Terrorism and Migration: Part III 31 January 2017
What follows in the third part of “Terrorism and Migration” that was supposed to be sent out automatically last Wednesday (one of the great benefits of the new system – if I were not so technically challenged). The ending began prophetically – after all, it was written last weekend – “In Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Migration and Terrorism, in the provisions for reporting, there is no mention of an independent review as provided in section 11 of the existing legislation. There are many grounds upon which this presidential executive order may be challenged.” Judge James L. Robart, appointed to the bench by President Bush in 2004 and now labeled by Donald Trump as a “so-called judge”, is a Republican and a constitutional conservative. It was on those grounds that he issued a restraining order on the application of Trump’s executive order on migration and terror.
As he noted when grilling the lawyer from the Justice Department who could not produce a single name from one of the seven countries who had been involved in a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, “The answer is none.” In his appointment hearing before the Senate, he had stated, “If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed by the Senate, I will take that experience to the courtroom with me, recognize that you need to treat everyone with dignity and with respect, and to engage them so that when they leave the courtroom they feel like they had a fair trial and that they were treated as a participant in the system.” Equal treatment to all and individual treatment with respect to the dignity of the Other are foundational principles of a conservative approach to the law.
I was delighted to be proven correct in the results of the many court challenges that were launched across America. Just over a year ago, on 20 January 2016, Senator Ben Cardin (Dem. Maryland), the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, introduced a bill related to the restriction of the use of the Visa Waiver Program. He had become a guru on immigration and refugee legislation. On 4 February 2017, Ben Cardin issued a “Statement on the National Restraining Order Against the Trump Travel Ban” as a response to the most widespread application of the various legal challenges successfully launched against the application of Donald Trump’s new executive order on migration.
“Our founders wisely created three co-equal branches of government, including an independent judiciary, to serve as a strong check and balance on both the president and Congress. Like the president, our judges – and our Congress – are sworn to uphold the Constitution. When the president of the United States abuses or ignores the Constitution, and attacks the integrity of the judiciary by calling a ruling ‘outrageous’ or calls a judge a ‘so-called judge,’ he is undermining the entire system of government, not only the decisions with which he disagrees.
“The international chaos caused by the rushed and ill-conceived executive order targeting Muslim refugees and travelers is wrong and should be rescinded. This executive order has made America less safe. I will continue working with the Departments of State and Homeland Security as they promptly implement the court’s order to again permit the lawful travel to and from the United States. There is no way to know how many law-abiding citizens and travelers have been hurt by the president’s actions, but I will do everything in my power to minimize the damage being done.”
As I indicated above, Ben Cardin is no newcomer to the issue of migration and terrorism. Further, since the election of Donald Trump, he has been at the forefront of criticizing Trump, not as President, but in how Trump acts and serves as President. On 22 November 2016, Ben Cardin announced his intention to introduce a resolution expressing the sense of Congress (not Congress requiring) that President-elect Trump “convert his assets to simple, conflict-free holdings, adopt blind trusts, or take other equivalent measures, in order to ensure compliance with the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” lest dealings by Trump-owned companies with any entity owned by a foreign government “potentially” violate the Constitution. Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution provides that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Cardin went on to write, “The Founding Fathers were clear in their belief that any federal office holder of the United States must never be put in a position where they can be monetarily or otherwise influenced by a foreign governmental actor.” (Rosalind Helderman and Drew Harwell wrote an article for The Washington Post (4 February 2017) that pointed to a number of documents that confirmed that Donald Trump was still benefitting from his business.)
Cardin also opposed the confirmation of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Agency, Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. He also questioned the appointment of Dr. Tom Price as “Secretary of Health and Human Services, not only because, as a member of the House of Representatives he advocated tearing apart “The Affordable Care Act” that would deny tens of millions of Americans access to affordable, quality health care coverage (70% of whom in Maryland come from communities of colour), but also because of his past opposition to restrictions on how the cigarette industry advertises and markets a cancer-causing weed, his support for Trump’s cutting off U.S. global health funding to foreign NGOs which work on the frontlines combating many diseases, particularly in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Cardin has been clear that Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration and Refugees and the unfounded link to terrorism is but the leading edge of a much broader and more general attack on the well-being and security of Americans in the name of a totally irrelevant and very marginal fear and claim to protect that security. On the Monday following the issuance of that heinous executive order, he, along with other Senators introduced a bill to rescind the Executive Order.
