Monday, January 30, 2017

The Immigration Ban: Round 1

I’m going to break down the facts around the recent immigration ban executive order as succinctly as I can.  For the context of my bias, I am not a Trump supporter, don’t believe that we have a “Muslim problem,” and I am generally pro-immigration and refugee.  I’m also highly invested in the proper and due process of the law but my personal views are based on my moral judgement more than political allegiance.

First, it is correct that the president was given the authority to exclude “any class of aliens” found to be a threat (1952, 8 U.S. Code § 1182 - Inadmissible aliens).  However, that law was curtailed in 1965 (8 U.S. Code § 1152 - Numerical limitations on individual foreign states ) when Congress prevented discrimination based on race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or residence.  These laws refer to immigrants, which means permanent residents (Green Card Holders) and not visas.  So, in regards to visas, Trump is correct that he has significant control over the issuance of those documents.  However, this should not affect green card holders, and this is where my first sense of shock and anger came from. 

The administration, it should be stated, was quite unclear on this provision of the order, and this is the real problem I see with the order.  I find the order to be morally and rationally abhorrent, even though I recognize there are some very serious ramifications to the immigrant/refugee situation in Europe.  However, the order was simply ill conceived, written without understanding of legal and practical application, and does not appear to have been the result of a reasoned discussion by the kind of advisers a president needs to have.  This is evident based on the refusal to re-allow entry to resident aliens. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initially said that it would not allow entry to resident aliens from the affected countries, and in fact sent two Yemeni resident aliens to Ethiopia after forcing them to relinquish their green cards or be denied entry to the US for five years.  They are now being held in Egypt in the airport and Egypt is holding their passports, so they cannot even return to Yemen.  Meanwhile, Reince Priebus (White House Chief of Staff), is saying that the order is not supposed to affect green card holders “moving forward” but then immediately changes his mind and says that of course, If you're traveling back and forth, you're going to be subjected to further screening." Look, I am not opposed to tightening security in a logical fashion.  If you have real reason to suspect that the person going back and forth is involved in something, check it out.  My argument here is that merely traveling to Libya does not constitute a clear and present danger. 
I’m not going to get into the legal battles involving the ACLU, federal judges, standing to bring suit, etc.  That is, in many ways, a different issue.  It may be the part of the eventual solution, but it is not related to my point here.   That point being that this order seems to have not been floated by anyone at the DHS, State Department, or the Department of Justice.  No one looked at the practical implementation of the plan.  In fact, it seems that the “Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, the agencies tasked with carrying out the policy, were only given a briefing call while Trump was actually signing the order itself.”   This should have been accompanied by a legitimate policy memorandum for the officers to implement. 


On the surface, it really doesn’t sound that bad.  It is a suspension of visas from a list of countries deemed dangerous for a limited time for “extreme vetting” to be implemented.  Yet, as we see, the order goes much further than that.  I am not personally sure that it is a “thinly disguised” attempt to ban a religion, because as many have pointed out, it does not ban Saudi Arabia or Turkey or the other 41 majority Muslim countries in the world.  I understand that assumption, but I am not convinced.  My personal theory is that this executive order is done with the intention of giving his base exactly what they asked for.  There is a portion of the country terrified of terrorism and that hate Muslims.  They voted for Trump.  NOTE: I am not saying that this is the norm or even the common attitude of Trump voters.  I am preemptively burning that straw man down.  The fact is, Trump promised he would do this, and he is doing it, and the ultimate goal might not even have to do with immigration.  This, to me, looks like a decision made by a CEO who got the job in a hostile takeover.  He is giving “the shareholders” exactly what they want, and gets to see who complies with the order and who bucks him.  In a business, it is just money, maybe some confusion, but no one gets hurt really.  In a country, as the president, the ramifications might be quite a bit higher.    

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