Our President Just Built a Wall…and We’re All Going to Pay for It

This spring, my Istanbul-based tour guides planned an educational tour to Iran and extended an open invitation to our tour guides and staff. A half-dozen people in my office — eager to learn more about an often-misunderstood land — signed up and booked their plane tickets to Tehran. But now, in response to the USA denying entry to Iranians, Iran has (quite reasonably) decided to keep out Americans. Of course, a few cancelled vacations are just the beginning: Many, many people around the world are already suffering far greater hardships because of this weekend’s events.

As someone who loves how effectively travel can foster international understanding and peace, it’s clear to me that, by overreacting to a trumped-up fear of outsiders, our new president’s actions will actually make us less safe.

I traveled to Iran a few years ago to produce a documentary for public television. I was struck by the wonderful, kind-hearted, open-minded people that I met there. Getting to know the Iranians was the highlight of my trip. And I believe that the show we produced did more to contribute to peace than anything I’ve ever done.

It’s clear to me that thoughtful travel can be a force for peace — and, yes, national security. When we travel to troubled lands and get to know people who are supposed to be our enemies, we humanize them. By meeting each other face to face, we make it tougher for forces in their land to demonize us with their propaganda, and tougher for our government to demonize them with ours.

I’ve seen a lot of walls in my travels. They are monuments to failure, and they’re never good. Whether separating East Berlin from West Berlin, Protestants from Catholics in Northern Ireland, or Israelis from Palestinians in the Holy Land, walls are an instrument of misunderstanding and hate. I know this because in each case, I’ve actually met the people on both sides of those walls, heard their perspectives firsthand, and gained both understanding and empathy.

On Friday, President Trump built his first wall — made not of concrete and barbed wire, but of a dangerous and half-baked executive order. And now, Americans who want peace and who love the world will be the ones paying the price.

I don’t care whether you voted for Trump, or whether you identify as a Republican or a Democrat. We can respectfully agree to disagree on most issues. But if you’re a traveler who has a curiosity about this world, banning people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the USA is bad news. You want to talk about safety? For the last eight years, we’ve remained extremely safe from external terrorist violence…without ever closing our borders to an entire faith or nationality.

Meanwhile, I can imagine no more successful recruitment tool for ISIS than Trump’s new ban. Just like new subscriptions to The Nation magazine are booming and the ACLU is getting more donations in three days than they normally do in an entire year, the appeal and allure of ISIS is also spiking.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out how I can make a difference in this fight. I’ll share more thoughts soon. In the meantime, I invite you to meet a few Iranians, through my public television special. As you see these faces, keep in mind: These are the people our president has decided are too dangerous to meet in person — the people who our president risks radicalizing at the same time he risks radicalizing our own country.


32 Replies to “Our President Just Built a Wall…and We’re All Going to Pay for It”

  1. Thank you for your words – spot on. My feeling is that President Trump’s chosen path will lead us on the road to internment camps & Krystalnacht in America.

  2. Rick – you are truly an amazing person. Too bad we all don’t think and cat the way you do in this country. You have enlightened me through your travel, and your words of wisdom are always spot on.

    I’m sure the ignorant sheep are going to come out and defend Trump and this disgusting act, but please take no mind of them and know that you are truly appreciated, as many of us look at you for guidance and wisdom through this deeply troubled time in our lives.

    Cheers mate.


  3. Dear Mr. Steves,
    Watching this video brought tears to my eyes. How did our world get so dark so quickly. One week has passed and we are no longer able to enjoy meeting people like the ones you met in Iran.
    I have been to Morocco, to Egypt, to China, to Turkey, to the Czech Republic, and to many other places, always felt a sense of excitement in meeting people from other cultures.
    I do wonder if Mr. Trump has ever left his golden tower to have conversations the way you do. I even wonder if he has ever watched a Rick Steves video.
    So sad. That is all I can say tonight. I am 78 and will try to take the coming years as a learning experience. But will I survive long enough to exit the darkness?
    Thank you so much for this wonderful look into daily life in Iran.
    Thank you for being you,
    Gisela Foster

  4. I’ll gladly pay for the wall, I don’t think Mexico should pay. Why can’t we determine who comes in the country. You preaching like you’re on some kind of moral high ground is getting old. When I travel abroad I don’t break into countries i follow the laws of the country and present my passport at passport control.

