Back in the late 1970s, while attending Oregon State, I spent four years working in the university's language laboratory. During those years, I developed friendships with several foreign students who spent time there improving their English: Luz, from Peru; Abraham, from Mexico; and Mohammed, from Iran.
Having grown up in what is almost certainly the least diverse county in the state — Baker — those friendships, and a semester spent in Southern France, really helped open my eyes to the world outside my tiny, homogenous home in Eastern Oregon.
Since moving to Madras, we've hosted people from Thailand, China, France and Japan. It would be difficult to overstate the value of those types of cultural exchanges. When you get to know people from other parts of the world, you realize that we share more than just biology and physiology — we share aspirations, spirituality, emotions, familial bonds, struggles.
Unless you have never experienced adversity, you, like most of the world's 7.4 billion people, have probably dreamed of improving your own, or your family's situation.
So, when the Trump administration suddenly implemented a travel ban Jan. 27, on visitors from seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — all of which are predominantly Muslim, I was concerned. Surely, some new information from the intelligence community caused the sudden issuance of the executive order, "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States," right?
As it turns out, that does not seem to be the case. The order cites the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, when 19 foreign nationals "went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans," and suggests that additional measures implemented afterward "did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States."
Actually, according to the Cato Institute (founded by Charles Koch), no one from any of the banned countries has ever killed anyone in a terrorist attack in the U.S.
However, of the 19 attackers from 9/11, 15 were from Saudi Arabia, two were from the United Arab Emirates, one was from Egypt, and another from Lebanon, yet the executive order does not list any of those countries.
The order also makes a veiled attempt at giving non-Muslims priority when the 90-day ban is lifted, noting that the secretary of Homeland Security is directed "to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality."
The executive order disrupted activity at airports around the world, in some cases creating potentially life-threatening situations. A translator who had helped the U.S. military in Iraq, a Syrian family that had been cleared for immigration, a Norwegian former prime minister, students, professors, doctors, a 4-month-old Iranian girl scheduled for surgery in Oregon, and many others were detained at U.S. airports, or stopped from boarding flights in other countries.
The executive order presupposed that immigrants and visitors from those seven countries weren't already undergoing rigorous screenings — which is simply not the case.
In the ensuing chaos, numerous lawsuits were filed, but the most effective one was filed Jan. 30, by the states of Washington and Minnesota. The two states sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the enforcement of the executive order, and on Feb. 3, U.S. District Court Judge James Robart, of Seattle, found that the states "face immediate and irreparable injury" from the order and granted the temporary restraining order on a nationwide basis because "the immigration laws of the United States should be enforced vigorously and uniformly."
Friday evening, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden weighed in on the temporary lifting of the ban, which will help the Iranian infant. "I am pleased this case appears headed toward a successful resolution with an innocent 4-month-old girl getting the lifesaving treatment she needs in this country," he commented.
"Banning a 4-month-old child from a pediatric heart surgeon does nothing to safeguard our nation," Wyden said. "Such cruelty runs counter to core American values. And it slams shut America's centuries-old legacy as a place of shelter for people of all ages."
The world is a wonderful, diverse place, with good people who adhere to thousands of different religions, or consider themselves nonreligious. An estimated 2.2 billion people call themselves Christians, while another 1.6 billion call themselves Muslims — together making up nearly 54 percent of the world's population.
Singling out the people of seven Muslim countries for a travel ban seems more likely to hurt counterterrorism efforts, by causing anger and resentment that can be used by terrorist organizations to increase their ranks.
If there are weaknesses in our immigration policy, strengthen it, but don't call a halt to properly vetted travel and immigration. Remember, aside from our Native American friends and neighbors, we are all immigrants.