Several years ago a young American woman went to Dubai for an adventure. It’s an amazing diaspora and from what I have heard from this woman and others it’s a great place to combine work and adventure and travel. It is a time to be free, to learn about other cultures, and bask in the energy of those who share that same zest.

She met a young man from Syria. They started dating just as his time in Dubai drew to a close. He went off to London to do his Masters and as she was lucky enough to have five weeks vacation so they crossed Europe meeting in old cities soaking up culture and cultivating their love.

This young woman decided she wanted to go back to school to become a doctor. Time away can help you chart your course in life. The obvious place for her to do this was back home in America, so her young man left his British employment prospects behind and followed her to the United States. Her road to becoming a doctor would not be a fast or an easy one, and so he put his career on hold for hers. She had waited for him and now he would wait for her. She had some postbaccalaureate training to complete, she was accepted into medical school and graduated, and then accepted into a residency.

Along the way she married her love. He got a Green card. They had a baby. When your partner works full-time and you are a doctor-in-training the practicalities of childcare can be very challenging. For example, if you are on call in the hospital and your spouse is caught up at work what happens? The options are expensive sitters or your spouse, with the new career that he has already interrupted, takes the hit at work.

The solution seemed simple enough, fly grandma and grandpa over from Syria to care for their grandchild while the young mother and doctor is on her month-long rotation working nights. It’s a win for everyone. Grandparents see baby. Husband sees parents. Doctor mom has less stress.

Except this morning the resident was very upset. We chatted about the news. Her husband was driving his Syrian parents to the airport as they were due to leave. When will he see them again? What will happen in a  few months when she has to work every night again? What if his mother or father gets ill? If he flies to see them he may not be able to reunite with his child and wife. We didn’t know each other well so she was trying not to cry. I turned away to chart because I too was trying not to cry.

There is a brother in another country whose wife is due any day. There were tentative vacation plans to go visit, but not now. There were too many stories of Green Card holders being sent back, and anyway what if the rules change again? No, they can only fly somewhere that doesn’t require a passport. The husband has sat in secondary screening in immigration enough times to know that you speak when you are spoken to and having a Green Card doesn’t always matter. In immigration you are made to feel guilty the second they pull you out of line. I too am an immigrant and before 9-11 was pulled aside for secondary screening a few times and was scared. Let that sink in, as a white woman from Canada pre-9-11 I was afraid in secondary screening so I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be Syrian man with Trump in the Whitehouse.

He has a Master’s degree, worked for years paying taxes, has a wife and a child. He is from a country that has never sent a terrorist to American soil, yet he is treated like a criminal. He accepts this maltreatment because he knows if he speaks up or causes a fuss it will be worse. He has brown skin. He is from Syria. Facts are irrelevant. He and everyone who looks or sounds like him is our Emmanuel Goldstein.

They only fly internationally though San Francisco airport now, that way if he is detained for hours my resident can take her young son home. Hours of waiting in Dulles or Newark Liberty with missed flights, not even knowing when he will be out so they can rebook, just too much to bear with a child in tow.

And so here we are. Grandparents unable to visit. The ignominy of the secondary screenings he can bear, but the fear of not returning he cannot. A young doctor stressed.

Kellyanne Conway says my resident and her family are paying “a small price,” but what I heard this morning sounds like a lot more than a small price. It sounds like the entire lives of a law-abiding couple being thrown into turmoil to support a sleight of hand about American safety. It’s like gradually mixing poison in with the mashed potatoes so you don’t notice unless you are paying attention.

Banning muslims from the seven countries that have never killed an American on US soil in a terrorist attack cannot possibly make us safer. We would protect our citizens better if we banned guns or cigarettes, but that won’t win you votes. Here are the deaths due to terrorists from the seven banned countries and from Saudi Arabia (screenshot from CATO Institute) since 1975:


Yes, 78% of Americans murdered by terrorists on American soil were killed by Saudi citizens. Banning people from countries that haven’t attacked on our soil to protect us on our own soil literally makes no sense. No meaning to be trite, but no one has probably died from wearing socks. Should we ban those too? The only logical conclusions are lack of research, the agenda has nothing to do with reducing terrorism, or it’s all about money and oil. Or all three.