  5. We are booked on our 2nd tour to Iran through a company in Shiraz. If the ban stays in place we may not be able to get our visas in time.
    We absolutely loved Iran….the people, the food, the ancient sites, the warmth. In fact we have never been welcomed like that anywhere.
    The folks there are so upset with Trump’s ban….they have been insulted and it is promoting bad feelings about the democracy they looked up to.
    I hope that travel can soon resume as this kind of exchange between guests and hosts does more to promote world peace than any paper.

    BTW, Iran fights ISIS too and there are no ISIS cells in the country. No terrorists in USA have ever originated from this country. They should not be on the Big 7 list.

    Thank you for speaking out, and let us know what we can do to encourage travel to Iran.

    Linda, Washington DC

  6. I would like to join John in paying for our border wall.
    We need to build it on the Washington, Oregon, California
    border to keep the insanity out.

  7. I fully agree with John. Rick, your car and home have locks, why not our border? No other country on earth would allow the porous borders we’ve been plagued with due to status quo politicians. I’m happy to fund a wall, as it secures our borders, allowing us to manage who comes and goes from our country.

    Oh, and yes, I can relate to your headline of this post Rick, as it’s how I’ve felt with for the past decades of our country funding abortion here and abroad with my tax dollars. But that is changing in favor of life as well.

  8. We’re defending our countries borders. How is this a bad thing?
    I think you’re all more shocked that a president is following through on his promises at the same time trying to cope with losing the election. Fair enough I guess.

  9. Behind you 100% Rick. What is going on in America? Why is there so much hate, so much fear and tragically so little compassion for others? Regardless of ethnicity, country or religion, we are all brothers and sisters in this world. It is a very low moment in the country’s history…

  10. I contacted my senators and congressman yesterday (two of whom agree with you and one of whom has yet to speak). I expressed my outrage that permanent residents were denied admission – these are people whose whole lives are here. I am also outraged that people with legal visas were denied admission. I have nothing against stopping the issuance of new visas while the new administration looks to see whether it can improve the process, but to say to people who have spent years and a lot of money to get approval “Sorry, that obstacle course you just cleared? Doesn’t count any more” is a betrayal.

    This order was badly worded and poorly conceived. If it is designed to keep out potential terrorists, how come Saudi Arabia isn’t on the list? It is a gift to ISIS recruiters and endangers US troops on the ground in the Middle East.

  11. Hey Mark,

    When can I begin sharing your car and home? Easy to to offer, a bit hard someone elses’ property/birthright, and not so easy when you are the one sacrificing personally. I’m betting you’d vet to a quite high level before offering your car and home to strangers. Have I made my point?

  12. No brother mike, the only point you’ve made is that you do not come across as a compassionate human being. Fair enough, that’s your right. America is a big and prosperous country that was built on the backs of poor immigrants (mainly from Europe). Not sure what you mean about the car and home – the vast majority of immigrants to America now are looking for the same thing your ancestors did – safety and opportunity.

  13. Sorry Mark, I will always lean toward the side of common sense over compassion when we are talking about the safety of our citizens and my children in general. I really care nothing about your ‘opinion’ of me.

    You are free to have your own opinions but unfortunately you are in the minority opinion at present, as proven by the continued support for this common sense PAUSE to create a comprehensive vetting process, and not a halt as the Hysterical are crying over. Let’s stick to the facts and not the progressive talking points and we’ll come to a much better understanding of the way forward as a nation.

  14. Really enjoying the debate! Freedom of speech & expression at its finest. It’s been generally respectful, which I really appreciate.

  15. Brother mike I’m not a Christian (or a Muslim), but when you leaned toward ‘common sense over compassion’, I’m sure Jesus wept. Good luck to you and your perspective of America. Rick Steves, you rock and thank you for all that you and your great organization do to promote international peace and understanding. Keep it going! The world needs it now more than ever.

  16. Mark, sorry, but the number one role of government is to protect its citizens, not to subordinate its citizens safety while extending ‘compassion’ in welcoming potential extremist onto our shores amongst the broad number of decent refugees coming here for the right reasons.

    Pausing to create a viable and protective vetting process, which the prior administration failed to do, is now the will of the majority of citizens here in our country.

