Two Weeks Into the Trump Administration: It’s Time for Some Facts (Updated!)

We’re two weeks into Trump’s administration, and things are… not normal. Misinformation is rampant, especially on Facebook, because it’s easier to share a video or picture than it is to fact check. Making sure you aren’t just confirming your own bias doesn’t seem to be high up on most peoples list. Worse still, I’ve seen outright lies championed as truth to serve an agenda. It comes down to a simple truth: many people don’t want to think, they want to be told.

I’ve been trying to combat this and so I decided to compile a list of the claims and arguments I’ve come across. This expanded into addressing the multiple vectors of impact Trump’s administration has had thus far and what implications it may hold for the future. I’m no journalist and I’m not a linguist, so bear with me on this. The basic premise of what I want to do is show the arguments I’ve seen put forth. Accompanying this I will provide my take on the argument. I’ll try not to cast a political lean or bias but I will surely fail in that regard.

I don’t like to label myself anything other than rooting for common sense but many people see that as too broad, so in the interest of disclosure and helping you determine my bias; I was brought up Christian but no longer identify with any faith, I’m a fiscal conservative and agree with some of their other sentiments but I am largely liberal. I believe in truth and facts, I believe in being a good person.

Contents:
.5 Trump’s Travel Ban 2.0
1. Trump’s Travel Ban, Dissected.
2. How is That Targeting Muslims?
3. How is This Bad? It’s Meant to Curb Terrorism!
4. Didn’t Obama Do Something Like This?
5. Isn’t There Other Precedence for This?
6. What About Bolstering Security?
7. What’s the Reaction So Far?
8. What Are Conditions Like in the Banned Countries?

Trump’s Travel Ban 2.0

Update! Trump has signed a new executive order that is, like the heading above, basically the travel ban 2.0. A few things have been removed, but it is largely the same order. Instead of posting the entire thing here I’ll point out what parts have been removed, you can read the original ban below.

As an update to that previously written section, judge Robart ruled that the original ban was unconstitutional. A few days later, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concurred and the ban was effectively blocked from being enforced.

So what has changed with this new executive order? AP news has a good round up and I’ll list some of them below, but I’d again encourage you to read the full text of the revised order.
The ban is not effective immediately, it was set to take effect 3/16/2017.
Various comments about 9/11 have been removed.
Green card holders are exempt from this version of the ban.
The indefinite ban on Syrian refugees has been removed as well.
Iraq has been pulled off the list of countries, the other 6 remain.
The new version eliminates the language that previously gave priority to religious minorities.
This new version clarifies that current visa holders are not affected. New visa applicants will be affected.

The rest of the below concerns still apply as the USRAP is still halted for 120 days with extensions possible. The numbers of immigrants America will accept is still being cut down. The wording still allows for extensions on the 90 day ban and the addition of countries to the ban list as well. The stipulations that foreign governments must provide requested information on refugees and immigrants are all still there. Those above changes are welcome and they address a lot of the talking points that were hammered on in previous court challenges. There are still plenty of areas of concern however, and this new ban immediately got some heat heat from the ACLU and tech companies. A court in Hawaii has successfully stopped the ban from being implemented while it reviews a case against the ban, and Hawaii isn’t the only one as Washington and Maryland are also hearing cases.

Trump’s Travel Ban, Dissected.

I’m going to start with Trump’s travel ban, perhaps the most controversial change he’s made so far. I had originally meant to copy the whole thing here but that made navigating this page a nightmare. I’d encourage you to read the entire order at the New York Times and CNN has an excellent overview of the situation and fallout.

I also want to clear this up before I start: This is a ban, Trump himself called it a ban. More troubling than that, perhaps, is that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani had admitted to helping Trump create a legal Muslim Ban. In an interview with Fox News, Giuliani had this to say:”When he first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up, he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.”. This should trouble you.
I’ve seen people argue that this order is not a ban, which is false. I’ve also seen people argue that this isn’t a ban targeting Muslims. While this may not be an overt Muslim ban, reading the order paints a picture that disproportionately affects Muslims. Below is a breakdown of the most pertinent sections in relation to these and other arguments about the ban.

Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans.

I understand why Trump put this here but it’s not a good excuse for this ban. Some things to consider about the above statement: the largest portion of said attackers (15 of the 19) came from a country that is not included in the travel ban. In fact, none of the attackers countries of origin are included in the ban.

The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.

This is hypocritical, to put it lightly. Trump ran on a controversial platform that leaned heavily on bigotry and hate, among various other forms of discrimination. Furthermore, when the ban first took affect it was used to hold or turn away green card holders. That is, the ban was applied to naturalized citizen. The constitution applies to those same citizens and the ban openly violated their 5th and 14th Amendment rights. Additionally, as this ban targets Muslim countries (and includes a section that I’ll touch on below specifically allowing for religious discrimination) the argument could be made that the ban violated their 1st Amendment right as well. The link above also points out two additional constitutional violations that are ongoing.
Though the green card inclusion was later rolled back, this was in direct violation of and therefore did not support the Constitution.

I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).

So this is the meat of the ban. This is the part that actually bans immigrants and non-immigrants (so, anyone trying to travel from these countries into the US) from the seven countries included, for 90 days. Those seven countries are Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

(d) Immediately upon receipt of the report described in subsection (b) of this section regarding the information needed for adjudications, the Secretary of State shall request all foreign governments that do not supply such information to start providing such information regarding their nationals within 60 days of notification.
(e) After the 60-day period described in subsection (d) of this section expires, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas) from countries that do not provide the information requested pursuant to subsection (d) of this section until compliance occurs.
(f) At any point after submitting the list described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security may submit to the President the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment.

These three sections are interesting. I’m not a law graduate or foreign relations expert so I don’t know what international law, humanitarian law, or treaty violation implications of this would carry, if any. I do know that Trump is saying that if governments do not supply the information he requests, the United States will not except any travelers from their country. Additionally, section F here states that other countries can be added to the list at any point.

Sec. 5. Realignment of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Fiscal Year 2017. (a) The Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. During the 120-day period, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall review the USRAP application and adjudication process to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States, and shall implement such additional procedures. Refugee applicants who are already in the USRAP process may be admitted upon the initiation and completion of these revised procedures. Upon the date that is 120 days after the date of this order, the Secretary of State shall resume USRAP admissions only for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have jointly determined that such additional procedures are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.

Section 5a states that the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) will be suspended for 120 days. Now, many people haven’t seen this and are therefore referring to this as only a 90 ban. 5a above means we aren’t even considering refugee applications for the next 120 days. This means we have stopped working on current applications and will not take new ones for at lest 120 days. For reference, this process already takes 18-24 months. People do not like to acknowledge it, but refugees will die as a result of this.

(b) Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization.

I want to especially highlight this section as many people argue this is not a Muslim ban: “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality”. What this is saying is that Trump’s administration can pick and choose which refugees to let into our country based entirely on their religion. This does not apply to immigrants, these are refugees. Refugees are those that are fleeing active persecution.

(c) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.

Section 5c here bans Syrian refugees from entering the US until Trump decides they can be let in. This does not adhere to the 90 or 120 day sections, this is a permanent ban until Trump decides otherwise. Again, these are refugees, not immigrants.

(d) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of more than 50,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017 would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I determine that additional admissions would be in the national interest.

5d reduces our refugee intake to 50,000, less than half of the limit Obama set at 110,000 for fiscal year 2017. Note that Trump specified fiscal year, which starts on October 1st of the preceding year. Since October 1st, 2016 we have already resettled 30,000 immigrants. This effectively means we can only resettle 20,000 more provided Trump doesn’t extend the ban and that the ban doesn’t severely impact processing. Given processing is delayed 120 days (as seen above in 5a) there will be a severe impact.

