This past weekend with filled with much anger, shock, and outrage toward President Trump. Friday, Trump signed an executive order banning all immigrants from entering the United States if they come from a group of seven mainly Muslim countries in the Middle East. This news is what spurred four-time Purple Heart award recipient, Jeffrey Buchalter to drop what he was doing and drive two hours to protest at the Dulles International Airport, in Dulles, Virginia.
This ban on immigrants was talked about in generalities, but the Trump administration did not offer when this ban would take effect. So, Friday when Trump signed an executive order declaring an immediate temporary ban on all immigrants from the seven countries known to be “countries of concern” it seemed many people across the globe were thrown into a tailspin from everyday people to the media to the affected immigrants themselves.
The countries affected by this ban are Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Yeman, and Libya. The president described this as a 90 day and 120-day ban. Anyone who already has a green card or a visa, but is an immigrant from one of the seven countries of concern, and leaves USA soil, will temporarily not be allowed back into the United States for 90 days. The ban also suspends all refugees from entering the country for 120 days, and Syrian refugees are banned indefinitely, but would not affect diplomat. This order was issued to give the federal government time to come up with a more thorough screening process of immigrants.
One of the main reasons this order caused such an uproar of the weekend is the fact that no one saw this coming, at least not in a real tangible way. Immigrants with green cards and visas who left the country prior to the issuance of this executive order on Friday thought everything was fine and they’d come home at the end of their trips. However, this was not the case. Instead, green card and visa holders from the seven countries of concern found themselves detained and denied entry upon arrival at U.S. airports. These events became headline news, and that’s how a veteran, Buchalter, who lives in Chesapeake, MM, heard the story of one Iraqi in particular who was being denied entry back into the U.S.
Buchalter served several tours in Iraq as a military policeman in the Army. He now works for the Department of Homeland Security as a law-enforcement instructor. During his service in the Army Buchalter sustained many life-altering injuries including PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), a traumatic brain injury, and herniated discs. He spent over two years trying to recover from his battle wounds at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. These injuries are what earned Buchalter his four Purple Heart Medals.
The report that Buchalter heard over the weekend was presented by MSNBC. In the report, it was explained that an Iraqi citizen who had worked as an interpreter with American forces had been denied entry into the USA and was being detained at JFK Airport due to a new executive order regarding immigration that had been signed by President Trump. After this news had broken, protests started to erupt at airports around the nation.
Buchalter had firsthand experience working with interpreters from his days in Iraq. He knew how vital these people are to the war effort, and he was outraged that someone who worked as an ally with America could be treated so harshly. He was so upset and outraged that he put his two children, a son, and daughter, into the car and drove all three of them the two hour trip to Dulles Airport where Buchalter would participate in his first protest.
In a phone interview with the Los Angeles Times Buchalter said, “This is not what we fought for, having been in Iraq and working with these interpreters.” He wanted to give the family something that would show this family some goodwill from the American people, so Buchalter gave his Purple Heart to an Iraqi family he saw when they were released from detention.
“Knowing their culture and how they view America, for me, it was a way to send a message to them: What they believe America was, it is,” Buchalter said. “It’s the greatest place in the world.”