By Tom Kisken
January 30, 2017
As seen in:
Ventura County Star
Farhad Maghsoudi came to America 35 years ago because it was the land of opportunity.
A native of Iran, he married and built a business here. His dream was realized.
But an executive order that temporarily blocks refugees, as well as visitors from Iran and six other Muslim countries, makes the Thousand Oaks restaurateur wonder.
"It doesn't make sense," he said. "It's not the USA that we know."
The order by President Donald Trump on Friday blocks all refugee traffic for 120 days, stopping it indefinitely for Syrian refugees. It also blocks travel for 90 days for many people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. An administration official on Sunday said people from the seven countries who have green cards are not included in the ban.
Worries about an order that meant some people were detained in American airports and others weren't allowed to board planes headed to the United States continue to sprawl across Southern California Monday.
"I have a friend who was supposed to go back (to Iran) this Wednesday. He was supposed to go and visit his family. He changed his mind," Maghsoudi said, noting his friend has a visa, meaning he could be protected from the ban.
"What they say is still not taking the fear from us," he said, later focusing on how immigrants view government. "The trust we have in the government and in Homeland Security and in the law of the United States. That … is gone."
Dr. Jubran Dakwar has Palestinian and Syrian roots and was born in Haifa, Israel. Last year, the Oxnard critical care specialist spent two weeks at a refugee camp eight miles from the Syrian border, treating people for conditions ranging from hypertension to malnourishment. There was so much need and so few resources that it felt akin to treating a hemorrhage with a bandage.
On Monday, Dakwar speculated on the impact of the order on the refugees he helped.
"They're being stigmatized," Dakwar said. "I think that's unfair. They have to flee their homes because of war mongers. Then their options for safety are being reduced."
Others stressed the temporary nature of the restrictions. It's a needed pause, said Joe Guzzardi, spokesman for the Santa Barbara group, Californians for Population Stabilization.
"I think a ban is perfectly appropriate," he said. "(Trump) wants to re-evaluate the refugee resettlement program and make sure it operates in a way that is safe for Americans."
Despite protests at airports across the country, Trump said over the weekend the ban was going well. On Sunday, a senior administration official called it a massive success.
Barbra Williamson, a Trump supporter from Simi Valley, supports the move "100 percent." It's about stopping terrorism, she said.
"My family is at risk. So is yours. So is everybody's," she said. "It is what it is. Until we get it straightened out, I support him."
Muslims who pray daily at the Islamic Center of Conjeo Valley in Newbury Park focused on a provision in the executive order that gives priority to people in a minority religion who have been persecuted because of their faith. Noting that the majority religion in the seven countries is Islam, they said it's proof the order targets Muslims.
"He's making an exception for non-Muslims. What does that mean?" Imam Ahmed Patel said. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist."
Trump has said the order is not anti-Muslim rather a move to make the country safe.
Patel also cited a Sunday shooting in a Canadian mosque that left six people dead. He said both the shooting and the executive order drew a steady flow of emails from the community. People expressed support for the mosque and its members.
The messages offer strength.
"We are in the best country in the world," he said.
Others worry Muslims will become more afraid to speak out, more worried about being a target. Dr. Bader Iqbal, a board member of the Newbury Park mosque, thinks the country has the right to protect its borders.
"I don't think it targets Muslims," he said, aiming his concern at the message sent to refugees who have been pushed from their homes and have nowhere to go. "We're basically condemning them to hopelessness and helplessness."