passover, prodigal parenting, and temporal lobes



Tomorrow, March 30, 2018, is the beginning of the Jewish Passover. Passover is a celebration of freedom commemorating when God liberated the Jewish people from slavery. You can read all about the Passover in scripture HERE, but the gist of why it’s called “Passover” is that the Jewish people were to put the blood of a male goat or sheep around their door frames so that their homes would be “passed over” on the night that God delivered judgment on Egypt by killing the first-born child of each home. The homes covered by blood were protected from judgment.

I’m not so great at Bible timelines, but around thirteen hundred years after the Jewish people were freed from slavery, on the first day of Passover, Jesus had dinner with his disciples, washed their feet, and told them that one of them was about to betray him. On the Christian calendar, that last supper is commemorated today. So yeah, it’s a good day to wash someone’s feet. 😉 In the three days following that last meal, Jesus was betrayed, tortured, beaten, crucified, and on the third day arose from the dead. For those who believe that Jesus was crucified and resurrected so that we may have eternal life, our passover looks like a cross and an empty tomb. The blood of Jesus spares us from judgment.

I sat today and read the story of the crucifixion and I was brought to tears.  I just kept thinking about God the Father witnessing his son being tortured and killed. He allowed the horrors of the crucifixion so that every human thereafter could live in the freedom of the resurrection. He watched and waited because he had complete faith in His ability to fulfill His promises. As a parent, I can’t even imagine.

At the moment, I have one prodigal child and one that has recently developed epilepsy. In both situations I’m having to make daily (sometimes minute by minute) choices. I get to choose fear, or I get to choose faith.  In all the choosing I’m also doing a whole lot of seeking wisdom.

Parenting is hard, y’all. I firmly believe that the Bible is meant to be the guide book for everything in life. But guess what? Other than dishing out discipline and leaving them an inheritance, it doesn’t give many specifics when it comes to bringing up little humans. Wouldn’t you just love to know how Noah convinced his kids to get on the ark? We know they were there. But seriously… just getting my kids in the car for church is like herding cats. Or how God, knowing the pain and suffering Jesus would endure, didn’t interfere?

Because I already know that someone is going to comment with, “What about Proverbs 22:6?” I’d like to point out a few things about that verse. 1) It says, “Raise a child in the way they should go and WHEN THEY ARE OLD they will not depart from it. It doesn’t say a dang thing about when they’re young and stupid, and have an underdeveloped frontal lobe, and the inability to make rational decisions. 2) It’s REALLY vague. The writer makes the assumption that every reader actually knows “the way they should go”. Hello?? Have you met the human race? NONE of us have “the way” all figured out. 3) The very next verse says, “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender.” So maybe, just maybe, that verse is actually referring to teaching our kids to work hard and stay out of debt.

Although it’s hard to find many intimate conversations or outtakes between parents and children in scripture,  I have found one thing that is always consistent: when children are sick, struggling, or even dead, moms and dads always seek and cling to God on their children’s behalf. Biblical parents had crazy faith, y’all.

I believe that the only two tools our enemy needs to keep us from being in intimate relationship with God are isolation and distraction. Unfortunately, I think we’re living in a time when everyone is more isolated and distracted than at any other time in history.  I’m pretty sure that my need for my laptop and phone have made my faith look ridiculous when compared to the mom in 2 Kings who literally held onto the feet of the prophet Elisha until he came back to her house to raise her son from the dead. I want that kind of faith.

Hebrews 11:1 Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

Possibly the most detailed account of parenting in scripture isn’t something that actually happened. It’s a parable (a simple story used by Jesus to illustrate a spiritual lesson) about a prodigal son. I love the story for many reasons. First off, I’ve been a prodigal child. I’ve run from God, made some pretty awful choices, squandered things He’s given me, and come crawling back begging for grace. Every. Single. Time… God has wrapped his arms around me, celebrated me, and given me waaaaay more love and grace than I could ever possibly deserve. I also love it because the father in the story was there waiting and prepared to celebrate the son upon his return. He had a ring and a robe and new shoes and a fattened calf just waiting for the celebration of his son’s return. He had faith that his son WOULD return.

