If any American value was served by President Donald Trump’s inhumane treatment of hundreds of ordinary people from Muslim-majority nations this weekend, we would like to know what it is.
How sickening it was to watch Trump’s draconian executive order on refugees play out, indefinitely banning entry to Syrian refugees and suspending U.S. travel for visa and, for a time, even green card holders from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The estimated 375 travelers detained or prevented from boarding flights into the U.S. on Saturday were not terrorist threats. They were scientists, medical students, engineers, interpreters who had risked their lives to help the U.S. government.
A Sudanese graduate student at Stanford University was handcuffed and detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Two Iranian-born Chicago suburbanites with green cards were held at O’Hare International Airport with their 18-month-old baby. A 70-year-old father joining his son was put on a plane back to Iran at Los Angeles International Airport.
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National vigilance is undeniably important, but Trump’s order was wrong on almost every level, to the point of incompetence.
“No explanation, no justification,” a distraught Iraqi translator for the U.S. military told McClatchy’s Hannah Allam by phone after he, his wife and their two children – approved for resettlement in Tennessee – were forced onto a plane back to Iraq.
Small wonder that mass protests continued even after court orders blocked the immediate deportation of some travelers. National vigilance is undeniably important, but Trump’s order was wrong on almost every level, to the point of incompetence.
It does nothing to make America safer. The traumatized refugees who have been allowed into the U.S. – including thousands in Sacramento – are overwhelmingly peaceful and grateful for the asylum. Visa and green card holders from the named countries are already extensively vetted.
The order has little or no relevance to past terrorist acts in this country, though it cynically cites the 9/11 attacks, which happened more than 15 years ago. Those hijackers weren’t from any of the named countries; they were from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon, which are exempt from the order. The Boston Marathon bombers were from Chechnya, also exempt. The San Bernardino shooters were from Pakistan – also exempt – and Chicago.
In fact, as Republican U.S. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham pointed out Sunday, the hostile order “may do more to help terrorist recruitment.” Trump, petty as ever, tweeted in response that they were “sadly weak on immigration.” But does he actually imagine that the Islamic State will not spin this order – which Trump said would prioritize Christians in Muslim-dominated countries – as part of a U.S. “war on Islam”?
On top of all that, the order appears to be ineptly, and perhaps unconstitutionally, drafted. As California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky noted, its wording violates federal laws against national origin quotas and appears to violate the First Amendment clause banning the government from favoring one religion over others.
On Sunday, Trump dug in on Twitter while his aides tried to minimize the order’s impact and his administration walked some of the more blatantly illegal parts of it back.
Only one constituency was served by this disgraceful weekend: the Breitbart bigots in Trump’s Cabinet and base, who foolishly confuse strength with the infliction of humiliation on vulnerable people. During the campaign, former Vice President Dick Cheney warned that a ban like the one imposed Friday “goes against everything we stand for.” Republicans in Congress need to find their consciences and speak up.