So we have an Executive Order that the facts suggest cannot make us any safer and conveniently creates scapegoats. Just today Sean Spicer somehow twisted the the murders of Muslim men in a Quebec mosque, committed by a white Canadian, to this conclusion, “It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant. And why the president is taking steps to be proactive, not reactive.” This is so Orwellian I am speechless. How does vetting immigrants make them safer from attacks by white men radicalized by your own words and policies?

The Executive Order is not a small price. It tears families apart needlessly. It prevents refugees living in despair from starting a new life. It falsely targets groups as being potential terrorists. It offers a smokescreen of security to cover up a test of muscle strength. It is a way to see how many lies Americans will swallow.

What worries me even more is this young American born doctor was afraid to go public with her name to tell her story. I could tell her story, but anonymously. And that, my friend, should frighten you most of all as well.




Winston: Does the Brotherhood exist?

O’Brien: That, Winston, you will never know. If we choose to set you free when we have finished with you, and if you live to be ninety years old, still you will never learn whether the answer to that question is Yes or No. As long as you live it will be an unsolved riddle in your mind.

-1984, George Orwell


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  1. Revisiting this almost 2 years later… ugh it still makes me blindingly angry. I hope they’ve been doing okay.

  2. It’s sad that most of the refugees from the middle east aren’t getting enough recognition by the gov’t. They’re just trying to find a better life. Thanks, Jen for sharing this story.

  3. amidst all the chaos there will always be truth. truth told from people like you. thank you, Dr. Gunter.

  4. Jen, I am so grateful for your awesome blog. You are a voice of reason in these crazy times. I saw you speak at Acog last year and you inspired me to be more outspoken!

    Best wishes,

    Becky Hunt

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. Pingback: Random Thoughts
  6. Hi Dr. Jen,
    Thanks for writing this. I am so sad for your resident and so many others. This travel ban is awful and just seems to be imposed on a whim. I can’t believe the Trump Administration used the Canadian Mosque shootings to try and justify this travel ban. Unreal.

  7. I think we need to uproot the Statue of Liberty and send her to Canada. We no longer deserve her.

    1. It’s disputed of course, and the original intent may have been changed: but it seems that Frédéric Bartholdi’s visualisation of ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’ had the face of a female Muslim peasant.

  8. I’m crying so hard over this, have been since the order was issued.

    I’m not personally connected, I’m a white British woman, my skin will never be used as an excuse to hurt me, but I feel devastated. My grandfather was a Ukrainian who lived in Poland when it was annexed by the Nazis. He lost his entire family; wife, kids, in-laws, neighbours, etc. They were all taken to Ozwiecim – Auschwitz, and slaughtered.

    He escaped from the camp, and walked across mainland Europe, and eventually sought asylum in the UK. He was my Nana’s second husband, so not even my biological grandfather, but he changed my nappies, sang to me, and was an amazingly strong, kind, generous man. He was my granddad, and I adored him.

    He was a refugee, an immigrant, an asylum seeker, when those terms are used in hate I think of him. He joined the RAF and fought for his home country, England. After that he worked for the local public works department, doing the jobs nobody else would do. He made my Nana so happy, my maternal “grandfather” abused her for decades, I’ve met him less than a dozen times in my 39 years. The two men could not have been more different, and it only served to highlight how wonderful my granddad was in comparison.

    I hate to admit it, but I’m glad he and my Nana are dead now. What with our cut-throat govt, Brexit and it’s disgusting aftermath, and all of the anti-immigration rhetoric oozing everywhere. I stand with the notion that our countries (UK, US, Canada) are enriched by immigration from other countries. That these countries would not be as interesting, or as profitable, were it not from the blood and sweat of people fleeing war and horror, finding a new home and working hard to fit in and to give back.

    I miss him so much, but seeing all of this hate would’ve tortured him. Thank you for your post, Dr Gunter. I hope your colleague can get whatever she needs in order to thrive, and to make her little family safe. I stand with her too.