It is now estimated that 90,000 individuals were immediately negatively affected by the Executive Order, quite aside from the millions around the world affected in the long run. Constituents from every part of America had loved ones temporarily detained, others denied the right to board a plane and others who decided not to travel lest they risk detention – and this does not count the citizens of all the countries around the globe, such as Canadian citizens of dual nationality, that were affected in the first iteration and interpretation of the Executive Order.
The operations of universities as well as large global corporations were detrimentally affected. Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber along with Amy Gutman, currently President of the University of Pennsylvania, drafted the letter that was signed by 47 other American college and university presidents and sent to President Trump urging him to “rectify or rescind the recent executive order closing our country’s borders to immigrants and others from seven majority-Muslim countries and to refugees from throughout the world.”
February 2, 2017
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
United States of America
Dear President Trump:
We write as presidents of leading American colleges and universities to urge you to rectify or rescind the recent executive order closing our country’s borders to immigrants and others from seven majority-Muslim countries and to refugees from throughout the world. If left in place, the order threatens both American higher education and the defining principles of our country.
The order specifically prevents talented, law-abiding students and scholars from the affected regions from reaching our campuses. American higher education has benefited tremendously from this country’s long history of embracing immigrants from around the world. Their innovations and scholarship have enhanced American learning, added to our prosperity, and enriched our culture. Many who have returned to their own countries have taken with them the values that are the lifeblood of our democracy. America’s educational, scientific, economic, and artistic leadership depends upon our continued ability to attract the extraordinary people who for many generations have come to this country in search of freedom and a better life.
This action unfairly targets seven predominantly Muslim countries in a manner inconsistent with America’s best principles and greatest traditions. We welcome outstanding Muslim students and scholars from the United States and abroad, including the many who come from the seven affected countries. Their vibrant contributions to our institutions and our country exemplify the value of the religious diversity that has been a hallmark of American freedom since this country’s founding. The American dream depends on continued fidelity to that value.
We recognize and respect the need to protect America’s security. The vetting procedures already in place are rigorous. Improvements to them should be based on evidence, calibrated to real risks, and consistent with constitutional principle.
Throughout its history America has been a land of opportunity and a beacon of freedom in the world. It has attracted talented people to our shores and inspired people around the globe. This executive order is dimming the lamp of liberty and staining the country’s reputation. We respectfully urge you to rectify the damage done by this order.
The Executive Order, instead of promoting values at the heart of America, instead of being consistent with the constitution of the United States, legalized discrimination based on religion and nationality. The fact that ALL Muslim countries were not included does not mean the order is non-discriminatory. Hitler’s action in the 1930’s initially only targeted Jews in Germany. Trump’s ban is inherently discriminatory because there is no connection between the ban and the threat, not even a thin thread of a connection let alone one that is proportionate based on the evidence. The Executive Order completely ignores the fact that America is steeped in “extreme vetting” already, for before 2017 it already took 18-24 months just for the screening process.
But what must also be noted is that the war on new immigrants and on refugees had already become part of American practice. A year ago, on 20 January 2016, the Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice sent Senator Ben Cardin the following letter:
Dear Senator Cardin:
On behalf of the Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ) in the National Capital Region, I ask you to urge President Obama to halt mass deportation of immigrants. These practices are contrary to our nation’s and our Unitarian Universalist values. We also urge you to vote against H.R. 4038, the SAFE Act. In addition, we continue to urge Congress to come together to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform to address the needs of the undocumented and other immigrant groups which would address our broken system that cruelly tears families apart.
There are more than 6,500 Unitarian Universalists in over 23 congregations in the greater Washington, D.C. National Capital Region, and 4,654 in Maryland. Unitarian Universalists embrace a diversity of religious beliefs. We put our faith into action through social and environmental justice work in our communities and the wider world. Unitarian Universalists affirm and promote seven Principles, which we hold as strong values and moral guides. We are called by our first Principle, “The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person.”
