Saturday, January 28, 2017

Trump Stops Admission of All Refugees For 120 Days, Stops From Syria Indefinitely, Gives Priority to Christians (??!)

Holy crap, the mind reels:
President Trump on Friday closed the nation’s borders to refugees from around the world, ordering that families fleeing the slaughter in Syria be indefinitely blocked from entering the United States, and temporarily suspending immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries. 
In an executive order that he said was part of an extreme vetting plan to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists,” Mr. Trump also established a religious test for refugees from Muslim nations: He ordered that Christians and others from minority religions be granted priority over Muslims.
   Because of my own particular kind of screwiness, I've got to start off by saying: I don't want to be a part of knee-jerk, bleeding-heart liberal wailing about this. Islam has a violence/terrorism problem, Muslim immigrants in Europe have often failed to assimilate (though that has been much less of a problem here--perhaps no problem to speak of, for all I know), and there are reasonable grounds for subjecting Muslim immigrants from certain countries to more severe scrutiny. I don't like it, and I'm not sure it's the right course of action, but it isn't inherently bigoted, obviously evil, nor undeniably irrational. It is, so far as I can tell, warranted (at least in the sense of made permissible by) the available evidence. Or: the evidence available to an average person like me, and after a fair amount of honest thinking about the matter.
   Whether it's legal, I haven't the foggiest idea.
   Needless to say, some of the usual suspects, including the (formerly-extremely-admirable) ACLU, contend that this can only be anti-Muslim bigotry. Because, y'know, Zoroastrians are out there blowing people up at the exact same rate as Muslims. Also Rastafarians.
   Isn't this roughly the situation we face?: Islam apparently has certain problems, and these problems are worse in certain countries. Conservatives tend to look at this situation and urge caution with respect to certain policies. Liberals/progressives tend to argue that the problems are largely illusory, and they only seem salient because of bigotry, so no special caution is required. Conservatives think that liberals are stupid for believing what they believe about this (though I think the better criticism would be: they allow a theory to blind them to evidence), and, of course, liberals think that conservatives are evil for believing what they believe about this. 
   I have some inclination to see both sides, and to think that the facts leave open a fairly wide range of options, including both the preferred liberal and preferred conservative courses of action...
   Buuuut...what the hell is this business about giving priority to Christians???? That seems to give fairly clear confirmation (though, of course, not conclusive proof...which is the wrong standard, though) to the left's bigotry hypothesis. Are there any grounds for this kind of preference? Some general principle about prioritizing in-danger minorities? And do Syrian Christians meet the relevant criteria? I'm way damn skeptical. This seems to me to be the aspect of the thing that makes the left's bigotry hypothesis--and God do those people only know one tune?--plausible in this case. 
   So, though the facts seem to make extra scrutiny of certain groups of Muslims reasonable, therefore not necessarily bigoted...as is so often the case, there is also reason to believe that bigotry may, in fact, be part of the picture. 
   My own inclination is to err on the side of helping refugees. This is part of the reason I'm concerned about massive illegal immigration. We're already overpopulated (despite what some argue), and we are simply not going to address the birth rate. So, in my view, we have to watch how many people we let into the country. The more illegal immigrants we allow to pour in, the more we have to think about throttling back on refugees and other legal immigrants. 
   Anyway. We already apparently have a fairly extensive "vetting" mechanism in place. And I think we have an imperfect duty to accept refugees from violence and oppression. And it's not as if the Syrians have not suffered enough. I'm not especially well-informed about all this, but I'm just not in favor of this executive order. I think an action like Trump's must carry a fairly heavy burden of proof to be justified, and I just don't see it. OTOH, I really don't have much reason to think that our current system is adequate, I guess...
   Also OTOH, a lot of Americans are justifiably concerned about accepting these refugees. 120 days may be a small price to pay in order to give those fears due weight. Not that I think a Trump administration can be trusted to be rational...but if we could come out on the other side of this with good evidence that there's a reliable vetting process in place, and the justified fears of conservatives could be assuaged...that might very well be worth the price. 
   But...this reminds me of me trying to be reasonable during the lead-up to Gulf War Episode II: The Phantom Menace...  Well, maybe this, and if you look at it that way then maybe they're not as unreasonable as they seem, and perhaps.... And we see how all that turned out.
   I'm not necessarily against the U.S. saying: look, we have to treat this special case as a special case. We're going to look at it for four months, but as soon as possible we're going to get back to trying to help out people who deserve our help. But I don't have much confidence that that's what's going to happen. And tacking that damn thing about Christians on to all of this...at the very best, it looks very bad.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Old Gringo said...