In 2010 our baby girl had an MRI that showed she had scarring in her temporal lobe. To be specific, she had extra tissue on her right hippocampus and right temporal horn. In that first year that she was ours she would frequently freeze. We, along with her pediatrician, had suspected that she was having seizures so we saw a neurologist that ordered the MRI and two EEGs. The first EEG showed some abnormal activity, but nothing significant. The second EEG also showed some slow/abnormal activity, but nothing significant. The freezing stopped and we just assumed it had been caused by her brain trying to process a whole new world of information.

Fast forward to two weeks ago… she climbed in bed next to me one morning and in the middle of rubbing my face and asking if she could have cake, she got a look of terror on her face, screamed, began smacking her lips and swallowing, and then couldn’t form words. It took two or three minutes for her to be able to speak. A few hours later, it happened again. The next day we saw it happen two  more times. The day after that, it happened four times in three hours. On the third day I started recording what we were witnessing and sent it to her doctor. While waiting to hear from her doctor, Dr. Google quickly told me what is happening looks like temporal lobe seizures. Last week an EEG showed bilateral seizure activity in her temporal lobe. We’re still waiting to get in with a pediatric neurologist for an MRI to see if there is any change from what the 2010 MRI showed, which means she is not yet on anti-seizure medication. She’s still having several seizures every day and her mental and verbal processing is definitely “off”.

Let me tell you something. Watching your child go from doing complicated math to not being able to form words in a matter of seconds is NOT fun.  It’s realllly hard to choose faith in those few minutes when I can’t reach her. It’s also realllly hard to choose faith in the moments when I can’t reach my prodigal.

But then I remember…. we’ve been passed over. This house and this family are covered by the blood and God ALWAYS fulfills His promises!

When she is old she will NOT depart from the way she was brought up

Jesus was wounded so that she IS healed

It only takes faith as small as a mustard seed to move mountains…

I hope you experience all that Resurrection Sunday has to offer. May your dreams be resurrected. May your faith be resurrected. May your joy. and hope, and relationships, and all the goodness that this world tries to steal be RESURRECTED. And may all the yuck pass you over.

If you’ve actually read all the way to the bottom, thank you. I forget that I even have this blog and I do appreciate those who haven’t given up on me as a writer.

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Orphans and widows and agents and guns…

“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.” ~ Billy Graham 1918-2018

Today, Christians around the world are torn between grieving and celebrating the life of the Reverend Billy Graham. Only God knows the impact that man had on heaven and this world. The quote above is one of my favorites and in his honor, I am taking a stand.

One week ago a nineteen year old boy walked into the doors of a high school in Parkland, Florida and opened fire. He left seventeen people dead and dozens more wounded. In the week since the massacre America has lost its mind fighting over guns.

My stand…

Do we need to talk about guns and whether or not he ever should have been able to get his hands on them? Absofrickinlutely.

Are guns the first topic we should be discussing? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Nikolas Cruz  buying the gun he used to carry out the massacre was the very last in nineteen years of failures.

The next discussion many want to have is the long list of FBI failures. Do we need to discuss those failures and demand accountability? Absofrickinlutely

Does the FBI hold total responsibility for the massacre? Nope

Many (including me) also want to discuss the fact that there is basically NO mental healthcare for children in this country. I know. It’s a battle I fight every single day. Nik was mentally ill. There are many years of documented evidence of his mental illness. We know that police were called to their home on at least THIRTY occasions. He was also adopted and (by my completely unprofessional opinion) has MANY (almost all) physical characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome and/or in utero drug exposure. I have my own grown-in-the-heart-not-the-womb and exposed-to-substances-in-her-bio-mama’s-womb child. My precious twelve-year-old is now three inches taller than me and only two weeks ago, she left me with two black eyes and a new bald spot. Her behaviors are less frequent than they have been in the past, but because of her size she can now do serious damage when she rages. Did I mention that the day I got the two black eyes and lost a considerable amount of hair she was battling both me and a 6′ 4″ 250lb+ man? Yeah. She’s a badass. If I were a fighter I might even be impressed by her badassery. But I’m not. I’m a lover and I’m tired of getting my butt kicked. And guess what? No matter how tired I get of it, there are no great solutions or significant support to help me. I just have to take it, and we have to continue to spend whatever resources necessary to provide two on one care around the clock for her. Also, I try really hard not to think too much about the future because the reality is, the only difference between my child and Nikolas Cruz is that she is just intellectually delayed and psychotic enough to never be able to drive or for any sane person to give her a weapon.

