A memo circulated by State Department employees expresses dissent against President Trump's executive order on refugees and immigrants. Dissent memo circulating in the State Department over Trump’s policy on refugees and immigrants
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
SUBJECT: Dissent Channelz' Alternatives to Closing Doors in Order to Secure
Our Borders I
(U) The following is a Dissent Channel message fron
(SBU) Summary: We are writing to register our dissent to the State Department?s
implementation of President Trump?s Friday, January 27, 2017 Executive Order
on ?Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States,?
which, among other things, blocks the Department of State ??om issuing immigrant
and nonimmigrant visas to citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and
Yemen for a minimum 90 day period with an unclear timeline for when issuance
would resume. As consular professionals, Foreign Service Of?cers, and members
of the Civil Service, we see every day the value that ?Secure Borders and Open
Doors? brings to our nation. policy which closes our doors to over 200 million
legitimate travelers in the hopes of preventing a small number of travelers who
intend to harm Americans from using the visa system to enter the United States
will not achieve its aim of making our country safer. Moreover, such a policy runs
counter to core American values of nondiscrimination, fair play, and extending a
warm welcome to foreign visitors and immigrants. Alternative solutions are
available to address the risk of terror attacks which are both more effective and in
line with Department of State and American values.
This Ban Does Not Achieve lits Aims--And Will Likely Be Counterproductive
(SBU) This ban, which can only be lifted under conditions which will be dif?cult
or impossible for countries to meet, will not achieve its stated aim of to protect the
American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United
States. DeSpite the Executive Order?s focus on them, a vanishingly small number
of terror attacks on US. soil have been committed by foreign nationals who
recently entered the United States on an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa. Rather,
the overwhelming majority of attacks have been committed by native-born or
naturalized U.S. citizens-individuals who have been living in the United States for
decades, if not since birth. In the isolated incidents of foreign nationals entering the
US. on a visa to commit acts of terror, the nationals have come from a range of
countries, including many (such as Pakistan or Saudi Arabia) which are not
covered by the Executive Order.
(SBU) Given the near-absence of terror attacks committed in recent years by
Syrian, Iraqi, Irani, Libyan, Somalia, Sudanese, and Yemeni citizens who are in the
US. in after entering on a visa,.this ban will have little practical effect in
improving public safety.
(SBU) If this ban will not prevent terror attacks from occurring, what will it do?
- (SBU) It will immediately sour relations with these six countries, as well as
much of the Muslim world, which sees the ban as religiously-motivated. These
governments of these countries are important allies and partners in the ?ght
against terrorism, regionally and globally. By alienating them, we lose access
the intelligence and resources need to ?ght the root causes of terror abroad,
before an attack occurs within our borders.
- (SBU) It will increase anti-American sentiment. When the 220 million citizens
of these countries lose the opportunity to travel to the US. overnight, hostility
towards the United States will grow. Instead of building bridges to these
societies through formal outreach and exchanges and through informal people?
to-people contact, we send the message that we consider all nationals of these
countries to be an unacceptable security risk. Almost one-third of these
countries? combined p0pulations are children under the age of 15; there is no
question that their perception of the United States will be heavily colored by
this ban. We are directly impact the attitudes of current and future leaders in
these societies--inc1uding those for whom this may be a tipping point towards
- (SBU) It will have an immediate and clear humanitarian impact. Every day
foreign nationals come to the United States to seek medical treatment for a child
with a rare heart condition, to attend a parent?s funeral, or to help a relative in
distress. For citizens of these countries, a blanket ban on travel will not just
ruin vacation plans but potentially cut off access to life-saving medical
treatment or impose terrible humanitarian burdens. While the Executive Order
allows for the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland security to admit
travelers from these countries on a case-by-case basis, it is unrealistic to think
that this will be feasible to implements for the thousands of aliens with urgent
and compelling needs to travel.
- (SBU) It will have a negative impact on the US. economy. According to the
Department of Commerce, foreign travelers collectively injected almost $250
billion into the U.S. economy in 2015 alone, supporting over one million
American jobs. Foreign students along contribute more than $30 billion to the
U.S. economy. Preventing travelers from these six countries from spending
their money in the US. will immediately decrease that amount; more
perniciously, this ban can be expected to cause an overall drop in traveler
dollars as the US. quickly sheds its welcoming ?Secure Borders, Open Doors?