I just wrote a long comment that was lost, so I'll summarize my points here:

1. This EO affects over 100 million Muslims around the world. That's a lot of people to insult and doesn't help us in our claim that this isn't a war against Islam.

2. Your point about the EO's limited duration is key: no one should trust Trump that this will be just a few months long.

3. I thought we had pretty strong vetting procedures for refugees under Obama. What are these "extreme" vetting procedures I keep hearing about? I'm supposed to just trust Trump that they will be much more effective? No thanks.

4. Why not ban all Muslims if it's true that "Islam has a terrorism problem"? Some Muslims born in European countries have been radicalized and become terrorists. There are radical Islamists in Lebanon and Egypt. I don't see those countries on the list. Is this just the first step? That seems likely.

5. This move seems to totally go against American values, regardless of whether it's motivated by bigotry. The US government is now openly treating people differently on the basis of religion. It is also sending a message to a religious minority group within the US that it is not trusted. So much for a country of tolerance that stood for protecting religious minorities.

6. The logic of this EO opens the door for greater scrutiny and discrimination of Muslim Americans. As we've seen the past few years, some Muslim Americans have been radicalized and committed terrorist attacks. If Islam is the issue, then why stop with foreigners? Doesn't the concern with Islam justify more extreme vetting of Muslim citizens? I think a lot of people will think so. We're on a very disturbing path now.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I think those are all good points, with the exception of 6, which seems to approach fallacious slippery-slope territory, IMO.

I do agree with 5, and, in some sense, take that most seriously. I had meant to say something I didn't: it has to take a lot of very clear evidence for *the United States of By-God America* to adopt a policy like this. I am by no means a fact-challenged lefty who refuses to even consider the possibility that Islam might have to be treated differently than Shinto... But *this* nation needs a *lot* better reason to do something like this than we've been given.

11:55 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Can someone explain to me how this is not a blatant violation of the First Amendment? There must be some obvious reason I don't understand, because no one seems to be talking about that...

12:46 PM  
Blogger Aa said...

Here it is:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I dunno. I stare at it and stare at it and can argue this one both ways...I lean heavily that this violates the constitution but can see how it can be twisted (er, interpreted), not violate the "letter or intent".

3:35 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I was just assuming that this did not violate the Establishment Clause...but...it kinda might, right?

3:58 PM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

It's worse than you think. Trump didn't just stop refugees. He stopped everybody--even exchange students and scientists going to conventions.

4:05 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

I know the establishment clause is notorious as an interpretation issue, but it seems that would be the only part of the First Amendment relevant to this issue. That said, some research led me here:

http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/establishment-clause/

And it seems to me, after reading that, that a broad interpretation has generally been used by our courts. If so, this seems like a pretty overt and straightforward violation to me.

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Lewis Carroll said...

Aside from OG's cogent objections, there is also the issue of our own (insert proper extent here) culpability in creating the refugee crisis in the first place.

The founder of ISIS, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, first got real traction in the aftermath of the Iraq War. Which, in addition to destabilizing the whole region, helped provide both leadership and inspiration for the organization:

"The Islamic State’s leadership under Mr. Baghdadi has drawn mainly from two pools: veterans of Al Qaeda in Iraq who survived the insurgency against American forces with battle-tested militant skills, and former Baathist officers under Saddam Hussein with expertise in organization, intelligence and internal security. It is the merger of these two skill sets that has made the organization such a potent force, the officials say."

(from NYT 7.20.15)

Truly the gift that keeps on giving.

More specifically, the EO prevents us from re-settling here those Iraqis who cooperated with us in attempting to protect and rebuild their country. We are cravenly turning our backs on them. Sad!

4:43 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, there's no doubt that the Establishment Clause has been interpreted very broadly...of which I enthusiastically approve...though I doubt that's a defensible interpretive position...

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Lewis Carroll said...

For the life of me, I just can't figure out why Trump would leave out countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey:

http://fortune.com/2017/01/27/donald-trump-muslim-immigration-ban-conflict/

5:30 PM  

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