Sec. 10. Transparency and Data Collection. (a) To be more transparent with the American people, and to more effectively implement policies and practices that serve the national interest, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall, consistent with applicable law and national security, collect and make publicly available within 180 days, and every 180 days thereafter:
(i) information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; convicted of terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity, affiliation, or material support to a terrorism-related organization, or any other national security reasons since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later;
(ii) information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been radicalized after entry into the United States and engaged in terrorism-related acts, or who have provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and
(iii) information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including honor killings, in the United States by foreign nationals, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and
(iv) any other information relevant to public safety and security as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, including information on the immigration status of foreign nationals charged with major offenses.

This is also an interesting section. While I certainly think we should track the number of radicalized or otherwise terrorism linked immigrants, I’m skeptical of how this data will be used. It certainly looks as though Trump is requesting only information that his administration could easily weaponize for fear mongering purposes. Leaving all other data under an umbrella of “any other information” leads me to believe Trump is purposefully picking information than will also be inflammatory rather than simply useful.

How is That Targeting Muslims?

Here’s my take on the ban as a whole: by now it should be clear this is, at best, a misguided attempt to curry favor with Islamophobes. At worst? This is a mean spirited and exclusionist order that serves to embolden and enable terrorists while simultaneously draining our own resources over a problem that is more hype than reality.

The ban is explicitly targeting Muslim-majority countries. That alone is enough to raise this as an issue. Furthermore, section 5b allows Trumps administration to discriminate based on religion in cases where that religion is not the majority religion for that country. In doing so, they are actively discriminating against Muslims (followers of the religion of Islam) as these are Muslim-majority countries. This is a pretty clear cut case when you look at the wording of the order.

Another thing to consider when arguing that this isn’t about Muslims or religions in general is that Trump has said he will give priority to Christian refugees. In an interview with The Brody File Trump had this to say “They’ve been horribly treated. Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible and the reason that was so unfair, everybody was persecuted in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.” Think about that for a second. The president said that he thinks it’s unfair so he is going to shape laws around what he thinks. Furthermore, he is actively displaying a bias for Christians and shaped his executive order to cater to that bias. This is not the rationale of a grown man who should be in control of a country and it sets a troubling precedent.

How is This Bad? It’s Meant to Curb Terrorism!

An argument I’ve seen used multiple times in defense of this ban is that other Muslim-majority countries weren’t included in the ban. That’s a fairly weak argument on its own but considering some of those other countries are ones that Trump has known business ties in further casts doubt as to the actual intention of this ban.
Another consideration is that terrorist leaders will absolutely use this ban as leverage to galvanize those who are sympathetic to their cause. What Trump has done is hand terrorists a rather effective tool to radicalize with. As Scott Shane puts it in an article with the New York Times: “the president’s order appears to address not a rational calculation of risks but the visceral fears that terrorists set out to inflame”. Furthermore, it’s well documented that American citizens are more likely to fall victim to home-grown terrorism than to terrorist acts perpetrated by foreign agents.

The Cato Institute has an excellent deep dive on this but here are some of the pertinent facts, emphasis mine:
1. “Foreign-born terrorists who entered the country, either as immigrants or tourists, were responsible for 88 percent (or 3,024) of the 3,432 murders caused by terrorists on U.S. soil from 1975 through the end of 2015.”
2. “Including those murdered in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11), the chance of an American perishing in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil that was committed by a foreigner over the 41-year period studied here is 1 in 3.6 million per year.”
3. “The chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion per year while the chance of being murdered in an attack committed by an illegal immigrant is an astronomical 1 in 10.9 billion per year.”
4. “By contrast, the chance of being murdered by a tourist on a B visa, the most common tourist visa, is 1 in 3.9 million per year.”
5. “The annual chance of being murdered by somebody other than a foreign-born terrorist was 252.9 times greater than the chance of dying in a terrorist attack committed by a foreign-born terrorist.”

That last statistic there should resonate, this is for data from 1975-2015. In light of these facts one has to wonder, why is Trump doing this? This ban does nothing to challenge radicalization of American citizens or immigrants once they’re in America. For reference, that would be at least 83% of those implicated in terror attacks on US soil since 9/11. A better use of our time and money would be to address internal radicalization along with the rise of Nationalism.

