The purpose of this article is to clarify a few basic, factual points about what is happening with Trump’s “Muslim ban,” and to pick up the slack where much of the media has continued its sloppy, partisan job of providing coverage.
First of all, a lot of the articles coming out focus on the fact that Iran is supposedly included on the list of banned countries, while Saudi Arabia (for instance) is not. This has led to speculation about whether Trump is letting his business interests get in the way of what’s truly best for the country, as we know Hillary (with her $10-25 million in donations from the Saudis) most likely would have. These and other articles refer to a list of seven countries included in the ban.
Looking at the actual text of the executive order, however, it is clear that only one country is ever explicitly named in the text of Trump’s executive order. You can read the original document here.
Section 5(c) of the bill reads:
(c) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), 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.
Thus, while most of the executive order entails a ninety-day pause on admitting immigrants, the freeze on admission of Syrian immigrants is given no predetermined expiration date. And the admission of refugees (not necessarily Syrian) through the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) is paused for one hundred twenty days – after which admission will only be resumed selectively, depending on how potential threats from relevant countries are evaluated and how effective security procedures are believed to be:
Sec. 5. Realignment of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Fiscal Year 2017. (a) The Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. During the 120-day period, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall review the USRAP application and adjudication process to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States, and shall implement such additional procedures. Refugee applicants who are already in the USRAP process may be admitted upon the initiation and completion of these revised procedures. Upon the date that is 120 days after the date of this order, the Secretary of State shall resume USRAP admissions only for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have jointly determined that such additional procedures are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.
So where does this list of six specified countries come from?
Section 3(c) of the bill reads as follows:
the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).
In other words, while section 3(c) does not name a further list of countries, it refers to 8 U.S. Code § 1187, which contains this list. You can read that document here.
The relevant portion reads:
(12) Designation of high risk program countries
(A) In general
The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of State, shall evaluate program countries on an annual basis based on the criteria described in subparagraph (B) and shall identify any program country, the admission of nationals from which under the visa waiver program under this section, the Secretary determines presents a high risk to the national security of the United States.
(B) Criteria In evaluating program countries under subparagraph (A), the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of State, shall consider the following criteria:
(i) The number of nationals of the country determined to be ineligible to travel to the United States under the program during the previous year.
(ii) The number of nationals of the country who were identified in United States Government databases related to the identities of known or suspected terrorists during the previous year.
(iii) The estimated number of nationals of the country who have traveled to Iraq or Syria at any time on or after March 1, 2011 to engage in terrorism.
(iv) The capacity of the country to combat passport fraud.
(v) The level of cooperation of the country with the counter-terrorism efforts of the United States.
(vi) The adequacy of the border and immigration control of the country.
(vii) Any other criteria the Secretary of Homeland Security determines to be appropriate.
(C) Suspension of designation
The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may suspend the designation of a program country based on a determination that the country presents a high risk to the national security of the United States under subparagraph (A) until such time as the Secretary determines that the country no longer presents such a risk.
Not later than 60 days after December 18, 2015, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of State, shall submit to the Committee on Homeland Security, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate a report, which includes an evaluation and threat assessment of each country determined to present a high risk to the national security of the United States under subparagraph (A).
Once again, the only countries explicitly named in (B) (iii) are Syria and Iraq.
However, sections (A) and (D) state that “the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of State” will submit a report to the Senate within sixty days, evaluating which countries present “a high risk to the national security of the United States.” Under the Obama Administration from 2015 to 2016, that would have been Jeh Johnson as Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with Stephanie O’Sullivan as Director of National Intelligence and John Kerry as Secretary of State.
Indeed, within ninety days (on February 18, 2016), they published a press release stating:
After careful consideration, and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence [Stephanie O’Sullivan] and the Secretary of State [John Kerry], the Secretary of Homeland Security [Jeh Johnson] has determined that Libya, Somalia, and Yemen be included as countries of concern . . . The three additional countries designated today join Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria as countries subject to restrictions . . .
The mention of these countries joining Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria of course also refers to previous Obama Administration policies which targeted these countries.
Primarily, they were all established by the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, which stated that:
. . . travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the VWP:
Nationals of VWP countries who have been present in Iraq, Syria, or countries listed under specified designation lists (currently including Iran and Sudan) at any time on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited government/military exceptions).
Nationals of VWP countries who have been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, at any time on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited government/military exceptions).
