‘Muslim Ban’ Notes
My column this week is an overview of the president’s various immigration orders, including the controversial one issued Friday. Here I just wanted to make a few extra points.
First, a lot of people seem to think the measure blatantly discriminates against Muslims. It bars admissions from seven majority-Muslim countries but allows exceptions for religious minorities. Not exactly subtle!
But this conflates two different parts of the order. Section 5 pauses the entire refugee program, not just for seven countries. This is the part that encourages exceptions for persecuted religious minorities and says such minorities should be privileged once normal admissions resume. Section 3 pauses all entry from seven countries, not just refugees, and contains no such language.
You can argue that the order shouldn’t distinguish between minority and majority religions—persecuted is persecuted—or that Trump’s history of idiotic comments sends a signal to executive agencies to interpret the order in a biased fashion, or that the order shouldn’t single out “radical Islamic terrorism.” Etc. But this seemingly knock-down argument against the core provisions of the measure doesn’t hold water.
Something I did mention in my column, but can’t be stressed enough, is that the list of seven countries isn’t Trump’s creation; the Obama administration had already singled these countries out for travel restrictions under a law Congress passed. Trump just temporarily cranked the restrictions up to 11. You can argue (as Phil Giraldi does today) that the list both includes and excludes some of the wrong countries, but by relying on Obama’s list, Trump gave himself pretty good protection against allegations of bias in his selection.
Finally, an update on green-card holders. The final determination seems to be that the ban applies to them, but only in a very nominal sense. They have to be handled on a “case-by-case” basis, but the simple fact that they have a green card will generally be treated as “dispositive.”
Apparently the White House is trying to pass this off as “nothing has changed.” In a weird way, I guess they have a point: official statements that the ban applies to green-card holders were true, as were statements that it doesn’t. It applies to them but then they are almost categorically exempted.
Robert VerBruggen is managing editor of The American Conservative.