So, is the American mental healthcare system to blame for the Valentine’s Day massacre? Nope

My stand is that the discussion on what happened in Parkland, Florida needs to begin with THE CHURCH. Nikolas Cruz was orphaned… TWICE. Did you know that God had an awful lot to say about who’s responsible for orphans? Lynda Cruz was widowed… for thirteen years before her death last November. Where were the Christians? Where was The Church?

In the eight years since we adopted our daughter, I have grown closer to God than I ever thought possible. I’ve devoured His Word like it was food and water. The more I dig and the nearer He feels, the more heartbroken I become over how we as Christians have redefined HIS Church and how badly we’ve failed to resemble His heart.

I love, love, LOVE Psalm 68 and I highly encourage you to write it down, or at least to read it. It is so telling about the heart of God. You and me? We were made in HIS image. We were created to spend our lives seeking after God’s heart. If we call ourselves Christians, we are claiming to be followers of God incarnate. And guess what?

Psalm 68:5

He is a father to the fatherless
and an advocate for widows.
God rules from his holy palace.

Do I believe that Nik should not face justice? No. I am a HUGE proponent of personal responsibility and I believe that it is something in short supply these days. His actions were beyond horrific and I’m certain the consequences will be also.  That being said, parenting a child exposed to drugs in utero gives me the unique perspective that he probably has no ability to connect consequences with actions. So I have no clue what justice should look like for him.

That’s my stand. Every person who calls themselves a child of God (including me) need to look in the mirror and ask, “What am I doing to care for orphans, widows, and those around me who are suffering?” “What am I doing to prevent the next Nikolas Cruz from ever getting to the point where police are called to his home, CPS and special education services are needed, he ends up on the radar of the FBI, and then… buys weapons and carries out a horrific massacre.

America, we may have a gun problem, and a violence problem, and a mental health problem, and an education problem, but none of that will change until we address our heart problem.

The blood of seventeen people is on the hands of you and me.

e pluribus unum

Every single time a piece of American currency passes through our hands, we are touching the phrase, “e pluribus unum”.  Out of many, one. The phrase is on the Great Seal of America. It appears on every passport, coin, and bill. It is included in the seals of the President, Vice President, Congress, and Supreme Court and has been a motto of the United States since 1782. Yet, today, after having a reminder that we are “ONE” in our faces and hands for two hundred and thirty-five years; Jason Kessler lured hate-filled racists from every nook and cranny of this country to Charlottesville, VA under the premise of “uniting the right”. 

The phrase e pluribus unum can be traced back to Roman senator and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero. Cicero wrote an essay to his son in the year 44 BC titled De Officiis (Of Duties or On Obligations). The essay was Cicero’s attempt to define ideals of public behavior. He includes the following  sentence in the book, with a phrase credited as the origin of “E Pluribus Unum.” Cicero writes, “When each person loves the other as much as himself, it makes one out of many” (unus fiat ex pluribus).

De Officiis was written forty-four years before the birth of Jesus. Although it was not a Christian book, in 390 it was declared acceptable for use by the Christian Church and it served as a moral guideline throughout the Middle Ages.

Why the history lesson? Because it’s absofrickinlutely ridiculous that two thousand and seventeen years after the birth of Christ, two thousand sixty-one years after Cicero wrote De Officiis, we’re still struggling to love one another. That we still have people gathering over the common bond of hatred.

I’ve made an interesting observation over the past five or six years. Feel free to comment and correct me if I’m wrong. What I’ve seen and experienced is that the majority of people at least make an effort to love their neighbors. However, the hate-filled minority (of all groups) tend to have the loudest voices and the biggest platforms. I know plenty of Christians who love well, but the ones who call themselves Christians and spew hatred are always the ones seen and heard. I know people of other faiths and of no faith. Most of them love others pretty well. I know lots of people that are registered Republicans and lots of people who are registered Democrats. The majority of them do a decent job of loving others. Unfortunately, the nastiest people on either side of the Congressional aisle seem to be the ones with the loudest voices and a media platform.

