President Donald Trump’s executive order for the extreme vetting of visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries is deeply troubling, and for all the reasons many have outlined. It’s un-American to deny entry to the United States based on a person’s religious or ethnic background, whether they are doctors, filmmakers, businessmen or tourists.
While the vetting of our visitors should be taken seriously, this program was ill-conceived, at best. But at worst, it puts some of the world’s most vulnerable in even worse peril than ever before.
Syrian refugees, one of the seven groups Trump has designated for extreme vetting and possibly indefinite barring, have miraculously survived a modern-day genocide perpetrated by their own government, proxy governments and Islamic terrorist groups who have seized on the chaos in the region. Nearly 500,000 are dead, 50,000 of whom are children, and 11 million have been displaced, which is a majority of the population, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
America has done little to stop this. Whether Republican or Democrat, we believe it’s fair to say that President Barack Obama failed to articulate and execute a clear vision for the unrest and subsequent slaughter in Syria.
While Syria has been a controversial issue here and abroad, what’s not controversial is one of the solutions: safe zones. Safe zones are delineated areas within Syria’s borders where Syrian civilians would be safe from Russian airstrikes, the Syrian regime’s chemical attacks and the wrath of ISIS.
From former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Sen. John McCain, former Secretary of State John Kerry to Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Sen. Tim Kaine, all have proposed safe zones within Syria as a means of returning millions of refugees to their homes to rebuild and live in relative peace.
It’s in the world’s interest — especially America’s — to unburden the overloaded economies that have struggled to support these millions of refugees. It’s also in our interest to see that the comparative stability offered by extremism does not replace the instability of homelessness.
Despite Trump’s disappointing executive order, there are glimmers of hope. An early draftof the executive order included language ordering the Pentagon and State Department to develop a plan for safe zones in Syria within 90 days “in which Syrian nationals displaced from their homeland can await firm settlement.”
spoke with Gulf State leaders and asked them to support Syrian safe zones. According to the White House, he “requested, and [Saudi King Salman] agreed to support, safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts.”
This is positive news. But the executive branch should not be alone in this endeavor.
Republicans and Democrats, for once, should put aside partisan agendas and create diplomatically negotiated “safe zones” for Syrians inside of Syria, or risk another Rwanda — a preventable genocide that even President Bill Clinton deeply regrets.
Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard recently endeavored on a “fact-finding” mission that included a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Initially, I hadn’t planned on meeting him,” Gabbard told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so, because I felt it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we’ve got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace. And that’s exactly what we talked about.”
A final point we both agree on: Gabbard is a true patriot for her service to our country, but meeting with Assad is wrong. Assad is a war criminal, and his record of using chemical weapons against his own people only deserves our contempt.
What we need from Congress is a clear, bipartisan path forward in Syria, not attention-seeking meetings from rogue members of Congress.
As Republicans and Democrats, we will disagree on a great many things, including immigration and our obligations to refugees worldwide. But we all should agree that helping millions return safely home is the most humanitarian thing we can do. We call on Congress and the White House to do this, the very least and most we can, for the suffering Syrian people.
S.E. Cupp is on the board of directors of HelpMeGoHome.org, which is seeking safe zones in Syria. Bakari Sellers is a former Democratic member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and a CNN commentator. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.