A Quick Note About Refugee/Immigrant Vetting

In general, the United State’s overall vetting of refugees and immigrants is one of the and most rigorous and effective in the world since 9/11. It is robust, thorough and consists of about 20 steps according to experts. Refugees will have to go through a very intense process. It is important to note that close to 35,000 refugees were allowed to enter the U.S in 2016, which is even less than the number of refugees welcomed in the German city of Hamburg in the same year.

While the waiting period varies from country to country, it takes a minimum of 18-24 months to a maximum of five years while still overseas for a refugee to enter United States.  Here are some of the steps one has to go through in order to qualify for entry to the U.S.

·       Individuals/families have to fill a comprehensive application for entry to U.S

·       All family and close relatives will have to be listed on application

·       History of education from beginning to end

·       Employment history 

·       Strong reasons/rational for seeking refugee status 

·       Applicant's names are entered in a primary data base for search against terrorist suspects

·       Applicant personal information also gets researched in host country through embassies. 

This latest executive ban is simply a cruel measure that represents a stark departure from America’s core values. Our country has a long and proud tradition of sheltering those fleeing violence and persecution and have always been the world leader in refugee resettlement. 

There is absolutely no data to support the idea that refugees pose a threat here in the U.S. This policy is simply based on fear, not facts. This order is designed in support of earlier campaign claims to halt United State’s ability to accept anyone at all. The wild and irresponsible claims about Syrian refugees pouring over our border, for example, is simply another way to rely on “Alternative Facts” or simply fiction. The fact remains that America can adequately protect the security of our borders and our citizens and maintain this country’s long tradition of welcoming those who have nowhere else to go.  Extremists are humanity’s common enemies.

Also important to note that the unfortunate and devastating massacres in Florida and San Bernardino occurred in the hands of home grown terrorists just like the other mass murders. We also lose over 32,000 lives annually right here in United States as result of gun violence. These killings occur in the hands of our own citizen and not refugees. Maybe it is time to at least do a background check on assault weapon purchasers and start vetting citizens for gun ownership, instead of worrying about a immigration ban that has no factual foundations?

Bottom line, refugees should not be viewed as a burden or as potential terrorists.  They are here already making great contributions to every country’s national well-being. Given an opportunity, they will become an essential part of our American fabric.

War is A Loss of Decency

I remember the image of a bare child on a road, running for his life, followed by other images of desperate families fearfully running away from their homes to unknown destinations.  I remember asking my father about those images of the Vietnam War, trying to make sense of it.  His only explanation: “No one can understand wars but through the experience of the victims.”

Since that moment I wanted to have a greater understanding of what war inflicts on humanity as I was quickly confronted with a conscious question, “What if a war is imposed on my country and this happened to me and my family?”   

No, I thought, we are living in one of the safest and most comfortable places on earth.

And in August of 1980, there I was, running away from one of the safest spots in the world—a top tourist destination—while watching Russian soldiers take over the streets of my birthplace.  I left behind a huge family, my friends, and my beloved peaceful country.  It was the most distressing and horrific feeling of my life, and I was filled with anger, disappointment and betrayal. 

On August 20th of 1980 I had made it to Frankfurt’s international airport and found myself standing in front of a German police desk, seeking asylum.  Yes, another victim like millions of others who had nothing to do with the conflict and had no intention of leaving for unthinkable and unfamiliar territories. 

While riding a bus towards Shoenick refugee camp, I realized that it wasn’t just me (an Afghan) but faces of various nationalities.  I recall mutual sad expressions and feelings of disgust and anxiety. I was however more interested in talking to a fellow refugee across the aisle, who looked of Asian descent.  I struck a conversation with a “Hello” and asked, “Where are you from?” I was overcome with a feeling of curiosity, recalling the image of the Vietnamese boy running from war.  

“Vietnam” he indicated.  I was caught with extreme emotions and sense of further frustration—what now?  It had been years since the end of the Vietnam War

Thirty-five years from that moment, I would not dare to ask anyone as to why and how people leave their homelands.  There is no real logic or answer for wars!  The inhumane growth of arms race and waging wars has turned into a competition for victory at the expense of human lives (“collateral damage”) without regards for human rights, social justice and respect for human dignity

It is also important to remember that none of these victimized citizens have had any capability of producing armament—but natural resources such as oil, mineral and other goods. These victims have been immorally manipulated to exchange natural resources for modern weaponry and use against their own citizens throughout the course of modern history. 

War advocates and profiteers have also done a very good job through propaganda by persuading the young, the innocent and needy in the name of common good, or so-called noble causes like Democracy, Liberty and “Love for the Country.” 

The majority of casualties are the innocents.  In World War II, 65% of the dead were civilians; in more recent decades—the Vietnam, Afghan and Iraq wars—90% of casualties have been civilian deaths.  These wars have and continue to destabilize the world, while sending millions into mental despair and exile away from their homeland.

At last, wars are waged to:

Terrorize, oppress, kill, dominate, destabilize communities/countries and bring the worst in humanity.  Wars do nothing but bring misery, corrupt minds and demonize.

War is a Loss of Decency.