A year ago I wrote an essay titled “Heal this land.” The month before I shared the Declaration of Independence in its entirety. The month before that I wrote a piece on loving our neighbors. Some time before that I wrote a piece explaining why my voter registration card says, “Independent”.

I can only speak for myself, but I’m fairly certain that the rest of America is just as tired as I am of the loud divisive minority telling us that we need to be afraid of anyone that isn’t exactly like us. Is our nation in crisis? Absolutely. As long as people are dying because other people see them as “less than”, we are without question in crisis. Do we need to live in fear? Absolutely not.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has NOT given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, LOVE, and self-discipline. (emphasis mine)

1 John 2:9-11 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

The people who gathered in Charlottesville this weekend to celebrate hate are NOT Christians! They simply cannot be. If you hate ANYONE, you live in the darkness and you are blinded by that darkness.

Mark 12:30-31  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. No other commandment is greater than these.”

I wrote this over a year ago, but it bears repeating…

Who’s “your neighbor”? It’s the LGBT family with a child on your son’s baseball team. It’s the Muslim family living at the end of your block. It’s the Republican living to your left and the Democrat living to your right. It’s the gun-owner standing in line with you at the grocery store and the journalist on the mat next to you in your yoga class. Every. Single. Human. Being. Is YOUR NEIGHBOR!

LOVE. THEM. ALL.

E Pluribus Fucking Unum

Out of many…. ONE

Unus fiat ex pluribus = When each person loves the other as much as himself, it makes one out of many.

If you can’t remember that we are ONE, that the entire human race is worthy of being loved, carry a fucking penny in your pocket and read it on occasion.

John Pavlovitz wrote a GREAT post today that pretty much sums up how I feel about the happenings in Charlottesville. That crowd DOES NOT IN ANY WAY REPRESENT ME! What they are doing/have done is HATE. It is RACISM. It is COWARDICE. Why cowardice? Because one of the most courageous things a human can do is to lay down all of their fears and preconceptions and intentionally love people who do not look like them, worship like them, vote like them, or speak the same language as them. 

In these United States, we call ourselves “The Land of the FREE and the home of the BRAVE.” It’s time to BE BRAVE, America.

 

“That’s enough.”

Lining Up On Beach

This week I took all my boys to see the movie Dunkirk. I think you have to see way more movies than I do in order to be a movie blogger, but this movie inspired me. It’s a movie written by men, for men. There is no character development and little to no relational details. Through the entire film I just kept wondering what everyone’s names were, what their background stories were, and who was waiting for them at home. The constant action and fighting completely stressed out my war-traumatized husband. It is honestly not a movie that I’d recommend to my girlfriends and I probably won’t watch it again. But… there is an exchange near the end that brought me to tears.

It’s a historical drama so I’m not spoiling anything by saying that there were survivors. When the survivors make it back to England, they go through a line where people are giving them necessities. An old man is handing out blankets (I think) as they board the train that will take them home. He says to each of them, “Thanks, lad.” One of them responds in a questioning tone with, “All we did was survive?” To which the old man responds, “That’s enough.”

Far too often we humans have a habit of expecting more of ourselves and our fellow human beings, than simply surviving. And often, survival is our greatest accomplishment.

I do believe with all that I am that we were created to THRIVE. But I don’t know a single person that escapes this life without seasons (some short and some very long) of struggle. We all spend seasons in the fire.

James 1:2-4 …when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Notice it says, “when” and not “if”. Troubles in this life are a guarantee. Notice also that it says, “… your endurance has a chance to grow.” Do you know what endurance means?

endurance

noun
1. the fact or power of enduring or bearing pain, hardships, etc.
2. the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other
adverse conditions; stamina:
Endurance = Surviving
One short interaction between an old man and a young soldier in Dunkirk broke me. During the years that our family sat in a furnace I beat myself up for how little I accomplished. Getting out of bed, breathing, caring for my family; took every single ounce of my energy and endurance. Relationships fell by the wayside. Career, education, and ministry goals were shelved. Anything other than keeping our family together and alive, fell to the very bottom of my priority list. My singular focus was on survival.
As we’ve walked out of the furnace into a season of thriving, I’ve continued to struggle with how little I accomplished in those four years. I’ve always set the bar high for myself and given myself little grace when I don’t reach that bar. My guess is that many of you fight that same battle. Here’s the thing, God did create us to thrive and there is no thriving without grace.
Let’s give ourselves some grace.
I invite you to embrace a bit of freedom with me. If you’ve survived your hardest days, well done.
That’s enough.

sh*t

Waving a White Flag

Seven years ago our family was running around Belgrade, Serbia, gathering all of the necessary documents to bring home our new daughter. In the midst of our running around we searched out every public bathroom in the city as our daughter repeatedly grabbed her stomach crying, “Bol stomach!” translation ~ “Pain stomach!”

