January 9, 2010



Congressman Gresham Barrett (R-SC) has announced his intention to reintroduce legislation that would prohibit “the admission of aliens from countries designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism as well as Yemen to the United States.” The Stop Terrorist Entry Program (STEP) Act, first introduced in 2003, also would have required all persons from these countries on student visas, temporary work visas, exchange and tourist visas to leave the United States within 60 days, despite their legal status in the country. Residents and nationals of Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen would be affected.

The bill makes an exception only in the cases of individuals who are seeking political or religious asylum, or who have immediate emergency medical needs.

Congressman Barrett said his bill came in response to the Fort Hood shooting and the Christmas-day attempt to blow up an airplane over Detroit. “While President Obama may have declared an end to the War on Terror, it is clear our enemies did not get the message. Twice in the past two months, radical Islamic terrorists have attacked our nation and the Administration has failed to adapt its national security and immigration policies to counter the renewed resolve of those who seek to harm our citizens.”

The American Army major and Nigerian alleged to have committed those attacks would not have been affected by the STEP Act.

I swear, Republicans cannot think their way out of a paper bag. This would have done NOTHING to prevent the two attacks in the last year. In fact, I would hazard a guess that it might actually radicalize even MORE Muslims with its naked bigotry.

And while we're at it, let's examine that list of targeted countries. Remind me again, how many terror attacks have originated from Cuba? Iran? And why isn't Saudi Arabia on that list?

The National Iranian-American Council has launched a campaign against Barrett's actions. It states:

If passed, the bill would deport all Iranians on student visas, temporary work visas, exchange visas, and tourist visas from the United States within 60 days. It would also make it illegal for Iranians to travel to the United States, though some exceptions may be made for medical emergencies and political or religious asylum after "extensive federal screening." [..]

At a time of increasing repression in Iran, this proposal will impose even greater burdens on Iranians seeking refuge abroad. Iranian Americans must unite to tell Congressman Barrett that this legislation is offensive to American principles, harmful to US interests and discriminates against Iranians and Iranian Americans.

I can't possibly emphasize enough what a tenuous place Iranians find themselves right now. I've spoken to many Iranian friends who feel strongly that the government is in a state of flux and could quite possibly radically change (and secularize). This is not the time to play cowboy and give the Iranians a reason to rally around us as an enemy.

But of course, when has facts and reality ever actually played into the kabuki theatre of partisan politics?

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