Denpai Kyareng's Article on Lost Decency

Lost Decency: The Untold Afghan Story

By Atta Arghandiwal

A simple but very precise book for anyone who wants to know what happened in Afghanistan and what made it as one of the most dangerous regions on the earth today. After it attained independence from Great Britain in 1919, the country was ruled by liberal but weak Monarchs. Afghan people were proud of their culture and their sense of decency. Both men and women folks worked together without much discrimination to build the new Afghanistan. The girls could be seen wearing skirts and jeans, and going to school and colleges. Burqa system was not imposed harshly on the womenfolk as a law. People looked forward to a promising future with strong and stable government.

After the rule of King Zahir Shah for forty years without any significant upheavals, the country caught itself in the quagmire of the cold war in 1950s. Both Soviet and USA and their allies were trying to gain access into the land by outdoing each other in development work of Afghanistan. Soviet Russia and Chinese communist ideology was gaining access in people’s mind. Ideology of religious fundamentalist from Middle Eastern groups also began to influence the direction the country was headed to. In 1978, the local communist leaders supported by Soviet government launched military coup and toppled the people’s government. This was followed by the Russian invasion and the Afghanistan, the peaceful land turned into a land of oppression and violent fighting. Different faction of people fought bravely on their own with the support of U.S. and its allies. “By 1984 the United States was authorizing military supplies to Mujahideen of nearly $250 million per month,” writes the author. Russian invaders dealt harshly with the people, more than five million Afghan fled the land and took refuge in the neighboring countries.

One of the Author’s brothers, Zia was among the resistance fighters, and fought with the Russian invader bravely. Atta, the author fled to Germany along with other Afghans. From Germany he sought asylum in the United States, where he built a career in banking and ultimately had his family join him later.

Afghanistan remained under Soviet occupation for nearly a decade [1980 – 1989], during which the people and the land suffered irreparable damage. It has not been easy for Soviet Russia either, it’s said that more than 4 billion dollar a year was spent to maintain the puppet Kabul government, and thirty times this amount was spent on the cost of running the war for those years. Now that Russians were gone, the people were looking forward to a peace and stable life under their own government. But during the course of resistance against Russia, various Afghan factions with direct help from the United States and the Western allies, and from the Arab world have established their own territories of control. With the fall of Dr. Najibullah’s government in 1992, these factions came up to form an interim government. “But despite UN attempt to broker peace and bring the warring groups into a coalition government, Afghanistan remained at war.”

Amidst this uncertainty and instability, when a convoy of an influential Pakistani businessman was stopped by bandits in Kandahar, Pakistani government urged the students from fundamentalist school at the border to intervene. The student group not only released the convoy, but went on to capture Kandahar city. They soon began to take the role of disciplining the land, and many at first welcomed the change to have peace and economic stability denied by the warring warlords. Pakistan and ISI funded and supported this group, which came to be known as Taliban. Talib means ‘religious students’ and their core leaders were from Pakistan and other Arab nations. By 1996, Kabul was under the full control of Taliban. “They introduced religious police, a rigid military campaign against their opponents, and the use of non-Afghan forces.” It is estimated that 45 per cent of the Taliban forces were non-Afghan. The brutality with which they controlled the region and the use of non-Afghan forces from Middle East Arab countries led by Osama Bin Laden, gradually infuriated and earned the doubts and misgiving of the local populace. The United States initially thought Taliban as source of stability in the region and ally in sharing anti-Iran stance, and misjudged Taliban’s total hostility toward foreign values.

Then came the 9/11 incident in 2001 attack on World Trade Center building and Twin Tower by the Taliban terrorists. This was followed by the U.S. retaliation, and active involvement in the region. The author felt very bad that the Afghanistan has been turned into terrorist den by the non-Afghan militants from Middle East countries. He, his family and many Afghan people have been so affectionately received and provided for by this land and the fact that his own people attacked the United States made him feel very bad and sick. He made his best to explain to the people here that the attack was not done by the Afghan people, but by the non-Afghan militants who had made Afghanistan their activity base.

In 2011, the author visits Afghanistan, and was devastated to see that once peaceful land with pride and decency has been turned into violent, and corrupt with no trace of decency. The government is formed by the vested warlords who are least bothered about the people’s welfare; they are only interested in making themselves richer and richer. Factional fighting among the warlords has been exploited by the religious fundamentalist, which has caused the presence of foreign troops and dependency on them. All the funds from the United States and its allies are sabotaged by the few elites and the vast majority is languishing in poverty. Old Afghanistan of proud people with honesty and decency is lost. 

As a closing thought, the Author finds himself asking, “What if the Soviet Union had never invaded? What if Afghanistan had never been deserted after Russian withdrawal? Do you think 9/11 would have happened?”

This is difficult to say, but reading the book I can’t help thinking about Tibet and Tibetans. We must preserve and maintain our decency, moral integrity and unity so that when the time comes for the Chinese to leave Tibet, we are ready to take over the administration without internal feud or factional fighting. Till date, because of the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his vision, we have been able to maintain and promote our positive values, cultural integrity and unity among all the Tibetans. The book is a clear mirror to warn us that we all must cherish and maintain this unity and cultural values so that Tibet don’t become Afghanistan of today in future.