Graham West, 12/7/2017 [Archive]

The Muslim Ban Persists, But Why?

The Muslim Ban Persists, But Why?

By Graham F. West


On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States granted the Trump Administration's wish to fully implement the "travel ban" while challenges to the policy work their way through lower courts. This is the third iteration of the president's efforts to prohibit anyone from six specifically listed countries - most of which happen to have Muslim-majority populations - from visiting the United States.

It is a rare legal victory for the Trump team on this subject, and hopefully a short-lived one given the appeals in progress. Despite the administration's fear mongering rhetoric, the Muslim ban (to use its original nomenclature per President Trump) does nothing to make us safer and everything to embarrass us on the world stage.

The Muslim ban's initial rollout was case in point of the "embarrassing" aspect. Its initial terms were even more explicitly focused on penalizing Muslims in particular, limiting the listed countries to only those in the Middle East and North Africa region. The unveiling of the policy was a logistical nightmare, too; then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly learned it was happening literally while watching TV, and Transportation Security Administration agents had little to no guidance on how to implement the new order.

In the face of massive, nationwide protests at airports and quick injunctions on account of the overt discrimination, these early attempts to shut out an entire religion from our shores proved little other than that Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller could not, in fact, make sweeping changes to U.S. immigration policy with nothing but bitterness in their hearts and a box of crayons in their hands.

Early protests, outcry from elected officials, and crowdfunded legal challenges from groups like the ACLU and the International Refugee Assistance Project were key to pushing back against the early Muslim bans and helping the families, elderly, infirm, students, professionals, and other innocent people caught in its crosshairs. But as time has passed, attention - and with it, outrage - has faded, and the Trump Administration has gotten smarter in their policy crafting.

The most recent version of the ban targets people from North Korea and Venezuela, in addition to those of Muslim-majority Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen; this rebuts previous arguments by lower courts that while the ban's language targets national origins, its clear intention (bolstered by the president's campaign rhetoric and then tweets in office) is to discriminate on the basis of religion. These additions, however, have little practical effect on our national security, given that mere tens of North Koreans visit the United States in a given year, and the villainous President Maduro of Venezeula is hardly sending attackers to the north.

On the whole, that's really the core problem with the ban beyond its offensive generalizing: there is no indication that it improves the national security of the United States. The Trump Administration has not been able to point to a single terrorist incident that the ban's restrictions would have prevented; its own Department of Homeland Security produced a study saying as much in March, to the embarrassment of the president. And of course, banning large swathes of overwhelmingly innocent people does nothing to address the threat of homegrown extremism, whether it is inspired by ISIL abroad or white nationalism at home.

There's a broader ideological problem with the Muslim ban as well. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration's line of thinking that Muslims simply cannot coexist in the West is the exact same mindset shared by groups like ISIL - and people throughout the Middle East and North Africa, many of whom are on the front lines of the fight against extremism, know it. By indulging these efforts to shut our doors to an entire religion's worth of people, we are playing straight into the extremists' desires and abandoning America's legacy as a melting pot society that draws strength from our embrace of pluralism.

Still, even in light of this recent decision, the future of the Trump Administration's Muslim ban remains uncertain. The Supreme Court's verdict was delivered in the form of an unsigned opinion, meaning that the justices offered no rationale; meanwhile, two different courts of appeals will hear cases pertaining to the nuances of the policy this week alone.

But while the legal battles continue over whether or not the Trump Administration can restrict entire classes of people from coming to our nation, one thing remains certain: There is no reason they should do so - beyond the xenophobia and malice that drives so many of their policy decisions.

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Copyright 2017 Graham F. West, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graham F. West is the Communications Director for Truman Center for National Policy and Truman National Security Project, though views expressed here are his own. You can reach West at gwest@trumancnp.org.

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