Tuesday, January 31, 2017

More on Trump's Travel Ban

President Trump's executive order calling a temporary halt to travel to this country from countries in which there's a lot of terrorist activity has created a firestorm of anger and protest, and I confess, given what the EO actually says, I don't understand why.

Perhaps it's because so many people are so sure that Donald Trump is the spawn of Satan if not Satan himself that as soon as he signed the executive order declaring a temporary moratorium on refugee immigration his opponents immediately escalated to a psycho-emotional defcon 5, renewing calls for assassination (Can you imagine if people in the media had called for the outright assassination of Barack Obama? See here for other examples), and sundry other forms of resistance.

David French at National Review Online separates fact from hysteria over President Trump's executive order. After summarizing some of the worst reactions to Mr. Trump's EO (See the link above for more examples), French brings some calm, adult analysis to bear on the matter. Here are just a few excerpts from his column:
First, the order temporarily halts refugee admissions for 120 days to improve the vetting process, then caps refugee admissions at 50,000 per year. Outrageous, right? Not so fast. Before 2016, when Obama dramatically ramped up refugee admissions, Trump’s 50,000 stands roughly in between a typical year of refugee admissions in George W. Bush’s two terms and a typical year in Obama’s two terms....Trump is improving security screening and intends to admit refugees at close to the average rate of the 15 years before Obama’s dramatic expansion in 2016. Obama’s expansion was a departure from recent norms, not Trump’s contraction.

Second, the order imposes a temporary, 90-day ban on people entering the U.S. from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. These are countries either torn apart by jihadist violence or under the control of hostile, jihadist governments. The ban is in place while the Department of Homeland Security determines the “information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.” It could, however, be extended or expanded depending on whether countries are capable of providing the requested information.

The ban, however, contains an important exception: “Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked”....

Third, Trump’s order also puts an indefinite hold on admission of Syrian refugees to the United States “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.” This is perhaps the least consequential aspect of his order — and is largely a return to the Obama administration’s practices from 2011 to 2014. For all the Democrats’ wailing and gnashing of teeth, until 2016 the Obama administration had already largely slammed the door on Syrian-refugee admissions....

Fourth, there is a puzzling amount of outrage over Trump’s directive to “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.” In other words, once refugee admissions resume, members of minority religions may well go to the front of the line. In some countries, this means Christians and Yazidis. In others, it can well mean Muslims.

Sadly, during the Obama administration it seems that Christians and other minorities may well have ended up in the back of the line. For example, when Obama dramatically expanded Syrian refugee admissions in 2016, few Christians made the cut: The Obama administration has resettled 13,210 Syrian refugees into the United States since the beginning of 2016 .... and [only] 77 (0.5 percent) are Christians.... As a point of reference, in 2015 Christians represented roughly 10 percent of Syria’s population.

But one thing is clear — federal asylum and refugee law already require a religious test.... An alien seeking asylum “must establish that . . . religion [among other things] . . . was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant.” Similarly, the term “refugee” means “(A) any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality . . . and who is unable or unwilling to return to . . . that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of . . . religion [among other things] . . . [.]”

You can read the entire executive order from start to finish, reread it, then read it again, and you will not find a Muslim ban. It’s not there. Nowhere. At its most draconian, it temporarily halts entry from jihadist regions. In other words, Trump’s executive order is a dramatic climb-down from his worst campaign rhetoric.
French doesn't mention that President Obama himself greatly slowed the influx of refugees from Iraq in 2011 in order to make sure they could be properly vetted, but no one angrily objected that this was an infringement of the human rights of these Iraqis. Nor was there much said about President Obama's suspension last month of the "wet foot, dry foot" policy toward Cuban refugees. Trump's critics claim that Obama's measures differed from Trump's EO, and in the details they did, but the differences are, in my opinion, insignificant compared to the similarities. The most salient similarity is that in each case people ostensibly fleeing oppression and tyranny are/were temporarily prevented from entering the country until we could be sure they have proper intentions.

In fact, the Cubans are not just temporarily prevented, most of them are permanently blocked from obtaining freedom because they must now come into the country through normal immigration channels, which is hard to do when emigrating from a totalitarian state. It's strange, parenthetically, that so little effort was made by Mr. Obama to stop Central Americans and Mexicans from circumventing normal immigration channels, but he had no qualms about stopping Cubans from doing so.

And since we're talking about inconsistency in our attitudes toward immigrants let's not forget the rousing ovation President Clinton got from Democrats for promising in his 1995 State of the Union speech to take steps to curtail illegal immigration from Mexico:
Maybe the left gets upset about measures similar to those Trump has taken only when it's Trump who takes them.