Nationalism, while a seemingly good concept, is widely used as another form of radicalization based around perceived American values. This isn’t anything new either, in a report from 2015 382 police and sheriffs departments where polled on what they thought the 3 biggest threats from violent extremism where in their jurisdiction. I’ll quote that study here: “Of these 382 law enforcement agencies, 74 percent reported anti-government extremism as one of the top three terrorist threats in their jurisdiction; 39 percent listed extremism connected with al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist organizations.” This is an issue that has recently exploded with the normalization of Nationalism along Trump’s campaign trail. Again, I can’t help but think this is a more worthy cause to which we should devote the time and money this ban will likely squander.

Didn’t Obama Do Something Like This?

This seems to be one of the defenses I hear most often in relation to the ban. The problem is that saying past presidents did this too is misleading. Obama (and other presidents) may have issued similar orders but those were clearly made with a different end game and more consideration given to the effects they would have. Let’s ignore the hypocrisy of Trump using Obama’s list and break this down!

According to Snopes, Obama designated the countries that are now included in Trumps ban as elevated risks, or hot zones, with his “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015” (which you can learn more about here). Now, one of the biggest differences here is that Obama was acting in response to incidents that had occurred, not preemptively banning entry. These incidents, it should be pointed out, were the result of home grown terrorism. Furthermore, Obama didn’t ban travel or immigration of residents from any particular country, he changed the process for people seeking to immigrate from those areas of concern. Namely, Obama changed the way in which people traveling from those areas of concern applied for visas. That is vastly different from what Trump is doing.

While it is true that Obama paused the Iraq immigration program for 6 months in 2011, there is again a clear difference here. Trumps ban is preemptive, Obama paused immigration “after the Federal Bureau of Investigation uncovered evidence that several dozen terrorists from Iraq had infiltrated the United States via the refugee program.”. I’d say there is a very definable difference between pausing one immigration program and banning refugees and immigrants from several countries.

Isn’t There Other Precedence for This?

I’ve seen a few arguments made that there is precedence for this type of order. Most of those arguments rest on actions taken by the Obama Administration, which have been explained above. In case you still aren’t sure, Politico has a very thorough article that addresses the issue based on prior rulings and the precedence they set. That article includes both precedence for and against the ban, it really is an excellent article that I recommend you read.
A precedent for the ban: “In Chae Chan Ping vs. The United States, handed down in 1889, the court held that the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited Chinese nationals, including former U.S. residents, from entering the country, did not violate the Constitution because the power of Congress and the president over immigration is plenary or absolute.”
A precedent against the ban: “The Equal Protection Clause explicitly prohibits “deny[ing] to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Supreme Court made this clear in Plyler v. Doe, when it protected the rights of non-citizen children in Texas, striking down a denial of school funds to the children of undocumented parents. This means that all foreign travelers on U.S. soil—those waiting at U.S. airports, for example—are protected.”

What About Bolstering Security?

Another suggestion I’ve seen is that we need a more thorough vetting process for refugees. For reference, our current refugee vetting processes is comprised of 20 steps and includes three background checks as well as three fingerprint screenings. Can we add more steps? Yes, but it’s very likely we’re approaching the point of diminishing returns.

Another good question to ask is this: What exactly does that more “extreme vetting” look like? We won’t know for at least 30 days, when the first report is due. John Sandweg, former acting general counsel to the Department of Homeland Security, had this to say: “I just struggle to see how it can be made much more thorough than it already is, it’s an intentionally slow process. It’s a multilayered and multilevel approach.”. Obviously there is no fail safe system, there will always be human error to consider as well as the occasional loop hole. Again, this seems like an unnecessary addition to the order that will likely decrease efficiency.

What’s the Reaction So Far?

