During Donald Trump’s campaign for President, he proposed enacting what has become known as the Muslim Ban. In it, he called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” The statement immediately was condemned far and wide. Not only against everyone else positioning themselves in the Republican primaries, but by party and world leaders.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put out a message against Trump’s statement saying “the state of Israel respects all religions.” Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said, “This is not conservatism… And, more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.” Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell chimed in saying Trump’s proposed ban was “completely and totally inconsistent with American values.” And RNC Chairman Reince Priebus (who is now Trump’s Chief of Staff) told the Washington Examiner, “We need to aggressively take on radical Islamic terrorism but not at the expense of our American values.”
When Trump signed the executive order this past Friday it was not surprising it was greeted with widespread condemnation and protest. However, Trump did back away from his campaign proposal some. Nowhere in the executive order does it mention the word “Muslim.” Though, for many, that did not matter. The ban was only on Muslim majority countries, seven of them in fact: Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, and Iran.
Moreover, Trump’s executive order was an expansion of terrorism-related legislation approved by President Obama back in December of 2015. The seven countries mentioned above were part of that legislation which, then too, was criticized. Obama was called hypocritical for backing the legislation after he had criticized Trump’s proposed Muslim ban during the campaign.
Regardless of previous precedents of lesser bans, the implementation of the executive order was a disaster. Because it was effective “immediately,” many visa holders from the affected countries were left stranded in airports around the world. In the first three days of the ban, Reuters reported that 872 refugees had to be granted waivers to the executive order. Yet 348 travelers with visas were rejected from boarding flights to America.
Canadian Prime Mister Justin Trudeau, a boxing enthusiast, wasted no time in taking a pugilistic swing in trying to give America a black eye by inviting those affected by Trump’s Muslim ban to Canada. It did not help Trudeau nor Trump much that the very next day when a gunman sympathetic to Trump’s views opened fire on a Canadian mosque in Quebec City killing 6 and injuring 19, thus leaving Canada with its own glaring anti-Muslim sentiment problem. German Chancellor Angela Merkel questioned the legality of the ban in a phone call with Trump after the ban had been implemented. She expressed to Trump that she thought the ban violated America’s obligations as a signer of the Geneva Conventions.
Merkel was not alone in doubting the order’s legal soundness. Just yesterday, Trump had to fire his acting Attorney General, Sally Yates (a holdover from the Obama administration until the Senate confirms Trump’s choice for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions), shortly after she advised Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments defending Trump’s executive order. In a letter she explained, “My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts.”
Trump’s instincts that there are security lapses in the immigration system that provide opportunities for terrorist organizations like ISIS to take advantage of are correct. It is how he is going about solving those issues that is crass and misguided causing him and the US unnecessary hardships. Basing his rhetoric on religion for the cheapest of political reasons was just throwing gasoline on a fire that need not burn. But ISIS is a sobering and real threat. Their attacks in France and Germany show their determination to attack western nations. It would be foolish not to think they would not do the same to America if given an opportunity.
Trump has always maintained the ban would be temporary. He has insisted the ban would only be for 90 days while a review was done on US security and immigration policy to ensure safety. Though, it begs the question why the review could not have happened behind the scenes without interrupting international travel to the US. Was there some sort of immediate emergency? It appears unlikely, and if there was a time to implement a complete temporary ban on travel from certain parts of the world, it would have been in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Instead, and very loudly, Trump made a scene and further alienated Muslims and gave Islamic terrorist organization more fodder for their dystopian “clash of civilizations” religious narrative to recruit new supporters.
People are right to be upset and not consider Trump’s so called “Muslim ban” part of American freedom. We are indeed a nation of immigrants and refugees. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who also spoke out against Trump’s original proposed ban, cited his Puritan ancestry. No American history course would be complete without the Puritan John Winthrop’s “errand into the wilderness” or his words Ronald Reagan famously used in his farewell speech, the “shining city upon a hill.” In that address Reagan described what he imagined the “shining city upon a hill” would be. “And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here,” he said.