[Edited 17:13 hrs, Jan 29]
In the midst of many other concerns, I wanted to write some thoughts on the recent suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program before I forgot them. Go to my Twitter page for a number of retweets on the Executive Order, most opposing it (but remember, retweet doesn’t mean approval). My main impressions: whether it’s unconstitutional or not, detaining an octogenarian Iranian couple in wheelchairs, or Iraqis who assisted U.S. troops, just sends a bloody bad message, as one of my Twitter acquaintance put it.
Above all else, I think the order is strange because it actually changes relatively little–so why the hoopla a) about signing it, and b) about opposing it? It’s not like the U.S. government has been welcoming refugees with open arms, mainly because, unlike Europe, we have a 3,000 miles of water separating us from the world’s refugee populations. So, it seems more about sending some kind of signal about…something (update, 1/31: Jake Fuentes speculated intelligently about what that something could be). In the mean time, administrative confusion is ensuring that the only people it’s affecting are decent people trying to go about their business.
David French at The National Review and William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection have done a great job actually breaking down the true from the false . French’s article is especially good; LI casts doubt on airport detentions that actually seem to have happened, and gets some other things wrong as well. One further caveat on these articles: you can flippantly talk about the moratorium “only” being X-number of days, but when you’re waiting for relief from starvation, homelessness, or persecution, 3 or 4 months is an awfully long time.
- The full text of the executive order can be found at CNN or The New York Times.
- For comprehensive statistics, with links, on U.S. immigration, the following articles from the Pew Research Center are absolutely indispensable:
- October 5, 2016, “US Admits Record Number of Muslim Refugees in 2016.”
- January 27, 2017, “Key Facts About Refugees to the U.S.”
- When I said yesterday that “it didn’t come from nowhere,” I was referring to the fact that these seven countries were already on the government’s radar.
- There was already a pretty stiff vetting process in place for refugees–you can see the State Department’s page on that, or the infographic on obamawhitehouse.gov.
- In addition, the EO refers to U.S. Code Title 8, Chapter 12, which can be found at Cornell’s LII. The EO essentially works off the framework established by the Obama Administration.
- In fact, as Seth J. Frantzman points out with considerable force, nowhere in the EO are most of the seven countries mentioned–that’s because immigration from there was already restricted by the Obama Administration in 2015, and updated in February of 2016 to include Libya, Somalia, and Yemen–using similar language to the EO, I might add.
- Also, I just have to say, an infographic from last night claiming that countries where Trump does business will be exempt is click-bait bull, as soon as you realize the pre-existing background of these restrictions.
- Despite the rulings in New York and Virginia last night, it is actually not at all clear that this EO was unconstitutional, and I’d be surprised if these rulings are upheld in February. Primarily because the administration likely can demonstrate that it is not a “MuslimBan” (one reason I didn’t use that hashtag yesterday–besides, Syrian Christians are being denied entry anyway). Also that the language for persecuted religious minorities long pre-dates Trump. Some have complained that Middle Eastern Christians have gone to the back of the line under the Obama administration, and that could be true for all I know. However, while ISIS has a special hatred for Christian communities (as do many Christians’ neighbors, when the going gets tough), the majority of ISIS victims are Muslims (the BBC has the best column on this fraught topic).
So, what exactly is supposed to be gained by either the much-publicized signing of this EO, or the furious protests against it? For instance, these measures almost certainly wouldn’t have prevented the San Bernardino shooting in 2015–Pakistan and Saudi Arabia aren’t on the list. On the other hand, it might have prevented the OSU attack perpetrated by a Somali immigrant. David French points out that, after review, the U.S. refugee cap will be set at 50,000–roughly what it was for the Bush and most of the Obama years. Much as it is a crime these days to “normalize” Trump, the fact is that this EO mostly continues what Obama started. Many things about it are bad, I think: the timing, the tweaks, the delays, and the harassment caused by shoddy implementation, are mostly negatives, or unproved positives, in my book. It was just clarified this morning that it doesn’t apply to green card holders.
So…why?? It could be, as a couple right-wing sites have suggested, that the administration was trolling the media. Or that the media and most academics and public intellectuals, myself included, let themselves/ourselves be trolled. It could also be that this is what the administration feels is the next logical step in national security. But really, it needs to get its act together if so, because images speak louder than words in the information age.