resources are bound to become tied up in litigation instead of targeting real threats.
The Executive Order is wrong-headed. The refugee admissions program is the worst path a potential terrorist could take if they intend to commit violence in the United States. The entire admissions process takes at least 18 months and often years to complete. The applicants are subjected to exhaustive interviews, biometrics checks, and fraud and national security analyses.
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The United States prioritizes women, children, and people who have survived torture. And if there is any lingering doubt about the applicant's intent, they are denied entry.
Furthermore, rather than make us safer, Trump's policy weakens our defenses against radical extremism. By leaving vulnerable refugees stranded around the world, it foments anger toward the US, feeding ISIS' narrative that the United States is anti-Muslim. It risks alienating our important allies who are critical partners in our current counter-terrorism efforts, especially Muslim countries like Turkey and Jordan.
It also points the finger in the wrong direction. Far more US citizens and legal permanent residents have committed a terrorist attack in the United States than a refugee or recent migrant. And no Syrian refugee has ever attacked the United States.
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Finally, Trump's Executive Order jeopardizes our economic security. The elimination of all visa interview waivers will slow our travel and tourism industry, which now generates $2.1 trillion for the US economy, and supports 15.1 million American jobs.
If President Trump is serious about protecting us from foreign terrorists, he should concentrate instead on strengthening our alliances with partners in Europe and the Middle East who share vital information and work with these allies to beef up their capabilities to interdict terrorists before they leave their countries.
He must engage and cooperate with national security and diplomatic professionals who have dedicated their entire careers to keeping the US safe. And he should support community efforts to counter violent extremism.
We cannot allow the President to play politics with our nation's security. All our lives are at stake.