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“Muslim ban” controversy is overblown

Oxford Dictionaries proclaimed that the word of year for 2016 was “post-truth.” The severe degradation of our political discourse during the election year in the form of a concerted fake news campaign and vitriolic rhetoric from both sides makes the meaning of this term self-evident to anyone that paid even the slightest attention. The group most fond of using the term have formed a consensus that it is only those gullible and partisan Trump apologists who are capable of being swept up by post-truth politics. The response to President Trump’s recent immigration order has demonstrated otherwise. From politicians to the average citizen, the administration’s critics appear to have been caught in a post-truth hysteria over the improperly termed “Muslim ban,” or, executive order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”

A look at the order makes it clear that Trump has made a dramatic departure from his boisterous campaign promises to ban Muslim immigration and has instead opted for moderate, and indeed reasonable restrictions to refugee admissions. Let’s examine them.

First we need to tamp down on all this hyperbole that the order is a “Muslim ban” or establishes an illegal religious test that has “left tears running down the cheeks of the Statue of Liberty” in Sen. Chuck Schumer’s words. The order applies to Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.

It takes nothing more than a quick Internet search to see that there are about 50 Muslim-majority nations in the world, meaning 43 are unaffected. If it were true that this immigration ban was directed at Muslim people, wouldn’t it extend to these other nations? Yes, it’s true that these seven nations are predominantly Muslim; yet they have something else in common about which the Trump Administration is far more concerned: They are either war torn from fundamentalist violence or, in the case of Iran, ruled by fundamentalists that continuously provide support for surrogate terrorist groups.

Before allowing people to enter the U.S. from these nations, Trump has given the departments of State and Homeland Security as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence 90 days to “conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.”

The order has also stopped refugee admissions in general for 120 days to allow for a more effective vetting infrastructure to be created and has indefinitely halted Syrian refugee admissions until the President decides otherwise. The country had seen the horrific acts of terror committed by those pretending to be refugees in Europe. While the probability of any one refugee being a terrorist is just about zero, the country picked the candidate who promised to make it definitely zero rather than just-about. Presumably, since Trump capped refugee admissions at 50,000 per year, the U.S. will allow asylum seekers entry once the period is up.

Further, this notion that Trump’s so-called “religious test” is unprecedented or un-American is utter nonsense. It may come as a shock to many that a religious test has been a requirement for asylum seekers according to federal laws that were amended in 2005 to state that refugee’s “must establish that … religion [among other things] … was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant” (section 1158 of Title 8, U.S. Code). Section 1101 of Title 8 even goes so far as to define a refugee as someone persecuted on the basis of religion (as well as other possible reasons). Imagine that: Federal law, not Trump’s xenophobia, requires a religious consideration when admitting refugees. According to John Kerry and a number of human rights organizations, the ongoing persecution of Middle-Eastern Christians at the hands of fundamentalists is a genocide. So no, giving preference to a members of a minority group that is victim of an ongoing genocide is neither unreasonable nor un-American.

The final reason for which people are outraged is over those who have arrived at U.S. airports and are apparently stranded or facing deportation, as well as the fact that green card holders were barred entry as well. The latter appears to be patently false as all green card holders were eventually admitted. As for the former, one of the provisions in the order states that the secretaries of State of State and Homeland Security may admit people on a case-by-case basis “…when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship — and it would not pose a risk to the security or welfare of the United States.” This indicates that the Administration isn’t hell-bent on cruelty but willing to make reasonable exceptions for these people.

So what should we criticize, then? The apparent mismanagement and implementation of this order seems to be the most glaring issue. It appears that the important agencies, namely Homeland Security, weren’t given the notice or time to handle this order smoothly and without issue. Trump’s lack of experience has shown itself quite clearly during this fiasco and one would hope that, at the very least, his cabinet will be better prepared to handle new orders.

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