By Shanna O’Mara
Although presidential responsibilities may be new to Trump, another face in politics has been tackling homeland security issues for over a decade.
Avril Haines, who spoke in the Cavalla Room on Jan. 30 as part of the Rebovich Institute event, has served under former President Barack Obama as the Principal Deputy National Security Advisor as well as the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump suspended the settlement within American borders of immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia for 90 days. He also suspended new refugee entrance for 120 days and admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely.
Haines recognizes the importance of accepting refugees during a time of worldwide crisis. With over 65 million displaced persons around the globe, the highest number since the end of the second world war, it is crucial now more than ever for the U.S. to aide refugees, according to Haines.
“We just cannot isolate ourselves from international events or actors,” Haines said. “We need to understand what is happening around the world and partner with other countries. If we are to have any hope of effectively addressing, detecting and disrupting threats that emanate from abroad, we also need to establish long-term partnerships and mechanisms to prevent such threats from arising in the first place.”
Junior psychology major Starlett Hartley agreed with Haines’ notion that we must work with other nations for the benefit of global security.
“I think it’s necessary for us to protect other nations,” Hartley said. “Even though we are our own country, we have all these other nations in the world that we can’t ignore, especially if they’re in trouble and need help.”
Haines also understands the fear of terrorist attacks as voiced by many who support Trump’s recent ban.
“I don’t mean to suggest that all engagement is good or that you should not be rigorous in evaluating the trade-offs to be made when devoting precious resources to such activities,” Haines said.
Recognizing the threat posed by “twisted, extremist ideology groups” such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as well as Al Qaida, Haines aims to decrease their power with acts of integration.
“When we demonstrate that diversity in faith and backgrounds is a strength rather than a weakness, we expose the lie that such radicalism relies on,” she said. “When we welcome Muslims from other countries into the United States who want to live in our country and abide by our laws, when we remember that Muslim-Americans are part of America, we demonstrate that America cannot be at war with Islam.”
Haines said we live in the “most prosperous and progressive era in human history” with immigrants often at the center of such success.
“Refugees have enriched this country historically,” Haines said, highlighting Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who came to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia; Samantha Power, an Irish-American ambassador to the United Nations; and Steve Jobs, whose father was a Syrian migrant. “We are a country of immigrants.”
While Haines points out that public trust in government has been decreasing worldwide over the last 15 years, she offered a remedy: get involved. She encouraged people to apply for jobs not just in the federal government but in any position that would benefit the community in which they live and which they love.
“You can give back through teaching, through exercising your voice in your community, by running for elected office, by working in city, state or federal government jobs and in doing so, just trying to do the best job you can for your fellow man,” she said.