The Trump Administration: A Lesson on Inhumanity
On April 6, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the zero-tolerance policy, which separated approximately 2,000 migrant children from their parents . On June 19, 2018, the US announced its withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council . Throughout his presidency, Trump has met with and praised Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, all of whom have atrocious human rights records. As these incidents indicate, the current Administration’s dismissal of human rights is not temporary; it is a pattern that influences policy. Trump continues this pattern in his dealings with the civil wars and refugee crises in Syria and Yemen. While the Trump Administration is blocking the vast majority of migrants and refugees from these two war-torn countries, it is simultaneously funding, supplying, and prolonging the conflicts that displaced them.
The first mention of a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the country came from then-candidate Trump after the shooting in San Bernardino, California in December 2015 . Since then, he has issued three versions of the travel ban, two of which were struck down by lower courts. The third version, however, went in to full effect in December of 2017 and was upheld by the Supreme Court on June 26, 2018 . Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the opinion for the 5–4 majority, explained that the travel ban is within the president’s statutory authority and that it does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment .
The ban indefinitely suspends the granting of visas to migrants from Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela . By blocking both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, the policy rejects not only people who want to live in the US permanently but also those who want to live here temporarily. Despite the vast restrictions, the government says it is granting waivers . The Administration claims that it has a thorough system for the issuance of such exceptions; however, the system is highly flawed . The waiver process is incredibly unclear for migrants and immigrant rights groups for three main reasons: (1) the criteria for issuance is written in broad terms, (2) the selection process has not been explained to the public, and (3) many applicants were denied waivers without knowing what is needed to apply . In addition, the task of granting waivers is left to consular officials, making the waiver process subjective . And finally, the waiver process is extremely restrictive. Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland asked the State Department for more information on the process itself and its impacts . As indicated in their response, the State Department, as of April 30th, received 33,176 applications and granted 579, which is an acceptance rate of approximately 2 percent . It is important to note that those in the 2% are not guaranteed entry into the US; they must still go through the long, difficult, and often unsuccessful process of getting a visa .
Clearly, we are letting in virtually no migrants or refugees. In fact, from January to April 2018, the US let in only 11 Syrian refugees, which is a 98% decrease from the first three months of 2016 . Meanwhile, we have let in zero refugees from Yemen in 2018 . As a result of statistics like these, 2018 is set to be the year of lowest refugee resettlement in the US in decades .
So, while the Administration is preventing migrants and refugees from crossing our borders, what is it doing to ameliorate the conflicts that brought them here? Nothing.
The US has led several airstrikes in Syria, including ones in September 2016, April 2017, and April 2018 . In addition, there are approximately 2,000 US troops in Syria, working to advise the Syrian military and provide intelligence to other armed forces that are fighting ISIS . Not only does the Trump Administration assist the Syrian government, but it also froze $200 million in humanitarian aid to civilians in March 2018 . These actions are even more shocking for two main reasons: (1) from 2011 to 2017, the US-led coalition killed approximately 945 civilians, including 356 children, and (2) the Syrian regime is barbaric . President of Syria Bashar al-Assad and his military killed about 190,000 civilians, blocked humanitarian aid to rebel-held areas, and launched chemical weapons attacks against their own people [21, 22].
Meanwhile in Yemen, the United States, then under the Obama Administration, supported a Saudi-led coalition that bombed rebel-held land in March of 2015 . The coalition later deployed ground forces and established a naval blockade on the western coast of Yemen to stop the flow of weapons and supplies to the Houthi rebels . Currently, the Trump Administration is aiding the blockade by supplying the coalition with intelligence, logistics, and arms . As a result, Yemen features the “world’s worst ongoing humanitarian crisis” with approximately 22,000 reported cholera cases, 2 million displaced persons, and 10.3 million people in need of life-saving help .
The Trump Administration continues to exacerbate the conflicts in Yemen and Syria while it prevents the people who are suffering the most from gaining even temporary refuge in America. As long as we are prioritizing alliances and economic interests over basic human rights, innocent civilians will continue to suffer and die.
If you would like to learn more about the crises in Yemen and Syria, please click here for Yemen and here for Syria. If you would like to help the Syrian refugees and children who are in dire need, please consider donating to the International Rescue Committee here and UNICEF for Syria here. If you would like to support relief efforts in Yemen, please do so by visiting the Save the Children website here and the UNICEF for Yemen website here.
 “Attorney General Announces Zero-Tolerance Policy for Criminal Illegal Entry.” The United States Department of Justice. April 06, 2018. Accessed July 31, 2018. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-announces-zero-tolerance-policy-criminal-illegal-entry.
 Dwyer, Colin. “U.S. Announces Its Withdrawal From U.N. Human Rights Council.” NPR. June 19, 2018. Accessed July 31, 2018. https://www.npr.org/2018/06/19/621435225/u-s-announces-its-withdrawal-from-u-n-s-human-rights-council.
 “Donald Trump’s Top 10 Campaign Promises.” Politifact. July 15, 2016. Accessed July 31, 2018. https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/jul/15/donald-trumps-top-10-campaign-promises/.
 “Trump v. Hawaii.” Oyez. Accessed July 31, 2018. https://www.oyez.org/cases/2017/17-965.
 Gladstone, Rick, and Satoshi Sugiyama. “Trump’s Travel Ban: How It Works and Who Is Affected.” The New York Times. July 01, 2018. Accessed July 31, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/01/world/americas/travel-ban-trump-how-it-works.html.
 Gelardi, Chris. “Here’s How Many Refugees the US Has Accepted in 2018.” Global Citizen. April 26, 2018. Accessed August 01, 2018. http://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/us-accepted-refugees-2018/.
 “Syrian Civil War Fast Facts.” CNN. May 03, 2018. Accessed August 01, 2018. http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/27/world/meast/syria-civil-war-fast-facts/index.html.
 “How Many U.S. Troops Are in Syria? And What Are They Doing There?” USA Today. April 04, 2018. Accessed August 01, 2018. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/04/04/u-s-troops-syria-and-what-they-doing-there/486763002/.
 Finnegan, Conor, and Mark Osborne. “Trump Freezes $200 Million in Aid Promised to Syria.” ABC News. March 31, 2018. Accessed August 01, 2018. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-freezes-200-million-aid-promised-syria/story?id=54140183.
 “6 Years On. What’s Happening in Syria?” Who’s Killing Civilians in Syria. Accessed August 01, 2018. http://whoiskillingciviliansinsyria.org/.
 “Syria Removes Medical Supplies from Convoy Bound for Besieged Enclave.” NBCNews.com. March 5, 2018. Accessed August 01, 2018. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/medical-supplies-bound-eastern-ghouta-seized-syrian-officials-n853551.
 “Yemen Crisis: Who Is Fighting Whom?” BBC News. January 30, 2018. Accessed August 01, 2018. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29319423.
 Gelardi, Chris. “Here’s How Many Refugees the US Has Accepted in 2018.”
 “Yemen Conflict: How Bad Is the Humanitarian Crisis?” BBC News. March 28, 2017. Accessed August 01, 2018. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34011187.