Travel Ban

This past Friday newly elected President Donald Trump signed another Executive Order adding to the number of orders he has already signed into effect. This new executive order focuses on the movements of non-Americans from seven countries. Ironically the seven countries that were placed on a travel ban to the United States all possess a dominant Muslim population. The reasoning behind this travel ban is to protect the American public from a terrorist attack executed by a refugee let in to the country.

 

The issue is that the administration must not have an understanding of how difficult the vetting process is for a refugee-seeking asylum from a war-torn country. In a Time’s article titled This is How The Syrian Refugee Process Works the author points out that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) refers the individual or family to begin the interview process. Once selected for the interview process the applicant is vetted through not only the United Nations but also by multiple government agencies of the host nation that the applicant will be referred to.

 

A Syrian refugee who went through the vetting process explained how his process with his family took 15 months. And during that time he interviewed with multiple government agencies including the United Nations, F.B.I, State Department, National Counterterrorism Center, and the Department of Homeland Security. As the agencies interview applicants for refugee status and a new location to call home, they share information regarding the person or persons that have been interviewed by their agency.

 

The interviewing process as described by the Syrian refugee dives in deeply into ones own life. In a way the process seems to be more of an interrogation rather than a formal inquiry. As you are interviewed you are questioned multiple times the same question to detect any deviation from the previous story. Once the interview process is completed, those who completed the interview know more about the person than their own family and friends due. The account by the Syrian refugee puts down the notion that those seeking asylum from hotbeds of civil war and the destabilization from various extreme jihadist networks.

 

Within the executive order by President Trump he has called an indefinite ban of Syrian refugees from entering the United States, and again going on the basis that those who enter will execute a terrorist plot in this country. The examples that have been used to justify these attacks are the tragedies that have occurred in the streets of our European allies. In 2015 alone Europe received one million immigrants into their borders and 80% of those have ventured from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Since 2001 there have been a total of nine terrorist attacks on European soil.

 

These attacks resulted from European citizens of their respective country who traveled to the war torn Middle Eastern countries to gain the necessary training and networking needed to execute the attacks that we have seen take place over the past decade. And that is what brings us to the fray in this discussion, the opportunity of a terrorist attack being committed by someone outside of our nations border.

 

As stated earlier the focus had been on the outside while ignoring what is occurring in the inside of our country. In a 2016 news report by CBS titled The Americas: 15 Who Left the United States to Join ISIS, states that 250 Americans attempted to enlist in the ranks of ISIS but never left the country and instead leaned on social media sites linked to Daesh to become indoctrinated into the vast terrorist network. The president should rightly so be worried about those who are entering our country however, the possibility of a refugee who is accepted to enter the United States is minimal.

 

The Europeans who have accepted a huge amount of asylum seekers have seen attacks only sparked by those who were homegrown. Furthermore, the shared borders in Europe make the smuggling of extreme jihadist with no country affiliation to enter those respected borders compared to the United States where the ability to sneak into the country is a much more difficult task that one can imagine.

 

The administration must focus on how we can detect and identify potential home grown terrorist. As we have seen in our nation, the attacks that have taken place were by those who already were citizens of this country and did not have a true connection to leaders or combatants of ISIS. They were inspired from videos watched online or articles that they discovered on the web. The shutting down of such websites and the research for them should be an agenda for the administration.

 

The government with the help of Social Media owners have taken steps to shut down and limit the amount of sites that these various networks posses. Another factor that will help in identifying potential extreme jihadist behavior is the cooperation form the Muslim community. And this will not happen with the way we are working on banning those seeking asylum from entering our nation that is known for being a harbinger of freedom.

 

However, in the executive order section 10 it calls for transparency in reporting t”…the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism related offense.” It will focus on whether those who come into the United States and become radicalized. If the report is conducted in a un-bias and accurate manner it will illustrate that those seeking an opportunity to live in the United States is to have the ability to have a better life for their families and for themselves.

 

The ironic part of the listed countries that were placed on the travel ban Saudi Arabia is not placed on that list. The article does not intend to discredit the Saudi Kingdom however, 15 of the 19 hijackers of the 9-11-2001 attacks, originated from Saudi Arabia. How come they have not been placed on that ban as a potential national security threat since the terrorist attacks in 2001 was similar to the surprise attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.

 

Several federal judges have placed a stay on Trump’s executive order but custom agents are still enforcing the ban signed by our president. Some members in congress from his own party have even went ahead and saying that they do not agree with the order but say there has to be much more stringent vetting process. Again a mood point because as explained earlier the vetting process is very deep and personal and multiple agencies are already involved how many more agencies can get involved?

 

Time will only tell what else we are to see in the new year of 2017 from a new administration and a break away from progressive politics.

 

http://time.com/4116619/syrian-refugees-screening-process/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/28/politics/text-of-trump-executive-order-nation-ban-refugees/

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-uncovered/americans-15-who-left-united-states-join-isis-n573611

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/refugees-detained-at-us-airports-challenge-trumps-executive-order/2017/01/28/e69501a2-e562-11e6-a547-5fb9411d332c_story.html?utm_term=.8c68444e9654

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/i-went-through-americas-extreme-vetting-214703

 

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Tragedy In Fort Lauderdale

Six days into the New Year and the United States is already a victim of a mass shooting in a frequented landmark. A young man by the name of Esteban Santiago flew in from Anchorage Alaska to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and opened fired on passengers waiting in the baggage claim area. The consequence of this mans actions led to the deaths of five passengers and seriously wounding six. This tragedy of 2017 illustrated what the country has failed to address in two main areas. The first area that has been an issue in the U.S. deals with mental health and the second issue deals with the regulating of firearm ownership.

