I understand the hubbub regarding Trump’s executive order for a travel ban.
It was classic Trump.
While probably legal, the order was not particularly articulate. Plus, it was cobbled together last minute, poorly planned and a public relations nightmare.
It was a policy crafted by a small group of people behind closed doors without input from – or even consultation with – the heads of the agencies charged with administering it. That’s a recipe for a train wreck.
Green-card holders were included in the ban and later had to be exempted. There was chaos at airports as TSA officials scrambled to figure out who was in and who was out. These are testaments to the level of haste under which the policy was crafted.
I view the policy as ineffective and unnecessary. But at the same time, it’s not “dangerous,” “radical” “unprecedented” or “illegal” as its critics claim.
It’s ineffective because every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the U.S. since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident.
It’s unnecessary because it’s already pretty tough for foreign nationals to get into the U.S. – especially if you’re a refugee. Google the refugee vetting process. It’s extreme and it takes up to two years to complete.
Frankly, if you were a terrorist bent on destruction in the U.S., coming through the refugee program would be dumbest way to go about it.
It would be easier to get into the U.S. by getting a tourist visa, which brings us to the Trump executive order.
A tourist visa only requires an in-person interview and a typical background check. The whole process only takes a couple of months at most.
It’s easy to get into the U.S. if you’re a citizen of a country friendly to the U.S. We have travel agreements with some 38 such countries.
People from those countries don’t even need a visa. All they need is a plane ticket and a passport. They get checked against security databases, but when they land, they undergo the usual screening from U.S. customs agents.
Those friendly countries include Belgium, home of at least one of the Paris terror attack perpetrators. That guy could have hopped on a plane and flown to the U.S.
Well, at least until December 2015 he could have.
After the Paris attack, President Barack Obama decided it was time to tighten up that visa waiver program and restrict travel of potential terrorists.
Obama signed into law the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.”
The new law included restrictions that banned citizens of those 38 friendly countries from traveling to the U.S. if they visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria since March 2011. Also, if a citizen of a friendly country had dual citizenship in one of those unfriendly countries, they also were banned.
Then, in February 2016, the Department of Homeland Security announced an expansion of the program by adding Libya, Somalia and Yemen as three countries of concern.
Huh.
Weird coincidence. Those are the exact same seven Muslim countries in Trump’s executive order.
Oh, wait.
It was no coincidence at all. Trump’s executive order expanded the existing law passed under Obama.
Obama’s order restricting entrance by people from Muslim countries flew completely under the radar for the most part. Oh, sure, there were some civil rights groups upset about it at the time, but they got no press.
No talk of Muslim bans. Not talk of unconstitutionality. No widespread protests. It was portrayed as just a reasoned security policy.
To be sure, Trump’s executive order is more harsh and goes beyond what Obama’s policy prescribed.
But let’s be fair, the only reason Trump’s crackdown included those seven countries was because those were the ones listed in Obama’s original policy.
So if you’re accusing Trump of enacting a Muslim-banning, discriminatory policy, you’re off base. You can only accuse him of expanding a Muslim-banning, discriminatory policy enacted under Obama.
(And does anyone remember in 2011, when the Obama administration stopped processing refugees from Iraq for six months? That policy – prescribing a complete “banning” of Iraqi refugees over concerns about terrorists slipping into the U.S. – is awfully close to the same thing as Trump’s order, but there was nary a peep from the left.)
Of course, unless you poke around the internet – or read the rantings of your humble correspondent – you would never know this stuff.
It doesn’t get much play in the mainstream.
In fact, the impetus for this week’s column was a friend’s Facebook post.
She shared an article by the venerable National Public Radio under the headline: “How Does Trump's Immigration Freeze Square With His Business Interests?”
The article insinuates that the seven countries must have been chosen because Trump has no business interests in them. It posits that other countries even more prone to terror – Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, et. al. – where Trump has business interests, were ignored. The article then quotes a think tank that suggests an overt, insidious conflict of interest.
There was a similar, equally disingenuous story on Forbes.com.
Articles like those made me wonder why only those seven countries were on the list. A few keystrokes later, I had my answer.
It was Obama’s 2015 law.
Gee, those would have been really compelling stories if Trump had chosen the countries to ban, but he didn’t, so ...
Look, one of three things is going on here:
1. These reporters are lazy.
2. These reporters are incompetent.
3. These reporters knew that Trump didn’t choose the banned countries and ran the story anyway because it fit their “bash Trump” narrative.
Either way, it’s a sad state of affairs bordering on fake news.
This whole episode is fraught with glaring double standards.
Liberals say Trump is trampling our nation’s warm, fuzzy, all-inclusive border policy. “We’re all immigrants!”
Since when? Between 2009 and 2015 the Obama administration deported more than 2.5 million people. According to government data as reported by ABC News, the Obama administration deported more people than any other administration in history. In fact, they deported more than the sum of all the presidents of the 20th century.
And just two weeks before he left office, Obama revoked a decades-old “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy that allowed Cuban refugees to seek asylum in the U.S. if they arrived on our soil. This stranded dozens of refugees across Mexico and Central America. Mexico deported nearly 100 of them back to Cuba a couple of weeks ago.
Why didn’t I see Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer shedding tears at a protest over Cuban refugees callously abandoned by Obama’s executive order?
We all know why.
There are plenty of arguments against Trump’s policy –  innocent people getting caught up, unnecessary chaos at airports, endangering of legitimate asylum seekers and squandering of global good will.
But we just can’t seem to avoid the hyperbole and hysteria and have an honest debate about it.