Trump’s Executive Order on “Foreign Terrorist Entry”
Trump recently issued an executive order titled, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States.” Conservatives love it; it plays to all of their fears and prejudices. This is their red meat. They claim it will keep us safe.
Let’s look at the provisions of the order. Section 3 of the order deals with “extreme vetting.” The more controversial element is subsection (c), which lays out a number of countries from which admission will be severely limited from this time, and whose entry will be blocked for the next 90 days. Those countries currently are:
A country not blocked: Saudi Arabia, from where many of the 9/11 terrorists came. Also not included are several other countries in the region where Trump happens to have business interests.
In fact, non-U.S. citizens who have carried out attacks on the United States over the past 20 years, including 9/11, all have come from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Russia and Pakistan—none of which are on the list of countries of “particular concern” in Trump’s order.
The order does allow for individual review of cases in subsection (g), which, while allowing a release valve, has nonetheless clogged airports nationwide with people requesting review. Some are reviewed and passed, but must spend hours or even days detained while checks are made.
That’s just the immediate problem, however. The general overhaul means that if you are traveling from abroad—from any country, but especially one with a Muslim population—getting an entry visa is about to become far, far more difficult. It also will probebly mean that Americans will find entry into other countries harder as well, as retaliatory policy changes begin to appear in various countries (as the order itself recognizes in Section 9).
The central unspoken message of the order is that Muslims are no longer welcome. Trump’s mandate could not just simply come out and say this, of course, as it would then create legal issues that almost any court would likely invalidate. Nonetheless, it is all but assured that this order will result in severe restrictions on Muslims and people from predominantly Muslim countries.
The other section of the order generating concern is Section 5. The section stops all refugee admissions for four months (120 days), after which the United States will:
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.
That’s a way of saying “Muslim” without saying “Muslim.” It means that Christians in particular from Islamic countries are welcome, but not Muslims themselves. You know that if there is a country with a Christian majority, any Christian refugees will not be eyed with much suspicion.
However, the kicker comes in subsection (c):
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.
So, if you’re a Syrian and ISIS is trying to kill you, then too bad. At best, you can get into what promises to be a very long, torturous line of people seeking a special exemption. But if you’re a Muslim and don’t have some extraordinary status, don’t hold your breath.
This is essentially a specific ban on Syrian refugees. Trump paints it as a way to halt ISIL from sneaking terrorists into the country, but in fact it is about punishing the victims of ISIL—something that no doubt makes them quite happy.
In addition to this, Trump limits 2017 immigration to 50,000 total, half of the current allocation.
However, there is a much-overlooked section of the order:
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.
This is a sop to all the conservative states, counties, and cities with right-wing politicians who want to cry, “Not in MY back yard!” and keep refugees from entering their domains. Republican governors, legislators, and mayors have been using this as a campaign stunt, stoking fear and prejudice for no just cause; Trump just handed them a way to actually do it, effectively allowing state and local politicians to interfere with matters of foreign affairs.
Aside from any immediate, visceral response to this mandate, one should ask: will it actually stop terrorism?
The answer, in short, is “no.”
Most recent cases of terrorism have been committed by citizens, not refugees, immigrants, or foreign visitors.
Only one attack—a non-fatal one—has so far been committed by a refugee, a young man from Somalia at Ohio State University. The status of this attack as one of “terrorism” is questioned, but even if you accept it as such, it is the full extent of the terrorist rampage Trump and other conservatives tell us we should fear.
Trump has also claimed that refugees are responsible for crime waves in Europe, pointing to Germany as a prime example. However, this is false; the refugee population in Germany has a lower crime rate than the general population. Similar claims have been made about refugee crime sprees in countries like Sweden, similarly false.
This is, in fact, a point that must be made concerning all immigrants and refugees, documented or otherwise: they are, not just in the U.S., but everywhere in the world, less dangerous than the native populations. The reasons for this are well-known: they want to stay where they are, and breaking any laws will get them kicked out. The claim that they are a particular danger is nothing but a bald-faced lie.
Since 9/11, there have been very few attacks carried out by foreign immigrants or visitors at all; there was one carried out by a U.S. citizen who was married to a foreign national (she participated in the assault), and the Boston Marathon bombers were immigrants—from Russia. We won’t likely see much of a ban on immigrants from Russia, I am guessing.
No, the fact is that most terrorist attacks against the United States are carried out by U.S. citizens—even if you only count the jihadist attacks.
Furthermore, in what proves supremely ironic, 18 of the 28 domestic terror attacks in recent years have been carried out not by Muslims, but by native-born right-wing extremists—though any attempt to point this out elicits howls of rage from conservatives, who claim they are being persecuted.
When the DHS issued a report noting that domestic terrorism by right-wing extremists, especially “lone wolf” perpetrators, was a real threat that should be monitored, conservatives raged: Rush Limbaugh claimed the report was “nothing more than a partisan hit job filled with lies and innuendo that portrays any conservatism as right-wing extremism.” Newt Gingrich lashed out, saying it “smearing veterans and conservatives” and whoever drafted it should be fired. Boehner called it “offensive and unacceptable.” Michelle Malkin called it “propaganda,” and Pamela Geller claimed it was a prelude to a fascist coup.
This despite the fact that the report was very specific, cogent, and only noted that the worst cases should be monitored and nothing else.
But characterize millions of people as potential terrorists in a way that threatens their very lives and livelihoods based on nothing more than their religion or countries of origin, in a hasty, slip-shod, selective, and untimately usless manner?
From the founders onward, we have been told by true patriots that fear and indiscriminate lashing out goes against what we stand for. We have slowly descended from those noble principles into a cesspool of cowardly, sniveling panic and prejudice.
Late-breaking news: A federal judge has blocked at least part of Trump’s order, the part concerned with ejecting those with valid visas from the United States. They will not be released into the U.S. from detainment, but they will not be sent back to countries where they may very well be killed upon return.