Two Perspectives: Trump Immigration Executive Order is Wrong
Editor's Note: The Globe's Editorial Board, in order to further healthy debate, asked the Emory College Republicans and Young Democrats to answer the question below.
Do you believe that the executive orders lowering the refugee cap and limiting immigration from certain countries will improve or worsen US foreign relations and national security?
You can find the College Republican's answer here.
By Brett L. Kleiman on behalf of Emory Young Democrats
Let’s take away the fact that this executive order is quintessentially opposite to the United States’ morals post World War II. Let’s forget the fact that Muslims are actually overwhelmingly the victims of terror attacks from groups such as ISIS (Daesh) and Al-Qaeda. Let’s forget the fact that refugees help the economy. Let’s forget the fact that our current vetting process of refugees is already quite extreme, at 18-24 months. Let’s forget that unlike Europe, we can actually pick and choose our refugees since they are not crossing over the Atlantic like they are crossing over the Mediterranean or the borders of countries such as Turkey, Greece and so forth. Let’s put all those really relevant things aside.
People of all faiths have been persecuted by terrorists. It is our role, it is our tradition, and it is our history as Americans to help these people who are seeking refuge from violence and oppression live a better and safer life. This executive order spits in the face of our history. The bottom line is that this executive order will not, in any demonstrable way, lead to better US foreign relations. Nor will it make us a safer country.
Even seasoned officials at the State Department think this is a bad idea. Nearly 1,000 State Department officials and foreign service officers signed a dissent cable, which is a unique State Department tool that is meant to be written by the rank and file to give constructive criticism of the Secretary of State and even the President. This specific dissent cable against Mr. Trump’s first executive order had more signatures than any other cable in recent memory. That might be one way Mr. Trump’s presidency has been historic so far.
This executive order (EO) will change our global status, which although viewed as a neutral or irrelevant fact by some, is harmful. It will create a power vacuum which can only be filled by countries who are either not prosperous enough to fulfill the same duties as the US in the past or are not as steadfast in their pursuit of freedom. Therefore, this executive order will likely only increase the chances of unrest and tension between the US and other countries.
An example of the negative impact of the EO is exhibited in the US relationship with Yemen. After a semi-botched special operations raid that killed many civilians, Yemen withdrew permission for the US to conduct special operations raids there. There are suspicions that this decision was also in part because of the executive order. I don’t like to speculate, but it would be reasonable to say that the executive order further embittered our relations with Yemen. If this is even slightly the case, then Mr. Trump’s executive order may have contributed to hindering the US fight against terrorism in Yemen. Another example would be Iran. Yes, we do not need Iran to love us, but this EO only further complicates our relationship at a time when we are asking them to be faithful to the nuclear deal. This EO could end up increasing the strain in the relationship, and lead Iran to want to renege on the nuclear deal.
The Trump administration titled the original executive order the “Protection Of The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States”. The administration claimed it was an emergency imperative. But since that first executive order failed, the administration has put together a new one, which was released on March 6th. This revised version was supposed to be released around February 22nd, but it was delayed. The revised EO was then supposed to be released on March 1st or 2nd, but it wasn’t because the administration wanted to keep the spotlight on the reactions to the President’s address to Congress that took place on February 28th. Furthermore, it is not supposed to take effect until 10 days after its signing, on March 16th. If this order was as serious to national security as they claim it is, then they wouldn’t have waited a news-cycle in order to release it. If it really was so imperative to our security, then it would have taken effect right away. All of these factors really show the administration’s true colors. They are not concerned with our security, or so it seems, but rather with appeasing their base, the optics of seeming “tough”, and alienating the Muslim world.
If a President believes that the only way the US can stop terrorism is by banning people from certain countries entry into the US, then banning the peoples of Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen is a bad idea. These countries are not even among the top sources of Muslim immigration to the US, and they also have not produced terrorists in the same numbers as other Muslim countries that are not on the list. Even a recent Department of Homeland Security report found insufficient evidence that citizens of the countries banned pose a terror threat to the United States. Therefore, if you think the only way to stop terrorism is by blanket bans of peoples from certain countries, this order fails the test.
Not only that, but if the immigrants and refugees that do come to the US, the likelihood of them committing a terrorist attack is infinitesimally small. According to a CATO institute (a libertarian think tank that is in part funded by the conservative mega-donor Koch brothers) study, “the annual chance of an American dying in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is one in 3.6 billion.” To put this number into perspective, you are more likely to die from being hit by a railway vehicle, dying due to your own clothes melting, or lighting on fire, than being killed in a terrorist attack perpetrated by an immigrant. Some may argue that although the chance of an American dying in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is one in 3.6 billion, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. They are right. However, the world’s only superpower should not be lazy and simply ban people from the country. Rather, the United States should use the best intelligence gathering community the world has ever seen to fight terror in a surgical and smart way, which also maintains our values.
The executive order’s abject disdain for the countries (all of which coincidentally or not, have no business ties to Mr. Trump) listed will also create extra and unnecessary tension. The EO gives the impression that the administration does not think any citizen from these countries is worthy of coming to the US and that those governments are unable to control their populace. It gives the impression that we are going after Muslims.
As the notorious GOP strategist Lee Atwater once said, 'perception is reality'. Although this order is not expressly a Muslim ban, despite what many liberal activists have claimed, many terrorists and terrorist sympathizers perceive this order as a Muslim ban. Terror groups celebrated this order as a validation that America, and the West more generally, is at war with Islam. Even President George W. Bush knew that it was important to differentiate between Islam and extremism because he knew that the perception of America being at war against Islam would be detrimental to our security. Terror groups, in part, recruit people who fall outside the societal norm. They feed on those who are deprived socially. This order only furthers that narrative. It furthers the narrative that Muslims are on the outskirts of society. It makes it easier for evil and anti-American groups such as Daesh to get new recruits. This perception makes it easier for Daesh to convince Sunnis (Daesh is a Sunni group) in Iraq and Syria who are still under their ruthless control that what they are doing is right - that what Daesh is doing is for the good of all Muslims and Sunnis. It makes Daesh’s job easier.
This executive order will do two things. First, it will strengthen the terrorists’ message that the US is at war with Islam, and it will make it easier for these groups to recruit would-be extremists, increasing the national security risk. Secondly, the narrative that America is at war with Islam, will only further entrench and embolden the people who are already abetting these terrorists and it will radicalize the terrorists even further. A more inspired and willing opposition makes the United States less safe and it makes terrorists more fanatical.
This executive order does absolutely nothing to strengthen the vetting process. It's just a ban on people fleeing violence and persecution. This executive order by no means makes us safer. It is aimed at the wrong group of people. It is an executive order looking for a problem, not a solution. It will further radicalize current terrorists and it will make it easier for terrorists to recruit. It will make the United States less safe.