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ANDERSON: Trump’s ‘ban on Muslims;’ time to take a few deep breaths

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February 02, 2017 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


Trump's alleged ban on Muslims has sent the Democratic leadership and the progressive left into spasms of outrage and hyperbole. Chuck Schumer envisioned the Statue of Liberty with tears running down its face and Nancy Pelosi shrilly tweeted that Trump's Executive Order (EO) is tantamount to "cruelty" and "prejudice."

The mainstream media is of course fanning the flames, because why let a few facts get in the way of a smashing good story? The Huffington Post turned the Statue of Liberty upside down on its front page, CNN breathlessly announced that over 100 million people are now excluded from the United States (US), and one local media leader even quoted Martin Niemöller, apparently equating Trump's temporary travel ban with the Nazi takeover of Germany in the 1930s. The general cacophony has sent even normally level headed people to the edge, with one Facebook acquaintance claiming in a private message that their friends in the US "...are scared to death. They feel like they woke up in a different country."

So what exactly has happened in the United States? Are death squads sweeping the streets? Are trucks rolling in the night, jackboots tramping through the streets, Brown Shirts smashing windows? Well, no, not exactly. Not all that much, as it turns out. Not even a scorched book. 

Apparently unbeknownst to Democratic leadership in the US, the use of travel bans is a fairly commonly used diplomatic tool. Travel bans often accompany US sanctions levied against other countries, as they did six times during Obama's terms, including both Iranian and Iraqi nationals, the latter for a six month period...double the time of the current ban. 

Those enamoured of the United Nations (UN) might even be surprised to know that travel bans often accompany UN endorsed sanctions against countries as well. After all, the UN was founded on the central principle of the Sovereignty of Nations, and that sovereignty includes the right - and duty - of a nation state to dictate who will and will not be welcome inside its borders.

As for Trump's EO, I'll be the first to admit that its unveiling was clumsy. Although there are various conflicting reports, it was clearly not presented the way it should have been. The lack of direction caused initial confusion in its application, and seems to have caught some of the agencies involved by surprise and without necessary procedures in place. But there is absolutely no justification for the irresponsible fear mongering by the Democratic Party and ridiculous hysteria it seems to have engendered among progressives.

Although it's more fun to leap on the bandwagon of hysterical condemnation, a close reading of the actual text will go a long way toward actual understanding instead

The first thing one finds is a notable lack of any mention of Muslims or Islam. I've heard some argue that the wording in the preamble is directed at Muslims, but this argument is only valid if one first believes that the following describes all Muslims and not just radical Islamists: "...the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation." I personally do not find this to be directed at all Muslims at all, and I find the expressed sentiment against bigotry and hatred to be perfectly in keeping with the posturing of the very people who are protesting against the travel restrictions most vigorously.

The second important item one finds from reading the EO is an exemption clause, almost identical in intent to the standard exemption clause used in both US and UN sanctions: "Notwithstanding a suspension pursuant to subsection (c) of this section or pursuant to a Presidential proclamation described in subsection (e) of this section, 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 the EO incorporates a well-used mechanism to grant practical flexibility to sanctions of this sort. 

The third notable discovery is the functional porosity of the EO. Although in the initial confusion the EO was misapplied to previously vetted owners of green cards and Visa holders, the Department of Homeland Security has issued a blanket exemption for all "lawful residents", which includes both green card and Visa holders. 

Fourth, the EO does not radically reduce either refugee intake or immigration. Indeed, if one excludes the massive leap in refugees in the last year of Obama's second term, the reduction to 50,000 admissions is about halfway between Bush and Obama levels. 

Finally, previous travel bans issued by the US have been both wider and narrower in scope (the entire USSR and much of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War). They have also been established for both longer and shorter durations, including during the Obama presidency (Iran, Iraq). 

It's time for folks to take a few deep breaths and calm down. Trump's EO deals with nation states and not religions or individuals, as per the norm; it is temporary with an object in mind (a long overdue review of vetting procedures); and despite some rather flailing attempts by some to set it apart qualitatively from previous travel bans it does not have any particularly remarkable content in it. It is simply not substantively different from decades of travel bans issued by the United States in the past.

So it simply isn't fair to argue that this is a radical departure from the norm, as the entire Democratic leadership and even some left-leaning foreign policy think tanks have done.


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