In addressing the former issue, the United States has a mental health system that is broken compared to other “developed” nations. In America one in four Americans have some type of mental illness this means that over forty million Americans need to be treated. Even-though the Affordable Care Act made it possible to cover more uninsured Americans; the cost for inpatient treatment is an issue as reported by 66% of respondents to a survey of 303 patients who thought about seeking help but then refused to.

Those who refused to seek help also admitted that they believed that they could handle the problem on their own. This can be what happened with Mr. Santiago. During his time in the National Guard in Puerto Rico, he was deployed to Iraq in 2010 with an engineering unit. At the time of his deployment it was reported that he witnessed the death of two of his fellow soldiers from an IED (improvised explosive device). At this point in his military career he observed a tragic event that is not easily forgotten. After coming home from his deployment things began to unravel.

Esteban moved to Alaska and became a part of the National Guard unit out there in the cold and snow covered state. However, he would be discharge based on “unsatisfactory performance.” Spokeswoman Lt. Col Candis Olmstead did not elaborate on the discharge but the Pentagon did cite that he did go AWOL a couple of times and that was what led to his discharge. Then in January 2016 police respond to a domestic violence call to his girl friends house Miss. Peterson. It was alleged that Mr. Santiago broke down the bathroom door and once gaining entry to the room where his girl friend was hiding in, he smacked her and attempted to strangle her.

The above event did result in charges being brought up for Domestic Violence, however he would take a plea that is similar to a probation program. He had agreed to seek anger management courses and if he completed treatment the charges would be dismissed. Here is another sign that something was wrong with the Iraq Veteran and nothing resulted in attempting to evaluate and treat. Furthermore, at the same time these events were taking place, Santiago was in possession of a 9MM Walther handgun. This is where the second issue in the United States comes to the fray. The issue of gun control arises after each mass shooting and in some cases, certain gun laws would not have prevented some of the mass shootings this country has been a victim to.

In the state of Alaska there is no law that states that a person who is charged with domestic violence and owns a firearm would have to turn it in to law enforcement. However, there is The 1968 Gun Control Act and amended in 1996 with the Lautenberg Act it aimed to do two things:

“First, it will assist in preventing those individuals who have demonstrated a propensity for domestic violence from obtaining a firearm. Second, it will assist law enforcement by providing a tool for the removal of firearms from certain explosive domestic situations thus decreasing the possibility of deadly violence. Finally, it will serve as a federal prosecution tool in certain situations where alternatives have failed.”

However, due to the plea he took the case was eventually dismissed. In November Santiago went to the FBI field office in Alaska and informed Agent Martin Ritzmon that he was hearing voices telling him to watch videos of ISIS and that the government was in control of his mind.

He is sent to a state mental facility where he stayed for only a few days. His weapon was confiscated but was then returned to him because a judge adjudicated his mental health status. In other words the judge decided whether or not Santiago was mentally stable to be in possession of his firearm. Unfortunately he was granted the ability to have his firearm in his possession. The irony here is that with the domestic assault charge that was dismissed and his statements to the FBI field office he was allowed to maintain his firearm. However, the Supreme Court ruled recently that Medical Marijuana cardholders would not be allowed to own any type of firearm.

Before Santiago left Anchorage he did not check in any bags only possessing a carry on bag. This bag contained his 9mmWalther and somehow got it through the security checkpoints we all despise going through because of the invasive body scan machine to the pat downs. However, he was still able to carry the weapon onto the plane. By Transportation Security Administration guidelines, Santiago had to check in his weapon in a closed case as a check in bag. As we saw on the sixth of January 2017 he was successful in avoiding all possible security regulations.

It is very difficult to assess why Santiago has committed the act that he has committed. So far he has not given those who have interrogated him any inside as to why he decided to shot an airport full of passengers who believed that day was any normal day. Santiago will now face the death penalty if convicted. Esteban lived by a VFW a source he could have used in terms of finding a mental health professional in the VA. After the domestic violence call in January 2016 and one other incident he was able to maintain his weapon in his possession. If Alaska possessed the law not allowing a person charged with domestic violence to be able to obtain a firearms card it may have prevented Esteban from committing the shooting Fort Lauderdale.

Furthermore the decision whether a person should be involuntarily committed to a state run mental facility should be left to the doctors and not to a criminal judge who may not specialize in the mental health field. This also could have changed the events from transpiring. However, as the events have already taken place we must observe and address the issues when it comes to the mental health care system. Currently the amount of health workers to patients presents a huge gap in the amount of professionals to patients. In addition with the current debate on the Affordable Care Act both houses of Congress and the newly elected President Trump cannot negate the need to continue to address the mental health issue and learning what went wrong in this first tragedy of the New Year in the United States.

 

 

 

Airport shooter’s life in Alaska was falling apart, though few seemed to notice, Charles Rabincrabin, Miamiherald, www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/article126025249.html

 

Seven facts about America’s mental health-care system, The Washington Post, WP Company, www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2012/12/17/seven-facts-about-americas-mental-health-care-system/?utm_term=.13165429c012

 

Transporting Firearms and Ammunition, Transportation Security Administration,

https://www.tsa.gov/travel/transporting-firearms-and-ammunition

 

As his life unraveled, Esteban Santiago slipped through all the cracks, Alaska Dispatch News, www.adn.com/alaska-news/crime-courts/2017/01/11/as-his-life-unraveled-esteban-santiago-slipped-through-all-the-cracks/

 

  1. Restrictions on the Possession of Firearms by Individuals Convicted of a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence, 1117. Restrictions on the Possession of Firearms by Individuals Convicted of a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence | USAM | Department of Justice, www.justice.gov/usam/criminal-resource-manual-1117-restrictions-possession-firearms-individuals-convicted

 

Family: Florida airport shooting suspect ‘lost his mind’ after tour in Iraq, WNYW,

http://www.fox5ny.com/news/227620441-story