On a bronze plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty is inscribed a poem titled “The New Colossus.”
A line in this poem states, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free … ”
These words proclaim the American ideal that we are a people welcoming anyone seeking opportunity, freedom, safety, and protection under the rule of law. Since our founding, America has been, and still remains, a bastion of hope to a distressed world.
However, with such freedom comes great responsibility.
As America still offers a place for people who want to live in freedom and pursue opportunity, it is the responsibility of our government to protect them from those who seek to do harm.
Many coming to our protected shores are seeking refuge from violence and tyranny. Unfortunately, what they are seeking to escape is the same type of violence that is now coming to our communities.
While many are interpreting the president’s executive order as defying those words engraved on the Statue of Liberty, it is in fact a measure to protect Americans and those seeking asylum from the violence that is sweeping across the Middle East and Europe.
The words “yearning to breathe free” also mean free from the threats of radical Islamist terrorism.
Our government plays a great role in allowing people seeking freedom and liberty a place in our society, but the paramount responsibility of our government is to protect our citizens, and those visiting our nation.
For years, the federal government has become too lax in protecting our borders, airports, and points of entry. Our already porous borders are not secure, and the government has been more focused on screening American citizens at airports than vetting foreigners coming into the country.
Two years ago, Congress created a bipartisan task force to investigate how terrorists travel internationally, and how to stop them from entering the United States. I was selected to serve on this special Task Force on Combating Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel.
After months of extensive investigation, including site visits throughout the United States, the Middle East, and Europe, we determined there were several nations that served as portals for foreign fighters traveling to and from the United States.
These are nations that do not adequately vet travelers, do not control their own borders, are known to train and harbor terrorists, or are known for passing forged passports.
One of the recommendations of our task force was that the government should immediately restrict travel to the United States from these countries until they improve their vetting processes to the standards required by our country.
The president’s executive order is in line with this recommendation by Congress, and is meant to protect citizens of the United States, as well as those traveling to our country.
These enhanced screening practices are not geared toward any race or religion, but toward nations known to train, harbor, or fund terrorists, and that do not adequately screen travelers originating from or passing through their airports, ports, or borders.
This is not the first time such a policy has been put into place.
Other presidents, including Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, had similar policies during their administrations, restricting travel to the United States from some of the same countries listed in President Donald Trump’s executive order.
The safety and security of American citizens, and visitors to the United States, is paramount, and this order is a good first step in dealing with the numerous ways in which terrorists seek to enter our country.
In the spirit of the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, the only way that America can be a safe haven for oppressed people is if we ensure safety from those who would oppress them.