Trump Oval Office exchange with Nobel Peace Prize winner highlights tension over immigration

Posted at 5:21 PM, Jul 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-21 10:12:13-04

Nadia Murad came to the Oval Office on a mission.

The 26-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner stood just over President Donald Trump’s right shoulder and recounted her harrowing experience in ISIS captivity during a meeting with survivors of religious persecution on Wednesday.

“They killed my mom, my six brothers,” Murad said. “They are in mass graves.”

But ISIS’ reign of terror was not confined to murder. Murad survived sex slavery and torture at the hands of ISIS, before escaping and becoming an advocate for her minority community in Iraq. That work brought her to this moment: urging a President who has vowed to stem, and in some cases zero out, immigration to the United States to help those forced from their homes.

While the President nodded, Murad explained that the plight of her people, the Yazidi ethnoreligious minority, did not end when ISIS was driven out of Iraq. Rather, she laid out how the half-million remaining Yazidis still don’t have a safe home and how many have fled their homeland. She asked for help for her Yazidi community to return to Iraq or find a safe home elsewhere.

“Today you can solve our problem,” Murad told Trump. “Our home is destroyed. … My people cannot go back. We cannot find a safe place to live. … Please do something.”

This White House scene, which included other survivors of religious persecution — including a Rohingya Muslim from Myanmar and a Tibetan Buddhist from China — played out in a week consumed by furor over the President’s tweets, snowballing into a racist chant at a campaign rally in North Carolina.

And it occurred the same week that news broke that the administration has also weighed the possibility of admitting no refugees into the country next year.

In a meeting with officials from the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon and other agencies, several options — including reducing the cap on refugee admissions to zero — are being discussed, sources told CNN. There has been pushback on the zero option already, according to one source.

The annual cap for refugee admissions currently sits at 30,000, a 33% drop from 2018 and the lowest level set in nearly 40 years.

Since coming down the escalator at Trump Tower four years ago, the President has made immigration a cornerstone of his presidency. And while he has not completed one of his main campaign promises — building a border wall at the US-Mexico border — he has addressed border security and immigration by other means, including announcing nationwide raids by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which started Sunday.

The President is also moving forward with plans to limit asylum claims for Central American migrants and has used charged language to talk about migrants, including labeling migrant caravans as full of criminals.

Standing beside the President, Murad painted a different picture.

“And after 2014, about 95,000 Yazidi, they immigrate to Germany through a very dangerous way,” she said. “Not because we want to be a refugee, but we cannot find a safe place to live.”

Trump told her he’d look into it “very strongly.”