Indeed, the Obama Administration actually froze the Iraqi refugee resettlement program for six full months in 2011. After two Al Qaeda terrorists were found living as refugees in Bowling Green, Kentucky, “the State Department stopped processing Iraq refugees for six months . . . even for many who had heroically helped U.S. forces as interpreters and intelligence assets. One Iraqi who had aided American troops was assassinated before his refugee application could be processed, because of the immigration delays, two U.S. officials said.”
Is Trump’s three-month pause really so extreme compared to a six-month pause so as to justify condemning this policy for being “the end of the goddamn world” from pin-drop fucking silence? Or is there something else that explains why Obama can get away with a six-month pause without the slightest hassle, while Trump is literally Hitler for implementing a pause half as long? Hmmm . . .
Additionally, the bill contains multiple references to the possibility of eventual updates being made to the countries included on the list.
Sec. 3. Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern. (a) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall immediately conduct a review to determine 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.
(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall submit to the President a report on the results of the review described in subsection (a) of this section, including the Secretary of Homeland Security’s determination of the information needed for adjudications and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information, within 30 days of the date of this order. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide a copy of the report to the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence.
The bill references Obama’s list, in the words of section 3(c), simply to “temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period . . .” This section explains that countries which do not comply with these requests will be given a sixty-day notice, while section 3(e) explains that countries that fail to comply will be included on “a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals . . . until compliance occurs.”
In other words, it is very likely that this seven-country list will be expanded some time after the next six months. The six countries from the Obama Administration’s threat assessment are referred to simply to ease transition. Furthermore, per section 3(e), “At any point after submitting the list . . . the Secretary of State [Rex Tillerson] or the Secretary of Homeland Security [John Kelly] may submit to the President the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment.”
To address a few related issues:
“This is unconstitutional!”
The idea, of course, is that this policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
But in the words of MSNBC’s Chief Legal Correspondent Ari Melber: “[Historically,] the First Amendment doesn’t apply to immigration decisions, at all.” And the United States has been establishing ideological barriers to citizenship since it became a country, from barring violent anarchists to Soviet Communists. While the First Amendment prohibits the government from discriminating against anarchists or Communists already here as citizens on the basis of their beliefs, it has no obligation to admit them as citizens, because becoming a citizen of a foreign country is no more a human right than becoming a roommate in someone else’s home. And as can be seen on records here, the last five presidents have suspended immigration privileges from various groups a collective forty-three times in attempts to protect the perceived interests of the United States. In 1996, for instance, Bill Clinton passed Proclamation 6598, which “[s]uspend[ed] the entry into the United States, as immigrants or non-immigrants, of members of the government of Sudan.” And, of course, this list includes the Obama bans already mentioned.
Then, of course, there is also the fact that federal immigration code says this:
(f)Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President
Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.
“What about all the Right-wing extremists committing acts of terrorism?”
See my article here for a detailed rebuttal of those articles from late 2015 which claimed that Right-wing extremism is a more serious domestic terror threat than Islam. After correcting obvious errors in these accounts, and including the many foiled plots stacking up each year that we never even hear about, I run the numbers to show that the per capita rate of “terrorism” (defined here as ideologically motivated acts of mass violence) is at least one hundred twenty times higher in Muslim populations admitted to the United States than in white conservatives.
You don’t have to believe that all Muslims are terrorists to support a policy like this one. You don’t even have to dislike Muslims. You don’t have to be a White Nationalist. You don’t even have to be opposed to using U.S. immigration policy to help foreigners in need by bringing them here. If admitting ten thousand Muslims as immigrants means you’re going to get approximately one hundred twenty terror attacks, while admitting ten thousand members of some other group means you would only get one, this means that choosing to admit Muslims over other groups is directly causing unnecessary deaths. It’s not as if there’s any shortage of people around the world who might benefit from coming to the United States. It’s not as if Muslims would benefit from coming here more than, let’s say, white refugees fleeing racist violence in Zimbabwe. The number of people we can accommodate is, of course, limited. If we can help just as many people by admitting those who will bring an equal number of benefits to the United States, and reduce the number of terror attacks we thereby expose ourselves to in the process, why on Earth wouldn’t we do that?
Past policies have, in fact, been discriminatory against Christians.
At least implicitly. There have been no explicit statements against admitting Christian refugees, but in the words of Elliott Abrams:
when you have been running a refugee program for years, and [it is obvious there is a problem], and it is obvious why and obvious how to fix it, and nothing is done to fix it – well, the results speak more loudly than speeches, laws, intentions or excuses.