The day after we met her, we arrived at the foster home expecting to spend the day getting to know her better and hoping that she would grow more comfortable with the strangers who’d shown up the day before speaking a foreign language and referring to ourselves as her “Mama and Tata”. The three hours we spent at the foster home that day were not spent winning her over. Nope. We spent the day, along with our three older children, following her (and her entourage), from the bathroom to the yard as she tried to poop. She cried…

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sh*t

Seven years ago our family was running around Belgrade, Serbia, gathering all of the necessary documents to bring home our new daughter. In the midst of our running around we searched out every public bathroom in the city as our daughter repeatedly grabbed her stomach crying, “Bol stomach!” translation ~ “Pain stomach!”

The day after we met her, we arrived at the foster home expecting to spend the day getting to know her better and hoping that she would grow more comfortable with the strangers who’d shown up the day before speaking a foreign language and referring to ourselves as her “Mama and Tata”. The three hours we spent at the foster home that day were not spent winning her over. Nope. We spent the day, along with our three older children, following her (and her entourage), from the bathroom to the yard as she tried to poop. She cried “Bol stomach!” constantly. Her caretakers and social worker explained to us (through a translator) that she had always had terrible constipation and that she would sometimes go a MONTH without going #2. At the end of our visit I watched in horror as the entourage of people overseeing the adoption clapped and screamed, “Bravo!” after she squatted and cried for what seemed like an hour and then successfully took a dump in the yard.

So… two and a half weeks later, after she was legally ours and we were in the shuffle of gathering documents all over the city, when the familiar “Bol stomach!” started coming from my new baby’s mouth, we gave her every opportunity to poop. My poor baby’s stomach ache didn’t end until we were home several days later. By the time she did the doo, it had been three whole weeks. And… when it did finally happen, what came out of her was not human. It was bigger than my husband’s arm and covered in blood. For real.

For seven years, our lives and Sof’s behaviors, have revolved around crap. We learned a few years ago that the reason her poop is so big is because she has a “mega colon”. It’s a common disorder resulting from prolonged, chronic constipation. It’s also a common disorder amongst orphans. I communicate with other adoptive parents all the time about our kids’ poop. I know many whose children have needed to have their colons surgically repaired. We’ve discussed all the options with several doctors and ultimately we’ve decided to avoid surgical intervention because we believe her behaviors would significantly interfere with healing and recovery.

So… we’ve been left with a couple of options.

  1. Lots of stool softeners, fiber, and water.
  2. Prayer

We opted for both. Option 1 helped somewhat with frequency. For many years we had her on a 1-2 BMs per week schedule. They were still giant and painful and the entire day before and the day of were a wash because she had such high anxiety and subsequent behaviors about what was to come.

I’ll be honest. Until she was discharged from Kennedy Krieger last October, I didn’t invest much in Option 2. When people witnessed the trauma and drama of crap in our house, I would ask them to pray for her. That was pretty much the extent of my trusting God to do anything about my girl’s bum.

But then, we brought her home last fall and moved into this fabulous house in Florida, and every single time she pooped, we spent hours trying to unclog the toilets. We were calling her “our bowl choker”. We invested in super-duper plungers for every bathroom and had an abundant supply of disposable plastic knives (to cut through the poo before trying to flush-my hubby is the best poo cutter in the world!). I tracked her poop days on my calendar so I could know when to expect her to randomly pull my hair or bite herself. This has been our craptastic life, y’all.

Around December I got serious about giving this crap to God. I started asking everyone who asked how we were doing to pray for Sof’s poop. I started talking to God about it daily. I figured eventually he’d get sick of me talking shit and do something about it.

