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Immigration Order Gets Mixed Response From Boston, Orlando Victims

29 Jan 2017 8:02 pm
By Jennifer Levitz 

BOSTON -- Terrorism survivors and their families Sunday expressed a range of opinions on the Trump administration's targeted immigration ban, with some noting it wouldn't have stopped the events that befell them, and others welcoming the move as a first step toward increased vigilance.

"I think it's a great start," said Marc Fucarile, who was watching the 2013 Boston Marathon when bombs detonated near the finish line, killing three at the scene and injuring more than 260, including 17 who lost limbs. Mr. Fucarile, a former construction worker, lost his right leg from above the knee, suffered severe burns on 90% of his lower body and can still feel BB's from the crude homemade explosive devices lodged under his skin.

"I think people need to wake up and look around and stop living in your fantasy world and realize that terrorism is a problem and that our president's job is to protect the people of the United States first and foremost," said Mr. Fucarile, who is 38 and lives in Reading, Mass.

A father of a 9-year-old, he said he feels horrible for families, and in particular their children, who need someplace safe go, but at the same time it has been jarring to see so many demonstrations against the immigration ban. "When it strikes and affects their family, they'll think of it a little differently," he said. "I don't wish it upon anyone."

Scott Weisberg, a family-medicine doctor in Birmingham, Ala., who finished the 2013 Boston Marathon seconds before the first bomb exploded and suffered hearing damage that forced him to curtail his practice, said President Donald Trump's executive order misses what he views as the real problem: young people already in the U.S. becoming radicalized by readily available online Islamic State propaganda.

"I think something is needed but I'm not sure that this is the exact solution," said Dr. Weisberg, 47 years old, noting the attackers in the Boston bombing weren't from the countries targeted in Trump's policy.

Citing security concerns, Mr. Trump late Friday froze the entire U.S. refugee program for four months and barred Syrians from entering as refugees indefinitely. It also banned nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days.

The order states that it is intended to "protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the U.S."

The Tsarnaev brothers, who perpetrated the Boston bombings, wound up in the U.S. after their family emigrated from Russia around 2002. A jury in 2015 sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev , who mostly grew up in Cambridge, Mass., to death for his role in the bombings. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died after the attack in a confrontation with police.

The executive order's scope "doesn't make sense in some ways," said Edward Davis, the Boston police commissioner during the Boston Marathon bombings. He noted that the order also excludes countries where the men involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks were from.

Mr. Davis, who initially supported GOP primary candidate Jeb Bush, but switched to Hillary Clinton in the election, said there is no question that it is important for the U.S. to increase surveillance of people coming in and out of the country. But he said the executive order, while well-intentioned, was implemented too quickly, causing unnecessary chaos and potentially jeopardizing relationships with allies that could help stop terrorism.

"They've sort of taken campaign sound-bites and turned it into public policy without doing the appropriate study," he said. "This is a very complex issue."

Tiara Parker, who survived the June 12 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando that killed 49 -- including Ms. Parker's 18-year-old cousin Akyra Monet Murray, who was the youngest victim -- said that while she supports stronger vetting, she worries that the image of the U.S. keeping refugees from seeing their families could make the country a target of more anger.

In addition, she said the order wouldn't have stopped Omar Mateen , who carried out the Pulse nightclub attack. "He was born and raised in New York so how can you prepare for a random attack?" said Ms. Parker, who is 21 and lives in Philadelphia.

Ryan Connell, whose 21-year-old brother, Cory James Connell, died in the Pulse nightclub shooting, doesn't believe the crackdown on refugees will work. "It's just not going to change anything," he said, of the executive order. "I think it separates the country."

Mr. Connell, who is 26 and lives outside Orlando, and who voted in the election but not for either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton, said he believes a person set on committing terror will find a way, whether it is with a knife, a black-market gun or even a vehicle. He said citizens must protect themselves.

"It's not a visa issue and it's not a gun-control issue," he said. "The only thing that will prevent a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Write to Jennifer Levitz at jennifer.levitz@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 29, 2017 15:02 ET (20:02 GMT)

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