Extreme vetting, here we come

President Trump began to fulfill one of his signal campaign promises yesterday with the promulgation of an executive order addressing immigration from Muslim countries. The New York Times has posted the text of the executive order here.

The order proceeds through a series of cross-reference to other laws that renders it incomprehensible on its own terms. Perhaps improvidently, I take the summary of the order’s operative provisions by Michael Shear and Helene Cooper in the New York Times at face value. See also Carol Morello’s Washington Post story on the order.

According to Shear and Cooper, the order suspends the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days, and Syrians indefinitely. It also suspends immigration from seven Muslim countries for only 90 days, while allegedly ordering priority be given to visas for Christians from Muslim nations (I don’t see the religious preference set forth in the text of the order). The seven Muslim countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

Shear and Cooper want to imply that differentiation among faiths for the purposes of the order is unconstitutional. They write: “Mr. Trump also established a religious test for refugees from Muslim nations: He ordered that Christians and others from minority religions be granted priority over Muslims.” The Constitution, however, only bars religious tests for office or “public trust.” (More here.)

Might there be a reasonable basis for distinguishing among faiths for purposes of granting visas, refugee status, naturalization and immigration generally? Shear and Cooper don’t raise the question. Indeed, Shear and Cooper argue stupidly with the order throughout their story on it. They can’t help themselves.

Information is to be gathered, reviewed and summarized during the periods of suspension so that policy can be conformed to the national interest of the United States. Indeed, the order focuses throughout on the national interest of the United States, as in this provision that will never be quoted in a New York Times story:

Sec. 1: …In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.

You mean we aren’t already doing this? We must be out of our minds.

Sec. 2. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States; and to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes.

You mean we aren’t already doing this? We must be out of our minds.

Despite its difficulty, the order is worth reviewing in its entirety. The following provision, for example, should resonate with citizens of sound mind:

It is the policy of the executive branch that, to the extent permitted by law and as practicable, State and local jurisdictions be granted a role in the process of determining the placement or settlement in their jurisdictions of aliens eligible to be admitted to the United States as refugees. To that end, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall examine existing law to determine the extent to which, consistent with applicable law, State and local jurisdictions may have greater involvement in the process of determining the placement or resettlement of refugees in their jurisdictions, and shall devise a proposal to lawfully promote such involvement.

With Minnesota’s ever growing community of Somali immigrants and refugees, we find the order hitting close to home. The Star Tribune collects critical comments from Somali immigrants without any reference to the, ah, special law enforcement challenges that they have raised — and continue to raise.

The reform of visa, refugee and immigration policy implicit in the terms of the executive order are, to say the least, long overdue.

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