On Friday, President Donald Trump fired a shot that was heard round the world. He signed an executive order that places a 90-day moratorium on the entry into the U.S. of residents from seven Muslim-majority countries and an indefinite ban on residents of Syria.
At a press avail at the White House yesterday, he was asked whether the ban was “on Muslims.” He responded:
It’s not a Muslim ban. We were totally prepared. It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports. You see it all over. It’s working out very nicely and we’re going to have a very, very strict ban, and we’re going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years. [Emphasis added]
The highlighted portion of the quote is hard to reconcile with live reports filtering in from news outlets across the nation and the globe. CBS affiliate WTVR reports via CNN Wire that a Christian family from Syria was turned back by security personnel at the airport in Philadelphia. At airports all over the country, pandemonium reins. In New York, the Huffington Post notes, Muslim cabbies have gone on strike at JFK Airport, where countless travelers find themselves stranded.
While top Democrats in Congress have predictably claimed the sky is falling, their colleagues across the aisle have voiced more measured reservations. Sen. Ben Sasse , of Nebraska, said in a statement:
The President is right to focus attention on the obvious fact that borders matter. At the same time, while not technically a Muslim ban, this order is too broad.
Jeff Flake of Arizona has similar hesitations:
President Trump and his administration are right to be concerned about national security, but it’s unacceptable when even legal permanent residents are being detained or turned away at airports and ports of entry.
Some commentators, including David French of National Review, have called for calm, emphasizing that “the hysterical rhetoric about President Trump’s executive order on refugees is out of control.” He’s right.
But this entire kerfuffle could have been avoided if the president had taken the time to codify the extreme vetting process before implementing the ban. The call for such a program is hinted at in the first paragraph of Section 4 of the executive order:
Sec. 4. Implementing Uniform Screening Standards for All Immigration Programs. (a) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation shall implement a program, as part of the adjudication process for immigration benefits, to identify individuals seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission. This program will include the development of a uniform screening standard and procedure, such as in-person interviews; a database of identity documents proffered by applicants to ensure that duplicate documents are not used by multiple applicants; amended application forms that include questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent; a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be; a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest; and a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.
Presumably, the process that is eventually developed will contain features beyond the rather broad strokes outlined here and may require longer than the 200-day deadline specified for delivery in the paragraph that follows. Nevertheless, it would have been more prudent to wait until that apparatus was implemented before signing this order.
In the meantime, expect the noise over the ban to increase immeasurably before it lessens. Protests against the ban have already been organized in more than thirty cities.