When it comes to Donald Trump's immigration- and refugee-related executive orders (EOs), some of his harshest critics are fellow Republicans. That's a good sign, as it suggests that the Grand Old Party, which in the not-so-distant past was the pro-immigration party (even illegal immigration!), isn't simply rolling over for the new president.
Consider, for instance, Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, who represents the area around Allentown and a large Syrian ex-pat community. The Trump EO banning all visitors, including those holding green cards, from Syria and six other majority-Muslim countries, was put into effect at midnight on Saturday without any warning. "This is ridiculous," Dent told The Washington Post, "the order appears to have been rushed through without full consideration. You know, there are many, many nuances of immigration policy that can be life or death for many innocent, vulnerable people around the world."
Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) released a statement that read in part:
We fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism. At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies. Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.
Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) has a long history of being pro-immigration in general and has always shown a principled commitment to aiding those displaced by war, especially wars waged by the United States. At Medium, he wrote:
It's unacceptable when even legal permanent residents are being detained or turned away at airports and ports of entry. Enhancing long term national security requires that we have a clear-eyed view of radical Islamic terrorism without ascribing radical Islamic terrorist views to all Muslims.
And then there's Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a lawyer by training and the son of Syrian and Palestinian parents. Amash explains all of his votes and many of his positions on his Facebook page. Here are some snippets from his reaction to recent actions by the Republican president:
Like President Obama's executive actions on immigration, President Trump's executive order overreaches and undermines our constitutional system. It's not lawful to ban immigrants on the basis of nationality. If the president wants to change immigration law, he must work with Congress.
The president's denial of entry to lawful permanent residents of the United States (green card holders) is particularly troubling. Green card holders live in the United States as our neighbors and serve in our Armed Forces. They deserve better….
He also points his readers to lengthy responses to "unhinged" supporters of Trump's actions, explains in detail how the Constitution lays out differences between immigrants and non-immigrants and more. Amash's Facebook is a miniature master class in how legislators should explain themselves and their stances. No wonder, then, that he opposes Trump in this instance and many others.
Criticism is almost always more important when it comes from within a person's political party or ideology. It's a sharp sign that the person being criticized has wandered into some deep and dangerous territory. That's certainly the case with Trump and his orders on sanctuary cities (read Damon Root's withering critique here) and on immigration and refugee policy. The laws were not just poorly phrased and timed, they clearly will not work to address the basic issues they ostensibly are meant to ameliorate. As Anthony Fisher noted here earlier today, the U.S. embassay in Iraq has said that Trump's action is a recruitment tool for jihadists, as pro-American Middle Easterners realize they're being hung out to dry. As for keeping America safe from terrorists entering the country as refugees, the fact is the country has an incredibly safe record:
No person accepted to the United States as a refugee, Syrian or otherwise, has been implicated in a major fatal terrorist attack since the Refugee Act of 1980 set up systematic procedures for accepting refugees into the United States, according to an analysis of terrorism immigration risks by the Cato Institute.
Before 1980, three refugees had successfully carried out terrorist attacks; all three were Cuban refugees, and a total of three people were killed.
Since the Cato Institute analysis was published in September 2016, a Somalian refugee injured 13 people at Ohio State University in November in what officials investigated as a terrorist attack. No one died.
You got that? Precisely zero foreign-born terrorists admitted as refugees have killed anyone on American soil (and no, the Boston bombers were not refugees). That's the situation that Trump's executive order is designed to improve.
Earlier today, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Matt Welch, and I talked about Trump's executive orders, liberal "resistance" to the president's agenda, and where libertarians fit in today's struggles over political power. Take a listen to the Reason Podcast by clicking below or subscribe to it at iTunes and never miss an episode.
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