President Donald Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees and temporarily barring entry to citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries is poorly drafted, constitutionally suspect and morally wrong. It may fulfill a campaign promise for “extreme vetting,” but it does not reflect the values of this nation. It also is misdirected and may make Americans even more at risk by alienating allies and playing into the rhetoric of the terrorists.
The administration’s denials aside, Trump’s order is for all practical purposes a sweeping indictment of a world religion and would not have prevented earlier terrorist attacks. The hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001, were not from the countries Trump targeted. The shooters in the mass killings in Aurora, Colo., San Bernardino, Calif., and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando would not have been stopped by this order. Democrats and Republicans need to find their voices and stand united in denouncing the move as counter to American values and interests, while the courts need to quickly rule on its constitutionality.
The executive order issued late Friday bars entry to refugees from anywhere in the world for 120 days and bars those from Syria indefinitely. It also bars visitors for 90 days from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The White House said it was following through on Trump’s campaign pledge to better secure the border. Trump denied it was a Muslim ban but declared, “This is about terror and keeping our country safe.”
If that were true, Trump would have worked with intelligence agencies at home and abroad to tailor any ban to specific threats. He would have included nations like Afghanistan with histories of jihadi activity and support. He would have vetted the plan’s legality and prepared border control offices. He would have worked with airlines, the business community, colleges and America’s trading partners to ensure the plan didn’t ensnare legal residents, foreign workers or students who pose no threat the national security. But this measure is entirely in keeping with Trump’s campaign pledge to ban Muslims under a broader effort to curb immigration. If there is any doubt, part of his order gives preferential treatment to Christians seeking entry into the United States from majority Muslim countries.
The order caused mass confusion over the weekend at airports across the country, as travelers were barred from airplanes and as others were detained upon arriving in the United States. Trump’s political team hatched the plan with virtually no input from the Department of Homeland Security. Border agents struggled to make sense of the broad directive, leading to uneven enforcement of the rules across the country. Only after a huge public outcry and emergency court hearings did the administration on Sunday relax the restrictions by announcing they would not apply to those with green cards granting them permanent U.S. residency. The ripple effect still is being felt from global high-tech companies to university campuses to the NBA.
The Trump rules are a declaration that the United States is no longer a haven for the oppressed and a global role model for pluralism, tolerance and human rights. They tell the Muslim world that the United States has friends and interests elsewhere; brave Iraqis and others from the targeted nations who risked their lives to assist U.S. counterterror efforts are now being told to go fend for themselves. The ban is also arbitrary; it doesn’t include the nations of origin for the Sept. 11, 2001, attackers, most of whom were from Saudi Arabia. And it ignores the threat from citizens in the United States, Europe and other friendly locations who are radicalized at home.
At least four challenges to the order are pending in the federal courts. While Sen. Marco Rubio and other Republicans offered muted criticisms or were silent, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the sweeping nature of the order “may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.” They are right; already, the Iraqi government has called into question its relationship with the United States, a worrying sign as the two nations struggle to fight Islamic State militants. This is a blunt, simplistic approach that is counter to American values and counterproductive to furthering U.S. security.