The stated purpose of these measures is to make it harder for potentially radical Islamic terrorists to enter the United States. As the self-declared Islamic State controls thousands of square miles of territory in Syria and Iraq, and both Iran and the Sudan are classified as state sponsors of terror by the State Department, these countries have been host to increased terror activity in recent years. By making it harder for people who have a connection to these countries to enter the U.S., the Obama administration maintains that our country is better protected from potential attacks.
However, opponents accuse the new policies of being financially disastrous and discriminatory. Some of the loudest opponents of these measures are the countries targeted by them. Iran has expressed grave concerns about the effects such travel ramifications could have on its business sector even with the outlined business exemptions. Furthermore, civil liberties organizations at home and abroad have accused the measures of being needlessly discriminatory. In a letter written to Congress in December, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said, “It is wrong and un-American to punish groups without reason solely based on their nationality, national origin, religion, gender, or other protected grounds.”
While the sections of these policies related to travel make sense, those tied to citizenship and nationalities do not. In the current state of the world, travel to Syria, Iraq, Iran or the Sudan for reasons unrelated to journalism, business or humanitarian aid could be seen as reasonably suspicious. Mandating extra visa requirements for those who enjoyed this type of travel seems appropriate, as groups increasingly recruit new fighters from Europe and the Americas. Though the countries targeted in these policies may not agree with these travel measures, the measures themselves are a reflection of how these governments have failed to secure their own borders. With better governance, these countries have the ability to make an appeal against the new laws.
On the other hand, dual citizenship to any one of these nations does not constitute reasonable evidence to suspect terror related activity. Throughout history, whenever our country has discriminated against civilians in this way during a time of conflict, it has always returned as a source of national embarrassment. The nature of the terror activities being carried out in these countries has nothing to do with nationality and everything to do with perverted ideology that pays no attention to international borders.
A notable Iranian journalist in the U.K., Rana Rahimpour, became affected by these new policies last week as she attempted to surprise her brother in the U.S. for his birthday. She was stopped at London Heathrow airport and told she would have to apply for a visa to continue.
In an interview with NPR, Rahimpour expressed her frustrations. “You become British, and you pay taxes in Britain,” he said. “And you think that you can benefit from the visa waiver program. And then suddenly, they tell you that, no, you’re not British anymore. You have to apply for a visa.” She continued, “I think this is racial discrimination. You feel that you’re being punished for something that sometimes, you don’t have anything to do with.”
As a journalist, Rahimpour had the privileged ability to bring her story forward — a privilege thousands of dual citizens in the same positon will not have over the coming years. If national origin has nothing to do with your potential support of radical Islamic ideologies, then what do measures like this do but punish innocent people for something they “have nothing to do with?” In regards to these new policies, national origin should be left out of the conversation, though travel habits may be cited as an appropriate motivation for additional screening.
Samuel Farnum, FCRH ’16, is an English and music studies major from Ranchester, Wyoming.