I hesitated before using my posting title above, because anyone who reads this post one day late will think it’s about whatever new controversy Trump’s has stirred up on that particular day, not the one that was raging today. 🙂
I assume, though, that most readers know that I mean Trump’s executive order temporarily banning certain types of entries to the U.S. from a list of Middle Eastern countries. There is an uproar from “the usual suspects,” as no doubt the Trump people anticipated, but it is remarkable that the topic has eclipsed the controversial policy set by Trump earlier this week on sanctuary cities.
I wrote about this topic when Trump first proposed this sort of thing back in 2015. Then-President Obama disagreed with the proposal, and in my post I stated that I sided with Obama BUT that Obama’s sanctimonious statements were not entirely realistic.
I don’t know the legal implications of Trump’s executive order, issued late yesterday and causing all the commotion today, and I don’t know how it will be implemented in practice. Thus I have yet to form an opinion on it. But as I stated in my previous post, Trump’s critics on this issue must face a cruel fact: If there are more and more terrorist acts within the U.S., even they would feel compelled to take very strong action in the President’s shoes, uncomfortable as they may be in coming to such a decision.
The cruel truth is that we do NOT believe that “Even one lost life is too many.” We are willing to tolerate the occasional terrorist act, because we feel the ideological principles at stake are that important. But would we tolerate 5 major terrorist acts per year in the U.S.? How about 10? How about one or two incidents per year like the mass refugee attack on women a year ago in Berlin? What about incidents like the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris? Just how many incidents would it take for Trump’s critics to change their minds?
My point, then, is that we all would draw the line somewhere. Those who are berating Trump today have their own tipping point; they just disagree on where it is.
What is new today, though, is that apparently Trump’s policy extends to those with green cards. One source cites White House officials confirming this, and it raises questions.
First, does Trump have the right to include green card holders in his action? Doesn’t a green card grant the right to enter the U.S.? I think the answer is pretty clearly No. As I recall, the law uses the term “brief absences” but frowns on the green card holder spending much time outside the U.S. People who are returning are indeed subject to close inspection.
Some years ago, U.S. Customs agents queried elderly Filipino immigrants about their use of welfare (SSI); how could a person on welfare enjoy international travel? Immigration activist and professor Bill Hing went to their defense, pointing out that their welfare usage was perfectly legal (badly constructed statute), and the feds stopped detaining the seniors, for political reasons, but clearly green card holders are subject to different entry rules than are citizens.
Second, since green card holders have already undergone fairly extensive vetting and have a track record of responsible life in the U.S., was it justified to include them in the current executive order? Maybe not, but it still goes back to the question I raised above: Where do we draw the line? The Boston Marathon Bombers had seemingly-good track records in the U.S. too. The wife in the San Bernardino attacks last year seemed to be doing well in the U.S. too, as was her second-generation husband. So vetting is far from perfect, and even those with green cards can cause tragedies. (So can natives, but we are stuck with them, but have a choice as to whether to allow green card holders re-entry.)
Most of us would want to strike a reasonable balance between the potential for danger and our idealistic principles. But if pressed, how many of us would know where to draw the line? Trump has now set a timeout while his government tries to determine what a good policy ought to be. He has set a temporary moratorium, exactly what he campaigned on, proposing in his words at the time to “close the door until we figure out what the hell is going on.” I don’t think those who were attacked in Boston and San Bernardino would consider such an approach to be totally off base.