And then, I realized one day that her poop looked normal. We’re talking banana and not full-grown man arm. And then the next day she pooped again. And again it was normal. No bleeding, no screaming, no drama. And then a week later I looked at my calendar and she had pooped for TEN STRAIGHT DAYS. Every evening, just after dinner, perfectly normal poop. And then, two weeks into our craptastic miracle, we ran out of stool softeners. Guess what? She STILL POOPED.

As of today, it’s been two whole months of almost daily defecation. The longest she’s gone is 48 hours. It’s been two months without the use of plungers or plastic knives. Two months without shit-related hair-pulling or self-injury (Those things have been VERY INFREQUENT also).

Why am I sharing this? Because no matter what it is you are trusting God for, He is listening. If you feel like you’re talking shit to Him, it’s okay. I’m constantly telling people, “He’s got big shoulders. He can take it.” And guess what, He cares about shit. For real. As a matter of fact, it’s mentioned MANY times in the Bible.

Ezekiel 4:12, Ezekial 4:15, Isaiah 36:12, Psalm 83:10, Zephaniah 1:17, Judges 3:21-22, 2 Kings 18:27 Gross!, 2 Kings 9:37, 2 Kings 6:25, Jeremiah, 9:22, Deuteronomy 23:12-13…

One other thing, I questioned God’s timing over and over again on the crap issue. Only He knows why my baby girl had to be traumatized by every single bowel movement for almost twelve years of her life and you can bet your sweet heinie we’re going to discuss it face to face. What I know is that from the first time I screamed, “Oh, God!” when I watched my girl pooping in a yard in Velika Plana, Serbia to the time that I cried, “Oh, God!” over the realization that her colon is healed was SEVEN YEARS. And in case you didn’t know, God loves the number seven as much as I love the number eighteen. There are seven continents and seven oceans on Earth. There are seven colors in the rainbow and seven notes on a musical scale. There are seven stars in the Big Dipper and seven levels in the periodic table of elements. He’s clearly a fan of seven.

And honestly, I’d rather God heal her in His perfect number of years than mine.

The Immigration Ban Executive Order in its entirety – You’re welcome

There are a million emotions and opinions flying around concerning President Trump’s executive order that places a temporary hold on immigration from 7 specific countries. I’ve seen articles separating fact from fiction but not one of them actually shares the content of the executive order. So… here ya go. #beinformed