Trump pointed this out in January 27, 2017, stating:
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.
To quantify this,
The United States has accepted 10,801 Syrian refugees, of whom 56 are Christian. Not 56 percent; 56 total, out of 10,801. That is to say, one-half of 1 percent . . . Somewhere between a half million and a million Syrian Christians have fled Syria, and the United States has accepted 56. Why?
The Washington Post’s fact-checkers gave Trump two Pinocchios out of four for his claim that Christians in Syria had a particularly hard time being admitted as refugees, their reasoning being that while Christians are indeed disproportionately unlikely to be admitted as refugees from Syria, they are disproportionately likely to be admitted as refugees from Iraq. Whereas fifteen percent of the population of Syria but only around one percent of the refugees admitted from Syria to the United States are Christian, in Iraq those numbers are reversed: around one percent of the population of Iraq, but approximately fifteen percent of the refugees admitted from Iraq to the United States are Christian.
But the problem is that this disparity doesn’t actually even things out, because Christians are in fact a persecuted minority in both Iraq and Syria. Disproportionate admission of Christian refugees therefore makes sense. Disproportionate rejection of Christian refugees doesn’t. The fact that things went roughly, as they should have in Iraq, simply does not excuse the fact that they didn’t in Syria, so this is an utterly preposterous reason to deny that efforts failed in Syria.
So why was this happening?
According to Nina Shea, Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom:
[A]nother reason for the lack of Christians in the makeup of the refugees is the [religious] makeup of the camps. Christians in the main United Nations refugee camp in Jordan are subject to persecution, they say, and so flee the camps, meaning they are not included in the refugees referred to the U.S. by the U.N.
“The Christians don’t reside in those camps because it is too dangerous . . .They are preyed upon by other residents from the Sunni community . . . They are raped, abducted into slavery and they are abducted for ransom. It is extremely dangerous; there is not a single Christian in the Jordanian camps for Syrian refugees . . .”
Is that not a serious problem in and of itself? If we’re going to admit refugees to the United States – more than eighty percent of whose population still identifies as Christian – do we really want the refugees we admit to be the ones who have been chasing off Christian refugees by raping, abducting, and enslaving them? Even if we couldn’t do more to help those Christian refugees, wouldn’t this be a damn good reason to view the Sunni “refugees” we are planning to admit with rather less sympathy?
One of those big, bad, mean, evil, bigoted Republicans proposed a concrete solution to the dilemma: change the law so that Syrian Christians can apply directly to the U.S. refugee resettlement program, instead of requiring them to apply through the U.N. In response, ThinkProgress described him as calling for a “special program for Christians”, and James Zogby at The Huffington Post told him, “Don’t Play Politics with Syrian Christians.” Zogby says, “It is difficult to know what to make of Shea’s horror stories of Christians being raped and abducted in the camps. What we do know is [simply] that Christians aren’t in the camps . . .”
Lest the refugee rape crisis itself is not be enough to convince you of the plausibility of the claim that rape is a serious problem in the camps (because Leftists are somehow still in denial of that, too; see the comment thread here for my detailed response to a Left-wing denialist), here is a report from women in Calais “so terrified that some of the camp’s male residents will find out [that she is a woman in the camps] that she hardly ever ventures out of her tent.”
Here is a report from Hessen, Germany discussing “forced prostitution,” and reports that rapes of both women and children are “not isolated cases.” Here is the story of Muslim asylum-seekers in Italy literally throwing Christian passengers off their shared boat. Here is a report from the Refugee Rights Data Project explaining the reasons why women in the camps are “afraid to go to toilets at night, because poor lighting in the camps made them vulnerable to attack.”
How willfully ignorant do you have to be to pretend there’s nothing to see here? For Zogby to say that it is “difficult to know what to make of Shea’s horror stories” is nothing short of disgusting. He is deliberately turning a blind eye to the countless documented accounts; as usual, rape and sexual abuse are only of interest to the Left when they are politically useful.
How absurd is it that we now inhabit a world where it falls to the rebellious counterculture of the alternative media to explain and defend the actions of the Presidency? It’s as if not thinking the President is Satan incarnate is becoming the new punk rock. Finding all this juvenile rage against the machine tired and silly is actually this generation’s Rage against the Machine.
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