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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Is Trump's 'Muslim ban' a new idea? Maybe not, but the reaction is

Protesters are surrounded by police officers and travelers as they pass through John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country because of President Trump's executive order suspending all immigration from some countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. (AP photo)
Protesters are surrounded by police officers and travelers as they pass through John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country because of President Trump's executive order suspending all immigration from some countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. (AP photo)
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Monday, January 30, 2017 09:01 pm
See if you can identify the source of the following: "(We) will invalidate all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States . . . except for compelling and proven humanitarian reasons or where the national interest of our own country requires."

And this: "The State Department stopped processing Iraq refugees . . .  even for many who had heroically helped U.S. forces as interpreters and intelligence assets. One Iraqi who had aided American troops was assassinated before his refugee application could be processed, because of the immigration delays."

Donald Trump? Nope — something to keep in mind amid the hysteria that greeted the new president's limitations on immigration from several mostly Muslim countries.

In one sense, Trump has only himself to blame. As happened so often during the presidential campaign, candidate Trump resorted to poorly reasoned rhetoric when addressing the threat of radical Islam, at once point suggesting an outright ban on  Muslim immigration. But the executive order he issued last week is nothing of the sort and, as the two preceding quotes illustrate, is neither as unique nor "mean-spirited and un-American" as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and various protesters would have you believe.

The first statement, after all, was uttered by President Jimmy Carter after the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran 37 years ago. The second was an excerpt from an ABC News account of how the Obama administration had stopped processing Iraqi refugees for six months in 2011 after learning that a terrorist who had built bombs in Iraq to kill U.S. troops had used the supposedly well-vetted refugee program to move to the United States in 2009.

Do either of these cases an exact parallel to what Trump has done, as the president and his defenders insist?  Not really. As Trump's many critics and media "fact checkers" have pointed out, each was more limited geographically and in response to a specific threat or provocation.

But the undeniable fact remains that Carter and Obama, both Democrats, took steps to limit immigration from Muslim nations in response to terrorism  — generating hardly a whimper of opposition or alarm in the process. It's also a fact that the nations included in Trump's temporary executive order — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — were identified as potential sources of terrorism not by his administration but by that of his predecessor.

Are there legitimate reasons to question or criticize not only the decision itself but also the chaos that resulted from the manner in which it was implemented? Of course. And exceptions for Christians facing religious persecution in those countries undermine Trump's contention that his order has nothing to do with religion (just as it should compel his opponents to acknowledge the source of the religious persecution). But the over-the-top and apparently well-coordinated reaction and imprecise coverage by much of the media have only exacerbated ethnic and political divisions.

"This is not a Muslim ban, as the media are falsely reporting . . . There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order, Trump said. Added White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus: "What people need to understand is that 325,000 foreign travelers came into the U.S. (Saturday). About 109 of those people were detained for further questioning." Most have already been released, meaning the demonstrations will continue long after the chaos that supposedly sparked them has ended.

In the end, however, the specifics of Trump's order are less important than the context in which it was issued. Some believe America should open its borders to everyone, with few questions asked. Others believe what Trump said in his inaugural address: that a nation without secure borders is no nation at all. Understand that and you will understand why such otherwise disparate issues as a wall along the southern border or Mideast immigration policy seem to generate the same heated rhetoric. Some, irrationally, have even attempted to link Trump's order with Sunday's barbaric and contemptible  shooting at a Quebec City mosque that left six people dead.

With the federal government having done such a poor job of fulfilling its constitutional duty to guard America's borders, Trump's efforts to restore balance will inevitably be controversial and, at times, overly broad. We can and should debate his proposals soberly, accurately and intelligently while acknowledging that all nations have the right to protect themselves and that what he has proposed is different only in scope, not principle, from what others have done with far less scrutiny or opposition.

Get used to it.



This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.



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