Questions for David French on the travel ban
Last week at National Review, David French tried to separate “fact from hysteria” on President Trump’s executive order on immigration. I won’t pretend to be an expert on immigration or executive orders, but his piece prompted me to give the executive order a couple close reads. Below is a reaction to French, plus a few things I noticed about the order that I haven’t seen much press about, including a provision that gives states more discretion on the resettlement of refugees. Again, I’m not claiming expertise, so my questions are not rhetorical.
- I don’t hear anyone throwing a fit over the 50,000 cap. That’s a straw man.
- So is the thing about Obama’s Syrian refugee numbers. Yeah, Obama waited too long to decide that Syria was terrible enough to put the “refugee” label on people fleeing. But the number of people he let in grew each year, and he finally acknowledged in 2015 it was bad enough to start letting in thousands of refugees. Now Trump uses the same logic of “it’s so bad in Syria” to say it’s TOO bad to let ANY Syrians in. What does this writer think: that Obama was wrong to wait so long to let lots of Syrians in, or that he shouldn’t have let any in at all? Can’t have it both ways. This is “whataboutism” — trying to win an argument by changing the subject, in this case to Obama.
- Another disingenuous argument: The writer argues that religion has always been a part of refugee determination. But Trump’s order requires that the U.S. “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution” (italics mine). In the countries listed, that means Muslims go to the back of the line.
- The “temporary” suspension of entry is supposedly to give Trump time to decide whether these countries are providing him enough information to determine that applicants are who they “claim to be” and are not “a security or public-safety threat.” Does anyone believe this is really “temporary,” that Trump will be satisfied with the information he gets from these countries, which are in total chaos? And there’s no 30 or 90 days for Syria, which is straight up suspended. Syria is ungovernable. I doubt Trump will find information from Assad’s government sufficient to start allowing refugees again.
- The thing about allowing DHS and State secretaries the discretion to make exemptions could be good. Or they could do nothing. They are Trump appointees, and they don’t want to be blamed for one of their exceptions “proving the rule” by committing a crime once they’re in.
- The writer says it’s “wise” to have this temporary ban for “new immigrant and nonimmigrant entry,” and but the order appears to suspend all “immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens.” His hand-wringing over green cards does not address the fact that this order was rushed out, poorly enforced, and perhaps confusingly written.
- Another disturbing thing in that order: Trump wants federal agencies to add to the adjudication process a “mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.” They couldn’t even roll out the order as is; are they really going to figure out the intent of refugees? Maybe assessing risk is a part of the current process (they do risk assessments here to set bail, decide whether or not to incarcerate juveniles pre-trial, etc.), but assessing the intent to commit terrorism? I dunno.
- Trump also wants to give states and localities “greater involvement in the process of determining the placement or resettlement of refugees in their jurisdictions.” Does this mean some states could shut them out, leaving some states will be overburdened? I would think the courts could become overburdened if lawyers challenge the rationales states use to refuse to place or resettle refugees. The federal government determines placement now, right?
- This order also kickstarts, in the name of “transparency,” data collection on foreign nationals who “commit terrorism-related offenses,” “have been radicalized,” or commit “gender-based violence against women, including honor killings” while in the United States. Given Trump’s track record with data (election, crowds, etc.), this data is likely to be invalid and used strictly as propaganda. And if he started tracking those things across the board inside the United States, he would get a terrifying portrait of the white American male. But it doesn’t sound like it would be across the board.
- The bottom line is that Trump appears to be following through on his most controversial campaign promises, and the ultimate context for this executive order is something Trump said over a year ago on the campaign trail: that he was “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
- Trump continued, “We want to be very fair but too many bad things are happening and the percentage of true hatred is too great. People that are looking to destroy our country must be reported and turned in by the good people who love our country and want America to be great again.”
- We have to take him at his word: that he’s not going to be “very fair” because “too many bad things are happening.”
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