On the Executive Order

When I hijacked my spouse’s Facebook post to unleash a lengthy comment about Trump’s executive order banning/freezing immigration and refuge, I knew I was going to need to write my own thoughts on my blog. For one thing, my wife is much wiser than me, so my ideas were not going to look nearly as good stacked up against hers, as compared to how they look in the vacuum of my blog. For another thing, though, as I believe I said in my original blog post, a sign to me I needed this space was my urge to unleash on other people’s posts on social media. Although this was a friendly and agreeing post, it still sent warning bells off in my head, “Yo, Geraldine Ferrar-bro (I appreciate failed VP candidates), time to put fingers to keys.” So, here we are.

 

To recap, for those of you who just woke up from a coma, President Trump signed an executive order severely restricting immigrants and refugees (also, for those of you just waking up from a coma: 1) Yes, President Trump, 2) Ted Mosby met “the mother,” but it was super disappointing because we discovered in the last 5 minutes of the series she died , 3) The Cubs finally won the World Series, 4)…you know what, this is going to take too long, come back to my blog when you’ve had a chance to catch up elsewhere). You can read a succinct, dry summary of what the executive order does and doesn’t do here at The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/01/trump-immigration-order-muslims/514844/. TL; DR (for the recently un-coma-ed, that means too long, didnt’ read because we keep raising the laziness bar): It severely restricts any immigration from 7 countries that have a large percentage of Muslim citizens: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen. For 120 days, it suspends all refugee admissions to the country, and it indefinitely suspends admission of all Syrian refugees. This affects even green card holders (permanent residents of the U. S.), and made no provision or plan for people who were in transit when the order was signed. About the best the order can offer is that some folks can be considered on a case-by-case basis. For example, Hameed Khalid Darweesh was delayed at JFK airport initially, but it appears he has now been allowed entry. If you are not familiar, I encourage you to read about this gentleman who served the U. S. for years and had already been approved entry into the country. In short, at least in outward appearance, it appears that the executive order was conceived and executed with about the same forethought as carrying an angry snake in a pants pocket with a hole in it: it’s going to end up biting you in the ass.

 

But, this blog post is not about his story, or any one person’s story, though I encourage you to read some of the fascinating and gut-wrenching stories out there. Families separated. Students denied study. People left in limbo while all this gets sorted out. Real people whose lives have immediately been impacted by the President’s executive action.

 

No, this blog post is repudiation of this executive order and all that it stands for.

 

First, let’s look at the executive order itself in a little more detail. Now, I’m not a national security expert, just a dude with a computer/tablet/cellphone and access to the inter-webs. However, that also means the following information was available to the President and his advisors in crafting this order, presuming they cared to check. We’ll focus specifically on the countries targeted. The purported intent of the action is to secure our borders and protect national security. The sentiment appears to be, as best as I can tell, we need to protect ourselves from threats posed by dangerous people from dangerous countries. We have to be careful not to allow in people from countries that would put lives at risk because these people have a high probability of being terrorists. I suppose all of that might sound good, especially if you’re fearful of Muslims (which is a whole different blog post for a different day). However, if that is the stated intent, then this executive order is poorly created. Between 1975 and 2015, zero people from these countries have killed Americans in terrorist attacks on U. S. soil. Zero. https://www.cato.org/blog/little-national-security-benefit-trumps-executive-order-immigration

 

Instead, the 9/11 hi-jackers? They were predominantly Saudi Arabian, as you can see here: http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/27/us/september-11th-hijackers-fast-facts/ . However, Saudi Arabia was not included in the ban. Some people might find it no small coincidence that our President has business dealings in that country, along with several other countries in the region that were not included in the ban, as you can see here: https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2017-trump-immigration-ban-conflict-of-interest/. Perhaps, suddenly, all that hullabaloo about Trump needing to divest from his business ties and place his finances in a blind trust doesn’t seem too overblown or hypothetical. As those who work more closely in conflicts of interest (studying them, not having them) can tell you, appearances of a conflict of interest can be pretty damaging all on their own. Trump need not actually have been motivated by his business interests for the question to now remain ever present in people’s minds.

 

So, if the point of the order was to protect our security, it certainly is not based in the conventional wisdom that the past predicts the future (and by conventional wisdom, I mean the basis/presumption by which all inductive reasoning works). So, even if you agree with the order on principle, I think you might need to consider that it does not accomplish its stated end. And not only that, it appears poorly planned and executed. Already, we are seeing legal challenges to it, something that legal advisors to the President (assuming he consulted any that aren’t simple yes men and yes women) should have been able to easily anticipate. It also is staggering that people already approved for entry into the country by the system we have in place are being further delayed or denied entry. I say that because the current system for refugee admission takes an average of 18-24 months (you can see some great in-depth reporting from Jon Oliver on this for details: https://youtu.be/_kZsOISarzg). I am not sure how much more extreme our vetting process can become without delaying people so long that is essentially meaningless; we may as well not admit anyone at all.

 

And here is where we turn the corner into my second, broader point. Can we absolutely guarantee that everyone we admit to the U.S. will be safe and never harm anyone? No, of course not, that would be impossible. However, we already have a screening process in place that, given how much some people would have you believe the rest of the world generally, and Muslins in particular, hate us, seems to have done a reasonably good job keeping out threats to our security. At some point, we have to look at the suffering and hurt in other places of the world and the refugees it produces, and balance that against our own false sense of safety and security. We have to look at the immigrants who just want the opportunity for a better life that almost all of our ancestors (Native Americans, you get a pass on this one) came to these shores for at some point in the past 400 years or so, and balance that against our own false sense of safety and security. I say false because while some of those people who support the executive order say they feel safer, they seem to neglect that domestic terrorists and/or white men are responsible for many more deaths on an annual basis than immigrants and refugees. Yet, I have not seen or heard about any plans for executive orders banning those (although I’m suspecting you probably won’t see many white men at the latest Tyler Perry movie, so you might try going to the theater for that the next time one comes out if you’re truly concerned).

