The Immigration Ban Examined

I want to talk about the immigration ban.

However, in doing so, I don’t plan on spending any time on the question, “Is Trump Hitler?” He signed an order temporarily shutting down immigration from certain countries in order to improve the vetting process for said immigrants and thus, make sure Americans are safe. Anyone who doesn’t think the president of the U.S. is well within his right to do that is being hysterical. Furthermore, just because  we pride ourselves on being a country of immigrants does not mean that anyone and everyone should be able to come in at anytime or else we are hateful. That has never been the case. That’s not to say that parts of the Executive Order’s design shouldn’t be critiqued.

But let’s backtrack for a second.

In 2011, after two Iraqi immigrants in Kentucky were revealed to be Al-Qaeda (in Iraq) connected terrorists, President Obama ordered the records of 58,000 Iraqi immigrants to be reexamined and instituted a stricter vetting process for Iraqi refugees. The more thorough vetting process seemed to delay visas to Iraqi refugees. Although there was no official order to delay visas, we can infer that it was the result of the new process by looking at the numbers of Iraqi refugees entering the U.S. by year: 18,251 in 2010, 6,339 in 2011 and 16,369 in 2012. As you can see, visas to Iraqis were slowed dramatically in 2011. Thus, President Obama, determining there to be a potential threat from the refugees, instituted a stricter vetting process, and in doing so slowed the influx of Iraqis. President Trump determined a similar threat, but decided to delay visas completely to seven risk countries President Trump’s action was much more aggressive and wider in scope. Nonetheless, and as much as the media wants to deny it, these are very similar behaviors: both seek to improve the vetting process for refugees from Muslim-majority countries due to fears of terrorism.

But I digress, let’s discuss the Executive Order entitled, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”
So the Order does a few things, let’s approach the important aspects one-by-one.
1. Bans entry to the US for people born in seven countries for 90 days: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen
So, this provision, as explained in the Order, is based on 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12) (or H.R. 158) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, signed into law by President Obama in December of 2015. This all has to do with the Visa Waiver Program which allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the U.S. without a visa. Given the threat of Islamic terrorists infiltrating the country through the program, Congress passed the above mentioned law in order to restrict the Visa Waiver program. The law prohibited people who traveled to Iraq or Syria (or dual citizens of Iraq and Syria) on or after March 1st, 2011 from participating in the program (“Not present in Iraq, Syria, or any other country or area of concern.”)  The law also invested power in the Secretary of Homeland Security (Jeh Johnson) to add countries to this list at his discretion. Thus, within the next couple of months Sudan, Iran, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia were also added to the restricted list.
So whereas the Obama administration didn’t ban nationals from these countries from coming to the U.S. they did force them to get visas, and more importantly, pinpoint them for a stricter vetting process, due to worries about Islamic terrorism.
As for countries left out of the Order, I agree it’s bothersome. But, there’s two obvious reasons countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan were left out. First, we need them as allies in the region and secondly, they have secure centralized governments that we can rely on for refugee screening….supposedly. I say supposedly because I doubt the diligence with which these countries actually provide us with information on their own people, especially given the attacks we’ve seen around the world from their citizens, but better some countries on the list than none. Afghanistan is really the worst omission given the terrorist groups situated there and it’s lack of power relative to these other countries. Nonetheless, the list was produced by the Obama administration and for reasons that perhaps are better off remaining secret, Afghanistan was excluded.

2. Even people with green cards?
The mixed signals the administration has been sending in this regard were sloppy and stupid. I can understand the thought that a flawed vetting system would have allowed for the wrong people to get green cards but it doesn’t matter, permanent residents are expected to live in the U.S. by law, so how can they avoid being penalized if they can’t get in here? President Trump should also have made it clear to the public from the beginning that anyone who helped the U.S. military is excluded from the ban. However, it seems like the Trump administration is now saying that they will defer to DHS on this and that green card holders will be let in, though, only after extra screenings. The extra screenings make sense as we should certainly be watching people who travel to these countries carefully as to ensure they don’t do so for reasons related to terrorism. This all said, President Trump’s Executive Order did include the provision, “the 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.” So regardless, they left the DHS the power to make decisions about “banned” people on a case-by-case basis.
3. Suspends entire refugee plan for 120 days and suspends the Syrian refugee plan indefinitely
So terrorist attacks on U.S. soil by members of the seven banned countries are nonexistent. However, terrorist attacks in the U.S. are rare in general, and as of 2012, there are only 781,235 people in the U.S. from the seven banned countries. And of that group it is most likely that about 33% of them immigrated here before 1990, in other words they have been here for a long time already, in many case before radicalism had infiltrated their countries. Notably, of that 781K, about 370K are from Iran, many of whom would have immigrated here shortly before or after the Iranian revolution.
Additionally, according to the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, the U.S. has taken in very few Syrian refugees so far. Only 18,036 Syrians have been taken in since 2011 (start of Syrian civil war), 3,566 of which were taken in in January of 2017, and 17,835 of which have only been here since 2015.
On the other hand, in Germany, depending on who you ask, anywhere from hundreds of thousands to 1.8 million refugees were taken in in 2015. While the proportion of serious crimes committed by these migrants is statistically low (and even lower for Syrians), we have indeed seen some terrorist attacks from the migrants, including last July when we saw a Syrian refugee kill a woman with a machete and injure multiple others, another Syrian refugee blow himself up outside a music festival, and and Afghan migrant attack people on a train with an ax.
Additionally there were 1,688 cases of sexual offences (458 rapes) committed by immigrants in Germany in 2015. That number may be proportionally low, like the terrorist attacks, but these are still attacks that could have been avoided as they were perpetrated by people who were let into the country.
And none of this is entirely accurate as migrant crime reporting is astoundingly poor. Multiple states in Germany with left-wing parliaments didn’t even report migrant crime that year. One of those states, North Rhine-Westphalia, includes Cologne where hundreds of women were sexually assaulted and robbed on New Year’s Eve 2015. So, those statistics are not included in the overall tally.
The indefinite ban on Syrian refugees is a good thing. I hate to see desperate Syrians left to die, but it’s an extremely complicated situation and President Trump is at least attempting to establish safe zones for refugees in Syria and Yemen, an initiative that the king of Saudi Arabia and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi seem to support. We need to be sure we can determine the refugees are not ISIS-connected before bringing them over here. When we have a system in place that can do that effectively, we should restart the Syrian refugee program. In Germany, official figures state that hundreds (link above) of the migrants are suspected of being connected to terrorist groups abroad. That’s staggeringly low in proportion to the greater migrant population, but in absolute terms, hundreds is quite a threat.
4. Prioritizes Christian refugees over Muslims
Well, the Executive Order states, “Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, 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. Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization.”
This is common sense. Religious minorities are heavily persecuted in the Middle East. ISIS is committing genocide against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria. Islamic jihadists in general target these groups for some of their most brutal crimes, from sex slavery to torture. Not that Muslims themselves are not the biggest (in absolute terms) victims of Islamic extremism.
Overall, I see President Trump’s Order as a good thing. It is derived from principles set forth by years of intelligence gathered by the Obama administration and at it’s core, endeavors to make the American public more safe. That is what the American president is tasked with doing. Trump is doing his job.

One thought on “The Immigration Ban Examined

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