Is Trump’s Immigration Order the Worst of Both Worlds?

President Trump is taking a lot of political heat, and therefore expending a considerable amount of political capital, for an immigration order that doesn’t go far enough to be meaningful. Trump has decreed a halt to travel–immigration and otherwise–from seven Muslim-majority countries, for a mere 90 days. This is accompanied by a suspension of refugee admissions (with the exception of Syria) for only 120 days. The idea, supposedly, is to investigate, and try to improve, vetting procedures.

This is mostly pointless, for two reasons. First, there is no conceivable way to effectively “vet” immigrants and other travelers from the Middle East and Africa. It would require more resources than we can possibly assign to thoroughly investigate all such travelers. Second, and as to immigrants more important, there is no way to vet the immigrant’s descendants. This is one reason why the current liberal theme that relatively few terrorist attacks have been carried out by Islamic immigrants is so silly. Frequently, perhaps usually, the terrorist doesn’t appear until the second generation, like Omar Mateen.

What will happen when the current travel ban runs out in just a few months? Most likely, the administration will announce some additional security measures and it will be back to business as usual. This will be seen as a defeat for President Trump, even though his order is, by its terms, time-limited. Little or nothing will be accomplished, at considerable political cost.

The problem goes much too deep to be addressed by this kind of stopgap measure. What we need is a wholesale revision of our immigration laws, commencing from the principle that immigrants should be admitted only if there is good reason to believe that their presence will be beneficial to existing American citizens.

As for refugees, there is no humanitarian case for admitting them at all: at enormous cost, we protect a tiny percentage of the refugee population, while subjecting them to an alien culture to which many will never adapt. It makes more humanitarian sense to devote those resources to protecting a far larger number of refugees where they live, or close to where they live, in a familiar culture.

Trump has the legal authority to suspend immigration indefinitely from any country or group of countries. That would be much better than the temporary order that has raised such a furor, especially if Trump issued an indefinite suspension with no pretense that “vetting” is the issue. But even that would not be an adequate substitute for a thorough revision of our immigration laws.

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