  17. I am a Canadian who absolutely loves to travel and learn about new cultures. I can tell you I am in no rush to return to the States at this time. Sad to actually think this way as we went down to New Jersey or Florida yearly. I’ve crossed the northern states from West to East and loved every minute of it. Beautiful country and wonderful people in general. Right now the tension we feel through the media just doesn’t make me feel welcome. And I am a white, Catholic woman with no notable “sins”…

  18. This “Protecting the US Citizens” is a smoke-and-mirris technique of the REAL bigot behind all of this – Steve Bannon. I live here too, and of course I want to be safe – but he has stated in the past that Islam is not a peaceful religion. Really? That is HATEFUL and very reminiscent of a certain leader that promised Germany the exact same policies in the 30’s. Boy, that ended up great, didn’t it? Spare me your nationalist bigoted diatribe – prove to me that this is genuine and good-hearted coming from Mr “The media is the opposition” Bannon.

    Disgusting. If it takes bloodshed, then so be it. We will not condone hatred based on some right-wing deplorable on a personal mission to squeeze every last browned-skin citizen out of this great country.

  19. I am writing this before I read anyone else’s opinions because I don’t want to alter my thoughts by others opinions. I am first and foremost sickened by the hurt, danger and hardship this has brought to the world around us. But even if you take this from a selfish point of view, we are so badly hurting ourselves by deleting the very talent that all cultures bring to our own country, Dr’s, teachers, high tech engineers. Americans are blaming these people for their own short comings. American business would love to higher as many Americans as they can, but they have been very frustrated that Americans are not interested in the education and work ethics that is needed in these jobs. And instead of us locking others out of this country I feel like we are now boxed in this prison called America. We are now unwanted all over the world. Depending on what your beliefs are you are not even welcomed in many places in this country. I am a second generation American and in my 60 years I never thought I would see us become this kind of country by the lunacy of one mad man.

  20. What is happening in our country is embarrassing. We traveled to Iran on a private journey. After 50 years of travel to over 60 countries, including the former USSR, I can say I have never felt more welcome than in Iran. The people are fantastic and we met a number of the same people in Rick Steve’s video. He is right on about his comments. I am so ashamed of our governmental policies and hope things change soon. Thank you Rick for speaking out. As a retired scientist I feel so badly for those who can’t return to the USA and that we will be hurting our own economy as the best and brightest are banned.

  21. Rick,
    I remember your wonderful Iran trip video of a few years ago. As I recall, you were pictured in front of a mosque banner that read something like “death to America.” I think that some caution is in order. It sure seems like there has been an uptick of killings while “Allah Akbar” is shouted.
    Any idea why doesn’t Saudi Arabia volunteer some of its Haji housing for the Syrian refugees?
    According to Pew Research many moderate Muslims would like to see Sharia Law implemented: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/22/muslims-and-islam-key-findings-in-the-u-s-and-around-the-world/

  22. “Now you drive through the campus and you see blacks, Latinos, Chinese, Japanese, Iranians and maybe a minority of a very few Americans.”

    How do you know that they’re not Americans? The color of one’s skin, the ethnicity of one’s name or the shape of one’s eyes aren’t determining factors of citizenship.

    But aside from that, other than the First Americans – who were here long, long before European feet touched our shores- our ancestors all came from foreign lands, and many of them were ostracized and persecuted by the people who’d come before them.

    For instance:

    “…limited by a language barrier, illiteracy and lack of skills, this wave of ___ immigrants sought refuge among their own kind.”

    “A job – a wage – was what they were seeking, and they didn’t really care too much about the detail. Being unskilled, uneducated and typically illiterate, they accepted the most menial jobs that other immigrant groups did not want. So-called ‘Elegant Society’ looked down on them, and so did nearly everyone else!”

    “When the economy was strong, ___ immigrants to America were welcomed. But when boom times turned down, as they did in the mid-1850s, social unrest followed and it could be especially difficult for immigrants who were considered to be taking jobs from Americans. Being already low in the pecking order, the ___ suffered great discrimination. ‘No___ Need Apply’ was a familiar comment in job advertisements.”

    “The resulting “nativist” movement, which achieved prominence in the 1840s, was whipped into a frenzy of anti-Catholicism that led to mob violence, the burning of Catholic property, and the killing of Catholics.[20] This violence was fed by claims that Catholics were destroying the culture of the United States. ____ Catholic immigrants were blamed for spreading violence and drunkenness.[21]

    The nationality of the people referenced above? Irish. As you claim that ancestry, read up on 19th-century famine-fleeing Irish immigrants.


