The Reality of Refugees



Catherine Powell’s article about a recent executive order (EO) signed by President Donald Trump depicts the difficult situations that refugee women will have to further endure.  The EO titled, Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” also known as the refugee/muslim ban, has been met with waves of support and critique across the entire globe.  Essentially, the EO halts the entry of citizens from 7 “countries of concern” which include Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia,  and Sudan, with an indefinite ban on Syrians.  While this is devastating for hundreds of thousands of displaced persons waiting to resettle into the U.S.,  it has a disproportional affect on women.  The state department calculated that women and children made up 72% of the refugees resettled in the U.S.   

Something that stuck out to me the most in Powell’s article is that our country is dubbed the “global leader” in resettlement programs for displaced persons.  If this is truly the case, and our ban inspires other countries to do the same, our “leadership” will lead displaced persons to feel even more vulnerable and with even less choices.  Most obviously, the U.S. can no longer be called a “global leader” in the protection of refugees if we are denying entry to people in need and in crisis.  Another reoccurring issue is that temporary refugee status in a camp does not allow access to permanent residency, which decreases access to education, healthcare, and employment.  Thousands of children do not have healthcare or go to school because of their temporary status.

As a U.S. citizen who works with and has many friends that are refugees, I find the ban disturbing.  Similar situations have been initiated before, for example, against the jews during WWII.  It seems as though history is repeating itself.  My confusion does not necessarily lie within the writing and portrayal of the article, but of the what the article is focused on.  Why are the “countries of concern” those specific seven countries?  Oman, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and other countries may also harbour terrorist groups, but there is no ban for them.  Is it because we may have business or other kinds of deals with them that may exempt their country from a ban?  Does the ban in any way seem unconstitutional?  All of the “countries of concern” are predominantly muslim.  Is this EO the beginning stages of a plan meant to hinder more muslims from coming to the U.S.?    

My questions for Powell are fairly straight forward.  While her writing portrays the ban in a negative light, I am curious to know is she thinks the ban is unconstitutional, and if Trump and his administration are passing this EO and many others as part of a grand scheme.    

In my mind, I see a conceptual framework looking fairly simple:  

fear–>ban of muslims/certain countries/refugees–>anger and violence due to the disregard of rights————>more terrorism, violence, and division

I had quite a difficult time analyzing the pros and cons in a way that does not make one side seem worse than the other, however, in this situation there is very little room for that.  

Pros of the ban: lower population in the U.S., leads people to believe that they are “safer” and have a smaller risk of a terrorist attack.

Cons of the ban: women and children are disproportionately affected, bigotry, xenophobia, and religious intolerance will continue towards muslims,  people may feel more fearful of the Middle East, less people will be resettled into society and have to live in refugee camps for months even years longer than expected, health will decrease, level of education may decrease, and there are many more.     

Trump’s reasoning behind the EO ban was to make sure that American citizens are safer from potential terrorist attacks, because in the past, terrorists have posed as refugees to get into the country.  While it may ward off some terrorists, there are plenty of other ways for terrorists to get into the country. We even have terrorists that are American.  The tactic of banning countries that are predominantly muslim instills in citizens that muslims should be feared, creating an even further divide.

All four global health dimensions play a role in displacement status.  Science and environment: Basic needs of a human being are food, water, and shelter. We are not providing basic needs for displaced persons.  Families have lived in refugee camps for years in sometimes toxic environments.  Many women are not safe in their environments, they often risk being assaulted and forced into a variety of things, like marriage or sex work, used to control them and make money from them.  Power and economics: Trump and his administration passed many EO’s, all at the same time or in succession. He used his immediate power to pass these things, when Obama had a much harder time passing his own EO’s. Most all of the EO’s passed by Trump benefit someone economically.  While it may seems like cutting programs and funding from programs may save money, it is really creating a more detrimental system.  Ethics and responsibility: If you haven’t realized yet, I think the ban is wrong and unconstitutional.  Any person, especially refugees, deserves to have a chances to feel safe. Why are we taking away basic rights and needs of human simply because they are another religion?  Our ethics are very questionable, and we are smashing our responsibility of being a “global leader” for refugee resettlement.  Culture and society:  There are cultural and societal norms that these refugees probably aren’t used to, but there have been programs in place to assist people to learn the American ways (not by assimilation).  A reason why the ban was set in place is because of fear of other religions and cultures. This is wrong.  Maybe soon we’ll have bans on other things that are “different”.   

The author has provided many links in the article to look at and filter through the data.  The website provides many articles on refugees.  Unfortunately, not many news stations are talking about the very poor affects the ban will have on refugees, especially women.  

From the perception of someone in favor of the ban, they may think that the author misunderstands the ban, and it’s importance in protecting U.S. citizen’s safety.  What I believe Powell is trying to convince these particular readers is that the ban will affect refugees way more than it will ever affect us.    

 Powell highlights in her article what is missing in the larger conversation about the EO.  While her article highlights women refugees, I think it would be helpful to talk about why people believe that there are typically more men fleeing and why they may not believe the actual whopping percentage of women and children affected.  Are people less interested in the ban’s effects because it is mostly women and children and not men?  

So, why does this matter and what is the global health significance?

It is obvious that refugee, displacement, asylum-seeking status all greatly affect women.  They are constantly in unsafe and vulnerable environments, their health is not consistently supported, they often are not able to find work to pay for their lifestyle.  What is assumed but not explicitly stated is that the mother population of these women are raising the next generation with scarce resources.  How will they make sure that their child has proper nutrition or gets an education?  How will they ensure their own safety when it is common to be raped, beaten, forced into marriage, or even sex slavery?  All of these situations become more common for women in temporary homes and refugee camps, and all of these situations are factors that deteriorate physical, mental and spiritual health.  


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