(SBU) The end result of this ban will not be a drop in terror attacks in the United
States; rather, it will be a drop in international good will towards Americans and a
threat towards our economy.
We Are Better Than This Ban
(SBU) Looking beyond its effectiveness, this ban stands in opposition to the core
American and constitutional values that we, as federal employees, took an oath to
(SBU) The United States is a nation of immigrants, starting from its very origins.
The concept that immigrants and foreigners are welcome is an essential element of
our society, our government, and our foreign policy. So, too, is the concept that
we are all equal under the law and that we as a nation abhor discrimination,
whether it is based on race, religion, sex, or national origin. Combined together,
that means we have a special obligation to maintain an immigration system that is
as free as possible from discrimination, that does not have implied or actual
religious tests, and that views individuals as individuals, not as part of stereotyped
(SBU) The Executive Order frames the ban as a 90-day suspension of entry for
these nationals until their countries can set up arrangements to provide adequate
information to determine that an individual seeking a bene?t is who the individual
claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat. This is a high, vague, and
nebulous bar. In some cases, the governments of these countries may be wholly
incapable of providing this information; in others, the government may be
unwilling. In either case, individual citizens will pay the price?a situation which
runs counter to US. values of fair play and offering equal opportunities to all.
(SBU) Banning travelers from these seven countries calls back to some of the
worst times in our history. Law enacted in the 19205 and which lasted through the
1960s severely restricted immigration based on national origin and, in some cases,
race. The decision to restrict the freedom of Japanese-Americans in the U.S. and
foreign citizens who wanted to travel to or settle in the US. during the 19408 has
been a source of lasting shame for many in our country. Decades from now, we
will look back and realize we made the same mistakes our predecessors: shutting
borders in a knee-jerk reaction instead of setting up systems of checks that protect
our interests and our values.
Alternative Ways Forward
(SBU) Just as equality and multiculturalism are core American values, so too is
pragmatism. And there are pragmatic ways to achieve our common goals to
protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to
the United States and to secure a better and more prosperous future.
(SBU) Rather than a blanket ban on the travel of over 200 million citizens, we
need to strengthen our targeted and interagency approach to deterring, detecting,
and subverting attacks. We should not focus our screening and vetting on speci?c
nationalities at the expense of missing the forest for the trees but should turn those
tools to cover the full range of sources of terror, including those who may hold
?friendly? or even U.S. passports.
(SBU) There is no question that the visa process can be improved and refined to
better detect individuals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for
malevolent purposes. We need to expand existing interagency cooperation between
the different elements of the government responsible for border security and
protection of the homeland. This includes cooperation with state, local, campus,
and tribal law enforcement, who in many cases are best situated to detect threats.
The Visa Security Program which embeds Department of Homeland Security staff
into consular sections around the world has proven the effectiveness of
incorporating a law enforcement perspective into the visa process; this approach
should be expanded.
(SBU) Continuous vetting program for visa holders--which looks at all visa
holders, not just those of speci?c nationalities--allows our law enforcement and
intelligence bodies to act on new information and to focus on individuals that may
become radicalized. This vetting should be expanded and made more
comprehensive. Likewise, the Visa Viper Program, which allows posts overseas to
report on potential threats, should be strengthened to become a more reliable
source of intelligence.
(SBU) The Department of State and the US. government already has numerous
tools already at its disposal to secure its visa process: access to law enforcement
databases, biometric screening, Security Advisory Opinions, continuous vetting. If
we haven?t accomplished our goals so far, then let?s strengthen and improve these
tools. And let?s develop new tools: cutting-edge data analytics, social media
tracking, data mining, aggressive outreach.
(SBU) We do not need to place a blanket ban that keeps 220 million people--men,
women, and children?-from entering the United States to protect our homeland. We
do not need to alienate entire societies to stay safe. And we do not need to sacri?ce
our reputation as a nation which is open and welcoming to protect our families. It
is well within our reach to create a visa process which is more secure, which
re?ects our American values, and which would make the Department proud.