On Friday Trump fulfilled one of his campaign promises with an executive order indefinitely suspending Syrian refugees from entering the country and instituting a temporary travel ban from 6 other countries. If you’d like to read the full text of the order, that can be found here. It has received condemnation from an incredible array of sources. It isn’t often you see Michael Moore, Dick Cheney, Charles Koch, and The Pope all finding themselves on the same side of an issue. Please note that Cheney’s and Pope Francis’s comments were in general about banning Muslims and refugees from the US and were from before the executive order. Moore and Koch were both after the executive order had been signed. The swift response from leaders and citizens alike led to the White House releasing a statement. I’m going to go line by line through it, but here is the statement in its entirety:
So let’s dig in:
President Donald J Trump Statement Regarding Recent Executive Order Concerning Extreme Vetting
When I said line by line, I meant the title too. There were plenty of articles written about ‘extreme vetting’ back when Trump coined the phrase in August. It should be noted again though, the process by which refugees are allowed into this country is remarkably extensive. Refugees don’t get to choose what country they go to when they apply for that status with the UN and it can take upwards of two years from when they’re given that status to when they end up living in the US. I don’t want to spend too much time rehashing that argument, the point is that this is not an easily exploitable vulnerability in need of an overhaul, but let’s get to the body of the statement.
America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave. We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say.
This is of course the big stated reason for the refugee ban, safety. We turned away Jewish refugees during WW2 because we thought they might be Nazi spies, so this is familiar territory for our country. But that brings us to the question of how safe are refugees? Germany has taken far more than the US has(600,000+ compared to the US’s 16,218), and their Federal Crime Policy Agency has put together data on how their crime has been affected. “the influx of refugees into the country this fall had a low impact on crime numbers relative to the natural uptick that would happen with any population increase: Although the number of refugees in the country increased by 440 percent between 2014 and 2015, the number of crimes committed by refugees only increased by 79 percent.” Crime increased 82% less than what would be expected for that size of a population surge. These are not dangerous people and we don’t become safer in their absence.
My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.
The first thing that stuck out to me from this was the apparent praise of Obama’s handling of middle east foreign policy. Trump’s accusation of Obama being “The founder of ISIS” was long discussed during the campaign, so to go from that to suddenly citing the Obama administration’s opinion on who is and isn’t dangerous is an unexpected move. More importantly though, Obama did ban new refugees from Iraq for a period of six months, but there are some key difference.
Obama’s ban was for a specific country with no exceptions(more on that in a moment) and in response to a specific threat the FBI had identified. That second part is important. It became obvious over the weekend that few others in the executive branch were consulted or even briefed that this executive order was coming. Head of the Department of Homeland Security, General Kelly, found out the order was being signed when he watched the press conference announcing it. The Pentagon is only today submitting the exemptions for key foreign translators that this ban also blocked from entering the US, something you’d think they would have wanted written into the original measure so as not to interrupt their activities. To dig into the other key difference, let’s look at the next piece of text.
To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days.
Here of course we come to the crux of the matter. Is this a Muslim ban? There are four key things that, if this isn’t a Muslim ban, should have been done extremely differently.
- Trump shouldn’t have promised a Muslim ban several times during his campaign for the White House. Even after he was elected, on December 7th he stated, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
- Trump shouldn’t have told Giuliani, in Giuliani’s words, “I’ll tell you the whole history of it: When he first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban’. He called me up, he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’”  He goes on to say that they focused on danger and not religion, but that interview is guaranteed to see play in the courtrooms hosting the mounting number of law suits against this order. He seems to imply a Muslim ban was the intent from the get go.
- Trump shouldn’t have included religion as a factor in the ban. From the order itself, “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.” Since every country included on the ban list is majority Muslim, that means everyone gets help except Muslims. This is another key difference between Trump’s and Obama’s proposals. Obama’s was for every Iraqi refugee. Trump’s allows in people from the banned countries, assuming they are not Muslim.
- Trump shouldn’t have been doing an interview with Christian Broadcasting hours before signing the order in which he had this exchange:
BRODY: “Persecuted Christians, we’ve talked about this, the refugees overseas. The refugee program, or the refugee changes you’re looking to make. As it relates to persecuted Christians, do you see them as kind of a priority here?”
BRODY: “You do?”
TRUMP: “They’ve been horribly treated. Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible and the reason that was so unfair, everybody was persecuted in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.”
If Trump wanted the country to take his word for it that religion had nothing to do with the order, those are the things he did wrong. Looking at his actions and the actions of his advisers, it’s tough to see this as anything but a the targeted strike against Muslims Trump called for just with careful language to attempt to slip through a legal loophole.
I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.”
He closes again with this idea of safety and security. I mentioned how safe refugees are earlier, but let’s look at the seven countries as a whole. Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen have been responsible for a grand total of 0 casualties in the US going back to and including 9/11. The countries that provided the terrorists behind 9/11, the Pulse Nightclub shooting, and the shooting in San Bernadino don’t appear on the list that Giuliani claims is mean to focus on danger.
There have been three non-fatal attacks stemming from immigrants from those countries in the last 15 years, but that’s it. Compare that to the fact that ISIS is already hailing the ban as a “Blessed ban” and is using it as proof the west has declared war on Islam and that more people should rally to their cause. Which is the bigger threat to lives both in American and around the world?
No this isn’t what Obama did in 2011. No we are not safer for banning immigrants and refugees from these seven countries. No we do not have checks and balances if the President can do this without consulting other key agencies who should be informed about such changes. Yes this was a Muslim ban. So begins week two of the Trump administration.