Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, March 7, 2017:
President Trump has issued an executive order modifying his controversial travel restrictions which have been incorrectly derided as a “Muslim ban.”
Of course, despite major changes, groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) are still calling it a “Muslim ban” and are committed to retaining the issue’s divisiveness so they can endlessly bash Trump as a bigot and raise their own profile in the process.
“This executive order, like the last order, is at its core a Muslim ban, which is discriminatory and unconstitutional,” said the executive-director of CAIR, Nihad Awad, who nonetheless touted the revisions as a “partial victory.”
Below are 10 points about the revised executive order that you’re unlikely to hear from media outlets and politically-driven organizations who have are dependent upon continued controversy:
1. As previously, it is not a “Muslim ban.”
As explained by Clarion Project advisory board member and leader of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow in this video (see below), the restrictions are based on an intersection of geography and security risks. They are limited to 6 of 50 Muslim-majority countries and impact non-Muslims as well. And, just as before, the restrictions are a pause rather than a ban.
The order is for between 90 to 120 days, depending on whether the person is a visitor or a refugee. As we’ll discuss, the exceptions are so wide that even describing this order as a “pause” is a bit of an overstatement.
2. Iraq is removed from the list, bringing the list of impacted countries down to 5.
Including Iraq (and especially the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan) was a mistake from the beginning. That is now fixed. The executive order implies that this change is due to the fact that the Iraqi government agreed to improved intelligence-gathering and security measures.
Those conversations with the Iraqis obviously took place after the initial executive order, which shows the Trump Administration can be influenced by constructive criticism.
3. The executive order justifies the inclusion of the other five countries.
The order explains why the president chose these five countries, which is a scaling back of Trump’s campaign pledge to ban immigration from all terror-prone countries (which in itself is a scaling back of his initial pledge to ban all Muslim immigration).
Iran, Syria and Sudan are designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism and the former two are explicit enemies of the U.S. Libya and Yemen are failed states with inadequate counter-terrorism abilities and so much chaos that the U.S. doesn’t even have operating embassies in these locations. Somalia is similarly unstable and contains a major Al-Qaeda foothold. In addition, the Somali community in the U.S. is known for its high rate of radicalism.
4. The five countries were chosen based on the Obama Administration’s determination.
The executive order explains that these five countries were selected based on the Obama Administration considering them to be “countries of particular concern” that could not participate in the visa waiver program.
It was the Obama Administration that stated that persons coming to the U.S. from these countries pose a greater security risk than those from other countries. Everyone who argues that there’s no reason to treat these countries as unique risks is arguing with Trump and Obama. Where were the condemnations of President Obama’s “Islamophobia” for identifying these Muslim-majority countries as posing a special danger?
5. Three hundred refugees are currently under FBI investigation.
It is true that refugees undergo a lengthy screening process, unlike typical visa applicants. Opponents of the travel restrictions point to how only a small percentage of refugees have been convicted of terrorism-related offenses. The Senate Judiciary Committee said only about 40 had been convicted, representing about 7 percent of the total of 580 since the 9/11 attacks.
The executive order points out that 300 people who were admitted into the U.S. as refugees are now under FBI counter-terrorism investigations; a much higher number than the previous figures used for gauging the risk.
However, in fairness, a Department of Homeland Security report says most refugees who become terrorists are radicalized years after arriving in the U.S., so we don’t know if this figure necessarily proves there’s a major gap in the refugee vetting process. We also don’t know how many of the 300 refugees are from the five affected countries.
6. There is a 10-day advance notice.
The previous executive order went into effect immediately, catching airlines and governments off-guard. This one goes into effect in 10 days, giving time for preparation.
7. The new executive order explicitly does not apply to current visa and green card holders.
Permanent residents and current visa-holders are not affected this time. The original executive order’s unclear language has been fixed.
8. Syrian refugees are no longer singled out.
The original executive order suspended refugee admission for 120 days but singled out Syrian refugees for indefinite exclusion “until such time” that the government determines that they can be safely admitted. The singling out was unnecessary, as that’s the same standard for allowing refugees from other places, but the original language emphasized that Trump was delivering on a campaign promise to reject Syrian refugees.
That language is no longer. A refugee of Syrian nationality is not viewed as inherently more objectionable than a refugee of another nationality.
9. There are very wide exceptions.
This executive order uses clearer language to allow for major exceptions even within the 120-day refugee pause and the 90-day pause on visitors from the five countries.
Far from a wholesale treatment, it emphasizes that each applicant will be handled on a “case-by-case basis” in case they qualify for a waiver. There are waivers for when the applicant’s entry into the U.S. is in our “national interest” or rejection of the person would cause them “undue hardship.”
The order gives various examples of what qualifies as “undue hardship,” for example people who have worked in the U.S. and are seeking re-entry; those coming to reside with a family member; those with a significant network of contacts in the U.S.; those with business or professional obligations here; children; those in need of medical attention; those previously or currently employed by the U.S. government, and other situations where rejection would cause an “undue hardship.”
These are the reasons most people from these countries are coming to the U.S. How many other situations are left where a waiver isn’t suitable?
Of course, some biased critics aren’t paying attention to these very important facts. Right after the executive order was released, Grace Meng of Human Rights Watch was uncritically quoted in an article on Politico as saying that the new executive order is “going to harm people fleeing gender-based violence” like women trying to escape rapists.
Actually, such women would obviously qualify for the “undue hardship” exception. But readers of that article wouldn’t know that because Politico unquestionably posted her quote.
10. The type of vetting that is being proposed is in alignment with the Founding Fathers’ opinions on immigration.
Joshua Charles, an expert on the Founding Fathers, collected some of the founders’ most insightful quotes on immigration in an article he wrote in January. They explained the U.S. is more than a piece of land with opportunities for wealth. Rather, it is a country held together by foundational beliefs that are unique and not inherently understood and embraced by all persons upon birth.
The executive orders emphasize improving the overall vetting process to screen for hostile ideologies. It’s not just about discovering covert terrorists and criminals; it’s about separating those who support the U.S.’ secular-democratic values from those views are incompatible with that, such as (but not limited to) Islamist extremists.
Opponents of Trump and this policy have a choice to make: They can emphasize (or lie about) the parts they continue to disagree with, elongating a cycle of divisiveness, or they pair their criticism with positive reinforcement that acknowledges the improvements that have been made.
Decreasing the sound of the alarm is not in the best interest of hyper-partisan commentators or Islamist activists like CAIR who are enjoying the limelight and seeking increased donations, but it is in the best interest of the country.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.