 

Are we going to be a nation of isolationists that, when the world needs us or wants us, shuts our doors because some of us are scared? Or are we going to welcome people with open arms, like the words on the Statue of Liberty suggest?

 

And, if I may speak to fellow followers of Christ for an additional moment, I really hope your answer to the latter question above is “yes.” I think Scripture is pretty clear on the topic:

 

“‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

—Leviticus 19:33-34 (NIV)

 

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

—Matthew 25:41-45 (NIV)

 

I know many who profess Christ as their Lord and Savior who voted for Trump, and I refuse to make judgments based on a person’s vote alone. I heard many reasons from many people of good faith and conscience, people I know, love, and respect, as to why they could not vote for Clinton or wanted to vote for Trump. When they told me to not paint them with the same brush as Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, etc., I consented. When they told me they voted for Trump for a change, for jobs, for the Supreme Court, and that they absolutely deny and reject the racist, sexist, xenophobic, misogynistic things he said during the campaign, I agreed to believe them. And when Trump won the election, though I was honest about my fears and concerns, I also agreed to support the office of the President and Trump in any actions he pursued that I believed would help the people I love and for whom I feared. When people said let’s wait and see how he actually governs, let’s give him a chance, that he did not literally mean some of the things he said, I admittedly had reservations, but as I had been proven wrong again and again during the election season, I agreed.

 

Well, here we are. He is President. This is how he is choosing to govern. This is what he has actually done with his first week in office. Will those of you who came down on the opposite side of the ballot from me but claim to share my values now stand up and speak out against this? Or will you hide behind rationalizations that somehow the Bible doesn’t call us to a radical love of other humans that lets go of fear and self-interest, suggesting that the above words are quoted out of context or aren’t to be taken literally (which, interestingly enough, is the opposite claim some make on other matters, leading others to wonder if you take the Bible literally only when it is convenient)? Will you perhaps claim that we must have separation of church and state, that now is not the time to force Christian beliefs on the rest of the nation, or that our leaders must run the government by a different set of principles than we live by individually as Christians (again, interestingly enough, the opposite claim some make when they want to preserve “traditional” marriage through law or make abortion illegal – not that everyone supporting an immigration ban is pro-life and LGBT non-affirming, but I suspect there might be some overlap)? Perhaps you’ll resort to a non sequitur about Clinton, as if she has anything to do with what I’m asking of you? Or maybe you’ll try to turn the heat back on me, asking what I’ve done for refugees and immigrants (to which I would have to honestly admit, little yet; God has gifted me with words and I’m using those, but I would caution you that such a move is a risky one unless you are100% comfortable with all your own efforts on matters about which you purport to care – how many refugees, widows, orphans, prisoners, sick, elderly, etc. have you assisted? And how? Is there ever enough we can do?)?

 

But, perhaps you’ll say that I generally am right, but that I’m going about it all wrong, sowing division instead of unity. Often, I find this claim laughable when used against oppressed and marginalized groups (to translate: “Stop whining/complaining/pointing out that you’re marginalized and oppressed; it makes the rest of us participating in your ongoing oppression and marginalization feel bad. If you want us to treat you better, be nicer to the people oppressing and marginalizing you first. The responsibility here is really yours, not that of the people with some form of power or privilege oppressing and marginalizing you”). However, I’m not marginalized and oppressed, and in this situation, perhaps you have a point. Additionally, one of the “lessons” people like me (lib-tards, pointy-headed intellectuals, professors in our ivory towers, the media elite – hey, don’t question me on that last one, my blog is blowing up) were supposed to learn from this election was that we need to get out of our bubble. We need to engage with others who don’t see the world like us, or else the hidden majority we’ve ignored will keep surprising us. So, let me seek unity, and ask you to please, talk with me, if that is you. Explain what I have wrong, or what I have missed. If/when you come to the conversation, though, I encourage you to expect that I will test your logic for flaws (e.g., are there exceptions, do things get wonky if we follow it out to the logical conclusion, are you equivocating), and that I will request facts (insert alternative fact joke here; but seriously, get the heck out of here with any Breitbart or Occupy Democrats nonsense). I want to engage in respectful dialogue with you. And I want to encourage YOU to not ignore people like me, and make sure YOU learn lessons of the recent past. In 2010, the Tea Party began to gain steam as a political force, from people who felt ignored and left behind by the political establishment, especially Democrats who perhaps thought they had license to govern as they wished because they held the White House and Congress. Although in some ways the Tea Party has faded, the right wing populism it fostered, I believe, gave direct birth to the Trump Presidency. People who felt ignored kept warning us, “we” didn’t listen, and now their candidate is in charge. This past weekend, thousands upon thousands showed up in Washington to remind the President and nation they are still here, and they too will not be silent. Hundreds to thousands more have showed up at the airports in the last 48 hours. Almost 3 million more people voted against the President than for him. Unless you care to see a pendulum swing back in the complete opposite direction down the road, I would suggest we all find a way to respectfully talk with each other and not at each other. So, I invite that here.

 

But until my mind is changed by facts and reason, until your arguments persuade me to share your beliefs, I unequivocally stand opposed to this executive order. I stand for love, for compassion, for mercy, and for the treatment of foreigners as native-born. It’s not just my values, they’re Christian and American values too.

 

I’m now going to return to my usual treatment of my spouse’s Facebook page (all likes all the time, if I know what’s good for me).

 

On the Executive Order