President Trump’s travel ban 3.0 reflects a more concerted attempt to elude court injunctions. Concerted, but not convincing.
Sudan isn’t on the list any longer but Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen remain on it. (Iraq was on the first travel ban but not the second.) Now three countries have been added to the ban, but seem at best to be cover for the same Muslim-focus ban.
Immigrants from eight countries have varying levels of restrictions. However, North Korea prohibits immigration so that addition is meaningless. Vanessa Sauter explains, “Practically speaking, beyond a handful of diplomats, Trump’s latest travel ban may not actually bar any North Koreans who are capable of entering the United States in the first place.”
The restriction on Venezuela covers only some government officials, so that seems equally arbitrary. (If Venezuela doesn’t meet our vetting requirements, then presumably it doesn’t meet our requirements for anyone, not just government figures.) Countries such as Saudi Arabia (where 9/11 hijackers originated) still are not on the list, nor are countries such as Afghanistan or Pakistan where Islamist terrorists and their support systems can be found and the governments, rife with corruption, may be less than diligent in their screening.
“The purported basis for the proclamation is that most of these governments fail to share sufficient information about the identities of their nationals with U.S. agencies,” David Bier writes. However, he says, “This premise is flawed. Under immigration law, the U.S. government doesn’t need to obtain any information on visa applicants merely to process an application. That’s because applicants bear the burden of proof in the visa process. If they cannot prove their identity and eligibility, visa adjudicators can simply deny them on an individual basis.” In other words, Trump’s broad-brush, illogical categories are meant to replace person-by-person vetting by our trained professionals. Feel safer? Me neither.
The result is still a system in which a one-year-old Libyan baby, a North Korean defector who wishes to give a lecture in the United States on her nation’s gulag camps, or a Chadian man who marries an American in France are all presumptively regarded as too dangerous to admit. Some Iranian students are okay, but normal folks visiting family in Los Angeles are, without a waiver, verboten. I can think of no reasonable counterterrorism strategy in which this approach makes any sense whatsoever.
Let’s say the ban does pass constitutional muster. The problem still remains: Trump’s ban is at best a distraction and at worst a counterproductive gambit that will antagonize allies, discourage American Muslims from cooperating with authorities and serve as fodder for Islamist terrorist propaganda.
To make matters worse, the president is restricting the most highly vetted immigrants of all — refugees. NBC News reports:
The Trump administration wants to cap the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. next year at 45,000 — a dramatic cut in the number of applications processed by the U.S. in recent years, two administration officials tell NBC News.
The officials said the cap has been set below the State Department’s recommended ceiling of 50,000 for fiscal year 2018, as laid out in the administration’s travel ban.
One official said that Trump adviser Stephen Miller, a vocal advocate for immigration restrictions, was a driving force in bringing that number down.
Miller, of course, has no national security expertise; he’s the pet of the alt right and the bearer of the nationalist, xenophobic message inside the administration. The decision to limit our humanitarian efforts in order to assuage alt-right hysterics powerfully symbolizes America’s retreat from moral leadership and unwillingness to bear burdens we demand of others. Worse, it takes attention off the more virulent source of terrorists. Again, Biers explains:
In fact, only 34 people have legally immigrated to the United States since 9/11 and been either convicted of terrorism offenses or killed during an attempted attack. Of those people, a large share arrived as children; they and others were radicalized long after their entry. At most, only nine attempted to carry out an attack in the United States after being radicalized prior to entry. That’s one potential terrorist per 41 million visa approvals or entries without visas since 2001.
By contrast, Trump is doing nothing to help the far larger problem of domestic radicalization. (One study shows that of 418 people “accused of jihadist terrorism related crimes in the United States since 9/11, 85 percent of them were either U.S. citizens or U.S. legal residents, and about half were born American citizens.”) So while Trump and Miller are out chasing phantoms to please their base, they are arguably increasing alienation of potential domestic extremists and diminishing cooperation from Muslim communities. If one were to devise an approach designed to increase attacks on the United States and hamper our fight against Islamist radicals it would be hard to come up with a “better” system than Trump’s.