On Trump’s¹ visa debacle.
Stuff you probably don’t want to admit if you’re a right-winger
§ US immigration law will never function as a security system capable of stopping dedicated terrorists from entering the country. No technology exists to prevent a human being with resources from entering a continent-sized region, and the threat of homegrown terrorism (often inspired by perceived persecution against Muslims) is several times larger than the threat from foreign infiltrators. This order, like “the wall”, is fake security.
§ The countries on the list were chosen because they are diplomatically weak and/or not friendly to the US government, not because they are especially large sources of terrorism targeting the United States.² Large Islamic countries that actually do export quite a few terrorists to the US include Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt, which are close military allies of the United States. These countries were not included because it would offend them diplomatically, weaken the military alliances, and upset the big businesses (including arms manufacturers) that trade with those countries. To the administration, these things apparently come before “homeland security”.
§ An email from Gillian Christensen at the Department of Homeland Security indicated that some green card holders would be prevented from returning to the US, which would be outrageous. These are legal permanent residents of the United States! It now seems like the DHS email may have been mistaken (the plain language of the order seems like it would not apply to green card holders), but the truth is still vague.
This news scared millions of green card holders who have legally made the US their permanent home. This isn’t a group used to being singled out like this, and many of them are on the pathway to citizenship. You can’t pretend you aren’t xenophobic when you make rapid, unexpected changes to immigration law that have enormous impact on people’s lives, and do very little to clearly communicate the changes or comfort those who are unjustly impacted (a number very close to 100% of those impacted).
§ Is it likely that banning the great director Asghar Farhadi from attending the Oscars is making America safer? What good is this doing anyone? I understand the precautionary principle. I also understand that nearly every application of the precautionary principle is to defend otherwise indefensible policies. The number of actual terrorists blocked by this order is probably comparable to or less than the number of people who will be radicalized by this order.
Stuff you probably don’t want to admit if you’re a left-winger
§ While I view this order as picking on politically weak and unpopular people, this isn’t a #MuslimBan or any other kind of religious ban, and calling it such is spreading fake news. A lot of misleading headlines are being generated out of this. The order affects people traveling from some majority Muslim countries. At least 80% of Muslims in the world are not in the affected countries, and that’s certainly a lowball estimate on my part. The order affects Syrian Christians and does not affect Indonesian Muslims.
§ This is actually an expansion of travel restrictions imposed by Obama¹ (with bipartisan congressional support) in response to the Paris attacks, and further expanded to more countries in 2016. Trump’s order doesn’t mention the countries by name (other than Syria); it just refers to the preexisting Obama law. While the new order is much more sweeping than the original (which targeted dual citizenship holders), there was little response to the earlier changes outside of complaints by the ACLU and Muslim groups. My suspicion is that the reason the organized left did not stage protests is because Obama is a Democrat, and many of the people protesting today supported him, even when he was signing discriminatory bills and orders against travelers from Muslim countries.
In a prescient statement, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said this way back in 2015: “This bill could be an opening salvo to the type of policies that Donald Trump advocates, and we should condemn it now before it becomes more widespread.”
Yes, we should have. Thanks, Obama.
§ Refugees admitted to the United States have indeed been linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL terrorism in the past. This led to a six month ban on Iraqi refugees in 2011. Syrian refugees were effectively banned from the US prior to 2015, given the two- and three-digit numbers admitted compared to the numbers flooding into Europe. Large numbers of Syrian refugees were admitted to the US only in 2016. Rejecting desperate refugees out of terrorism fears is not a new thing under Trump, but given that he openly campaigned on it and won, we should probably expect more of it.
§ There’s an NPR story going around suggesting that these countries were chosen based on Trump’s business interests. That’s really poor journalism by NPR standards. As pointed out above, the country list comes from rules that precede the current administration, and the only country added to the list is Syria, which is a special case given the civil war and refugee crisis. The NPR reporters (and apparently the editor) literally did not read the executive order before publishing.
The important thing being missed because people keep bitching about politics
Thousands of trusted Iraqis and Afghanis who worked closely with Americans during the wars in those countries have been under constant threat of murder since the Bush administration, and have been seeking asylum. Many have been killed already, and their families have been targeted as well. The US has a long history of welcoming collaborators and their families to our country, most memorably at the end of the Vietnam War. Bush and Obama both did a disgustingly horrible job at getting these people to safety in the USA, mostly because of resistance from cowards in both parties in Congress who would rather break promises to these brave individuals than be seen as soft on Muslims. I suspect a lot of the Iraqis who risked their lives for Americans would make substantially better citizens of this country than the asshole politicians who are blocking them.
Their prospects seem bleak during the Trump Administration, but maybe with all the newfound outrage, this can become a live issue.
¹ I’m not much into fancy titles, so don’t expect me to call people “President Trump” or “President Obama”.
² There are reports stating that no one from any of the affected countries has carried out a fatal attack since 2001. This is absolutely true, but I find it slightly misleading unless the source also mentions foiled and non-lethal attacks. Including those, there have been extremists from several of these countries on US soil who were stopped before their plans became lethal.