  9. I am an immigrant too and you know what is making me even madder. Being told to calm down. Don’t be hysterical. The oldest line in the book. I am travelling to Europe next week, against my immigration lawyers wishes. But I am not at risk – though the discretionary clause is a worry – I feel miserable for those like your associate. And helpless. Why are we being made to feel helpless. c

    1. Just a few facts to consider:

      1) 80,000 foreigners visit America every year. And a percentage of those are coming to kill us! Having a problem with vetting is beyond ridiculous ( a democrat specialite !)!!

      2) On any given day there are 50,000 homeless veterans in America.

      3) There are 20-22 veteran suicides every day; about ONE every 65 minutes!

      4) At any time that the President fears the country is in danger, he can indiscriminately close all or any border that he deems appropriate.

      I suggest the democrats come out of the wilderness, wake up, stop whining and CRYING ( esp. Chuckie Cheese !), get over the decimation of their party by Obama, stop the immature freak-outs and focus on the above problems. This is AMERICA, ding a lings !!!

      Hey, we all welcome immigrants, but under the right circumstances, and vetting them thoroughly is totally proper.

      We will have plenty of time to admit immigrants, but for God’s sake, let’s heal our own first!

      *memo: if Obama had tried to stop the genocide in Syria we wouldn’t have the huge refugee problem that haunts us now….

      1. and yet
        1) other countries in the world welcome foreigners in greater numbers without the hostility indicated in your post.
        The majority of people killed by a muslim terrorist are other muslims, and most acts of terror committed inside the US are by US citizens. Your claim therefore that “a percentage of those are coming to kill us” is speculative at best. A percentage of meteors are large enough to enter the atmosphere and destroy earth, so the sky may actually fall one day…
        2) we all know the problem with VA.
        3) veteran suicides are a combination of poor funding from Veterans Affairs (2) and PTSD from their service abroad, and not receiving proper services to address their needs.
        4) yes, within the limits of the Constitution- Trumps’ order exceeds those limits.
        *memo: many Republicans initially argued Obama had NO BUSINESS drawing the US into Syria in the first place.Not that the Syrian refugee is a”huge problem”, as refugees have to go through a rigorous vetting process to receive a visa to travel into the US.It is far easier for them to enter other countries.

      2. Refugees go through an 18-24 month vetting process before being allowed to come here. They are ALREADY “extremely vetted.” I suggest YOU actually learn something before you come here and start attacking everybody.

      3. Hey Terry! You know what would’ve helped veterans? The *gasp* Democrat bill that gave them first refusal at any federal employee. You know what isn’t helping them? The federal hiring freeze that the Manchurine Candidate has instituted. Men and women with interview dates have had to be told “Sorry, the hiring freeze has eliminated that position”.

        You know what else Cheeto Jesus’s hiring freeze means? That the massive shortage of medical staff employed by the VA cannot be rectified. Nurses and doctors are needed in their thousands, but guess what? Federal hiring freeze means that’s just tough.

        So, that’s a huge bunch of jobs yanked out of the hands of poverty-stricken veterans, and it means chronically ill and disabled certs get little to no access to treatment.

        WRT the Middle East – remember the Bushes? Daddy and L’il Shrub? That’s on them, not Obama. They attacked Iraq and Afghanistan for crimes committed by Saudi Arabian citizens. They caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and spawned All Qaeda and ISIS. Many of the Iraqi and Afghanistan refugees are men that helped US troops evade capture and murder by the Taliban and All Qaeda, they’ve spent up to five years being vetted, and now they’re told “Sorry, nope, we know we’re about to get you killed but hey, that’s life!”

        I’m British, Terry. Never even been to the US, so how come I know what’s going on over there, while you just babble Faux News’ “alternative facts”? Pathetic.

      4. Correcting errors:

        *The bill that gave them first refusal with any federal employer

        *chronically ill and disabled vets get little to no access to treatment.

        *Many of the Iraqi and Afghan refugees

      5. Both the green card holders and the refugees were already vetted. Often for years of processing. Our family’s vetting was taking so long (as in several years of legal limbo) we ended up suing the federal government to give us an answer once and for all. Cost a nice sum in legal fees, but at least we finally got the green cards.

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