    It’s a similar sad story for immigrants of some other nationalities. Why would we wish to inflict upon others desperate to escape starvation, wars, life-threatening persecution or severe restrictions on their freedoms the same as may have been inflicted on our own ancestors?

  23. My husband was a police officer for 32 years and I was a hair dresser before we retired. We have put two kids through college and traveled to Europe 10 times. This is not as impossible as it may seem and I believe a lot of middle class Americans have traveled all over the world, even more elaborate trips that my husband and I have taken. It is very possible.

  24. This is awesome, Rick. It reminds me of the Mark Twain quote

    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

  25. This comment is directed to Dale and anyone who may be turned off to the idea of traveling to the U.S. Please don’t think that what you see on TV and online is an accurate representation of most Americans. Most of us have retained our sanity and welcome visitors from around the world. Chicago is a great city for visitors (yes, there is a horrible issue with gun violence there but if you avoid certain neighborhoods you’ll be fine). If you’re looking for a destination that’s off the beaten path, Madison, WI (a college town of about 250,000 people) can’t be beat. Wonderful people, food, hotels, natural beauty…i bet you would feel very welcome in the U.S.!

  26. I just rewatched this video for the 3rd time, once when it first came out on PBS, then this fall before my month long visit to Iran in October 2016, and now today, Feb 1, 2017. My first day in Teheran I met a woman from Ireland who had watched it before her visit. We only met 2 other Americans in our entire trip. This video shows the Iran I experienced in every way. I recommend it highly. My photos could not capture the exquisite tiles in the mosques, the sublime beauty of Esfahan’s Imam Square at all times of the day, and the experience of trying to cross the street in the traffic.

    The first question from every Iranian was, “What do you think of Iran?” They are so proud of their country. Most love Americans, but just like me, don’t like parts of our government. They are so genuinely friendly.

    I am very sad about our travel ban for people to come to the USA from Iran. How can we foster peace if walls are built? I encourage everyone to visit Iran. I was not scared to go because the government does not allow dissent, so I knew I would be safe if I followed the rules for Americans to have a tour guide, and as a woman to wear a hijab (scarf). Our tour guide and driver made sure we tried all the possible foods and kept us safe. Don’t try to drive there yourself!

    Thank you, Rick, for highlighting this video again. I just want to return to this welcoming and beautiful country.

  27. Frankly this really is not just a “pause”, I can guarantee that in a year from now this ban will still be imposed and probably adding more countries. Wow Mike how many terrorists have knocked on your door? This paranoia is insane! Quite with the propaganda that comes from the outrageous!

  28. Kathy, I agree with your assessment of previous immigrants to this country. I know an older lady whose parents immigrated. Legally mind you. No one should be able to enter a country without legal papers. But this older lady talked about her parents who worked very hard, taking the worst jobs available and not treated well at all, Italians in this case. They learned the language, took no credit or handouts. It was a hard life but successful in the end. I work with six, first generation immigrants from Poland. All learned the language, schooled themselves into professionals and provide good lives for their children. These are immigrants that make this country great. Today we need more involvement from the private sector who will sponsor immigrants, train them and help them assimilate into their new country. Take away some of the burden from the federal and local governments.

    I also see the other side, working in a profession that sees people who come from the Middle East, mostly Yemen, pregnant at 36 weeks, apply and receive medicaid, have their baby and as soon as possible return to their home country. In what way have they helped this country. We helped them by providing free, safe and good health care. I have been yelled at, pushed and had the door slammed in my face because I unknowingly interrupted their afternoon prayer.

    So who do we let in, how and how many and from where? I don’t think there is a single soul who believes every immigrant is out to kill us. Many come seeking a better life and succeed as my coworkers have. But I feel every newly seated President should have the right to determine how severe or how lax our immigrant vetting process is and whether or not it needs changes whether it be immediate, temporary or permanent. We are ordinary citizens and we have no idea of what happens behind closed doors nor are we entitled to that information. How many terrorists have been stopped before entry or how many made it through the vetting process only to be caught after. It’s a tremendous burden for one man to shoulder and for any of us to sit at our computers and pass judgement is holey unfair and borders on arrogance.

  29. Not all Iranians are terrorists and Not all Americans are Budhhists. The World is the better place to live if we live together.

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