(Updated above, read .5!) Understandably, outrage has been the overwhelming emotion towards this ban. The Friday following Trump’s announcement of the ban saw a slew of judges being asked to issue an injunction against the ban. Probably the most notably case is the one involving James Robart, a federal judge in Seattle, Washington, who has ruled in favor of a challenge that was brought forward by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. This resulted in a nationwide “temporary restraining order” that has temporarily stopped enforcement of the ban.
During the hearing that resulted in the temporary retraining order, Judge Robart had a few sound questions as to the goal of the ban. So where does that leave us? Well Judge Robart is now considering: “The main issues before the courts are whether Trump had the authority to issue the executive order and whether it was constitutional. The constitutional questions include whether the travelers were entitled to some kind of hearing before being barred and whether their religion played any role in their treatment.”.
More recently, a large portion of the technology sector (nearly 100 companies) have signed on to the court filing of the lawsuit, State of Washington V Trump. Judge Robart is expected to rule on whether the lawsuit has standing and if standing is found, whether the ban will be invalidated nationwide. His initial ruling can be read here.

I would like to note that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents initially did not comply with the federally mandated injunction. To repeat, CBP agents directly disobeyed a federal order to continue upholding a potentially unconstitutional presidential order. This should alarm you.

Another large issue with visas arose in the days before the ban was halted. It was found that around 60,000 visas have been revoked, which means a large number of travelers who were legally admitted into the US are now on their own. If they happened to be outside the US at the time their visa was revoked, they are likely stuck there and may have to repeat the entire process of obtaining a visa. Others may be deported from the US (again, where they are legally residing) as their visa has been wrongfully revoked. As noted in the New York Times article I linked, this flies in the face of the governments assertion that the order should be resumed as it causes “no potential irreparable harm”.

Unfortunately, those issues listed above haven’t been the only responses. Since Trumps election, there has been an explosion of hate crimes. Among them, a Mosque under construction in Texas was burned and a passenger on a JFK flight was charged with a hate crime for assaulting a Muslim airline employee. Reports also indicate that anti-immigrant hate is on the rise. Undoubtedly, some of the reports are false, but that doesn’t change the fact that troubling data is emerging as a direct result of Trumps election and subsequent ban implementation.

What Are Conditions Like in the Banned Countries?

There’s no arguing that this ban will kill people, including children. Excepting Iran, all of the countries on the list are currently at war. I won’t cover all of the countries, CNN has a good article with a high level overview. I’d like to highlight Yemen and Syria specifically, as they are sources of ongoing humanitarian crisis.

In Syria, home to an ongoing civil war that started in 2011, there have already been an estimated 400,000 deaths and many are now without homes or the basic resources required to live. US airstrikes against ISIS share some of the blame for civilian deaths but Russia has been actively aiding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s support comes in the form of bombing campaigns, which have reduced many civilian areas to little more than rubble. This indiscriminate Russian bombing of civilian targets has been ongoing for some time, meaning citizens are living under bombardment. This is why many are seeking refugee status. Trump has specifically banned all such refugees from entering the US until he sees fit.

Yemen isn’t doing much better and it’s been largely overshadowed by the Syrian civil war, likely because of Russia’s involvement. Yemen has much in common with Syria’s war in that civilian targets, such as schools and hospitals, have been repeatedly subject to airstrikes. A report by UNICEF in June of 2015 says “Meanwhile, over 2.5 million children are at risk of diarrhea due to the unavailability of safe water, poor sanitary conditions and lack of access to Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS) — compared to 1.5 million prior to the conflict.
Malnutrition is also posing a growing threat: UNICEF estimates that more than half a million children under five are at risk of developing severe and acute malnutrition over the next 12 months if the situation continues to deteriorate (as compared to 160,000 before the crisis). 1.2 million children under five are at risk of moderate acute malnutrition – a near two-fold increase from before the crisis.”

In other words, there are multiple humanitarian crisis that we have the means to help with. Instead, Trump has closed our borders to these people. Even on a basic human level, even if we ignore how this goes against the spirit of what it means to be American, this is not right. Something needs to be done, and the American people have the best avenue to make that happen. It’s not a question of “should we”, it’s a question of “will we”. I, for one, will.

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About Justin Marwitz

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