Here is the order in its entirety: Section 4, paragraph a is the piece that I’d like clarified.
PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq., and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, and to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Purpose. The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans. And while the visa-issuance process was reviewed and amended after the September 11 attacks to better detect would-be terrorists from receiving visas, these measures did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States.
Numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after receiving visitor, student, or employment visas, or who entered through the United States refugee resettlement program. Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.
In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.
Sec. 2. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States; and to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes.
Sec. 3. Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern. (a) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.
(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall submit to the President a report on the results of the review described in subsection (a) of this section, including the Secretary of Homeland Security’s determination of the information needed for adjudications and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information, within 30 days of the date of this order. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide a copy of the report to the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence.
(c) To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period described in subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).
(d) Immediately upon receipt of the report described in subsection (b) of this section regarding the information needed for adjudications, the Secretary of State shall request all foreign governments that do not supply such information to start providing such information regarding their nationals within 60 days of notification.
(e) After the 60-day period described in subsection (d) of this section expires, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas) from countries that do not provide the information requested pursuant to subsection (d) of this section until compliance occurs.
(f) At any point after submitting the list described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security may submit to the President the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment.
(g) Notwithstanding a suspension pursuant to subsection (c) of this section or pursuant to a Presidential proclamation described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.
(h) The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall submit to the President a joint report on the progress in implementing this order within 30 days of the date of this order, a second report within 60 days of the date of this order, a third report within 90 days of the date of this order, and a fourth report within 120 days of the date of this order.
Sec. 4. Implementing Uniform Screening Standards for All Immigration Programs. (a) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation shall implement a program, as part of the adjudication process for immigration benefits, to identify individuals seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission. This program will include the development of a uniform screening standard and procedure, such as in-person interviews; a database of identity documents proffered by applicants to ensure that duplicate documents are not used by multiple applicants; amended application forms that include questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent; a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be; a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest; and a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.
(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Secretary of State, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, shall submit to the President an initial report on the progress of this directive within 60 days of the date of this order, a second report within 100 days of the date of this order, and a third report within 200 days of the date of this order.
Sec. 5. Realignment of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Fiscal Year 2017. (a) The Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. During the 120-day period, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall review the USRAP application and adjudication process to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States, and shall implement such additional procedures. Refugee applicants who are already in the USRAP process may be admitted upon the initiation and completion of these revised procedures. Upon the date that is 120 days after the date of this order, the Secretary of State shall resume USRAP admissions only for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have jointly determined that such additional procedures are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.
(b) Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality. Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization.
(c) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.
(d) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of more than 50,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017 would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I determine that additional admissions would be in the national interest.
(e) Notwithstanding the temporary suspension imposed pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may jointly determine to admit individuals to the United States as refugees on a case-by-case basis, in their discretion, but only so long as they determine that the admission of such individuals as refugees is in the national interest — including when the person is a religious minority in his country of nationality facing religious persecution, when admitting the person would enable the United States to conform its conduct to a preexisting international agreement, or when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship — and it would not pose a risk to the security or welfare of the United States.
(f) The Secretary of State shall submit to the President an initial report on the progress of the directive in subsection (b) of this section regarding prioritization of claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution within 100 days of the date of this order and shall submit a second report within 200 days of the date of this order.
(g) It is the policy of the executive branch that, to the extent permitted by law and as practicable, State and local jurisdictions be granted a role in the process of determining the placement or settlement in their jurisdictions of aliens eligible to be admitted to the United States as refugees. To that end, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall examine existing law to determine the extent to which, consistent with applicable law, State and local jurisdictions may have greater involvement in the process of determining the placement or resettlement of refugees in their jurisdictions, and shall devise a proposal to lawfully promote such involvement.
Sec. 6. Rescission of Exercise of Authority Relating to the Terrorism Grounds of Inadmissibility. The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Attorney General, consider rescinding the exercises of authority in section 212 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182, relating to the terrorism grounds of inadmissibility, as well as any related implementing memoranda.
Sec. 7. Expedited Completion of the Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System. (a) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States, as recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit to the President periodic reports on the progress of the directive contained in subsection (a) of this section. The initial report shall be submitted within 100 days of the date of this order, a second report shall be submitted within 200 days of the date of this order, and a third report shall be submitted within 365 days of the date of this order. Further, the Secretary shall submit a report every 180 days thereafter until the system is fully deployed and operational.
Sec. 8. Visa Interview Security. (a) The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions.
(b) To the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, the Secretary of State shall immediately expand the Consular Fellows Program, including by substantially increasing the number of Fellows, lengthening or making permanent the period of service, and making language training at the Foreign Service Institute available to Fellows for assignment to posts outside of their area of core linguistic ability, to ensure that non-immigrant visa-interview wait times are not unduly affected.
Sec. 9. Visa Validity Reciprocity. The Secretary of State shall review all nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements to ensure that they are, with respect to each visa classification, truly reciprocal insofar as practicable with respect to validity period and fees, as required by sections 221(c) and 281 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1201(c) and 1351, and other treatment. If a country does not treat United States nationals seeking nonimmigrant visas in a reciprocal manner, the Secretary of State shall adjust the visa validity period, fee schedule, or other treatment to match the treatment of United States nationals by the foreign country, to the extent practicable.
Sec. 10. Transparency and Data Collection. (a) To be more transparent with the American people, and to more effectively implement policies and practices that serve the national interest, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall, consistent with applicable law and national security, collect and make publicly available within 180 days, and every 180 days thereafter:
(i) information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; convicted of terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity, affiliation, or material support to a terrorism-related organization, or any other national security reasons since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later;
(ii) information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been radicalized after entry into the United States and engaged in terrorism-related acts, or who have provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and
(iii) information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including honor killings, in the United States by foreign nationals, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and
(iv) any other information relevant to public safety and security as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, including information on the immigration status of foreign nationals charged with major offenses.
(b) The Secretary of State shall, within one year of the date of this order, provide a report on the estimated long-term costs of the USRAP at the Federal, State, and local levels.
Sec. 11. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
DONALD J. TRUMP
THE WHITE HOUSE, January 27, 2017