In 2013 our Unitarian Universalist General Assembly passed a Statement of Conscience on “Immigration as a Moral Issue.” Among other actions, it calls for:
- Alternatives to detention for those not considered a threat to society and humane treatment for those being detained.
- Preservation of family unity, including same-sex and transgender couples and families. • Provision of asylum for refugees and others living in fear of violence or retribution.
As people of faith, we are called to remind our decision makers about the worth and dignity of every person, of whatever parentage or nationality, as American society copes with immigrants arriving from around the world, especially from Central America and the Middle East.
Right now, in defiance of a court order to stop detaining children, the Obama administration has increased the detention of families by 173% over the last several months [my bold], according to the Migration Policy Institute. And now the administration has announced it will search for and deport asylum-seeking families back to the danger they are trying to escape. And they are putting this into practice, as evidenced by the very recent deportation of at least 121 families to Central America.
Our faith calls upon us to stand on the side of love and to support the human rights of all those in need of help, including undocumented immigrants and those seeking asylum from violence, repression, and extreme poverty. Nearly all religions are filled with admonitions to treat strangers among us with love and hospitality. Yet, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office continues to detain entire families, including children, who have fled persecution, trauma, and threats against their very lives, re-traumatizing them, and threatening to deport them to the very places where their lives will again be threatened. Our immigration courts continue to deny asylum to many people who clearly do have a well-founded fear of persecution and if returned to their country of origin could face fatal consequences.
One of the most ancient, ethical injunctions on us as human beings is for the humane treatment of strangers. Our immigration policy is a reflection upon our worth as a people, and we currently fall far short of the standard. UUSJ therefore request that you: 1) Ask the President to order a halt to the actions that the Department of Homeland Security is taking against mostly Central American families and children. 2) Vote against H.R. 4038, known by the misnomer, the SAFE Act, a divisive, punitive and …unnecessary bill. 3) Continue to speak out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform legislation similar to what was contained in S. 744 that the last Congress considered. Please do everything in your power to ensure our immigration laws are enacted in a humane, just, and fair manner. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contacts us through our Immigration Steering Committee chair, Dean Wanderer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (571) 214-2710.
Lavona M. Grow Board Chair UUSJ.
I think these Unitarian Universalists may now be praying for Obama to return to office even though the grounds were set when the Obama administration took defensive measures in restricting the entry of refugees in the face of enormous pressures from the Republican-dominated Congress.
There is much room for hope from the activities over the last ten days. Constitutional Conservatives are beginning to peel away from any support for Trump. The Democratic Party and its members of Congress have demonstrated that they can act together and effectively. The legal community has been aroused. Universities have come not only to recognize, but to oppose Trump insofar as his initiatives detrimentally effect their mission. People on the street and from NGOs took immediate action. Opposition has grown from the business community detrimentally affected by these decisions.
However, perhaps most revealing is the chaos from within the Trump administration. Clearly Stephen K. Bannon, who probably drafted the executive order along with senior policy adviser Stephen Miller without consulting either the State Department or Homeland Security, began to be boxed in as Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly began to issue orders qualifying the ban. When Bannon moved to counter this, Kelly simply said that Bannon had no position in the chain of command. At the same time, White House Chief of Staff approved new procedures for issuing executive orders. President Trump in his first two weeks had demonstrated not only his extensive ignorance, but a gross insensitivity not only to legal processes, but to administrative ones necessary to allowing any administration to function.
What started as an effort to “pause” the processing of refugees instead became a pause on issuing executive orders. But it is a pause only. Sarah Posner has already revealed that an Executive Order is in the works “Establishing a Government Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” which would allow civil servants and others on the basis of “conscience” the ability to refuse services to everyone equally. On the basis of nativism, xenophobia and ideology of the alt-Right, efforts are well underway to undermine the principles of equality and respect for the dignity of individuals in the American constitution.
This is a real fear. But it also offers grounds for hope that the resistance to Trump’s autocratic propensities will be resisted by constitutional conservatives as well as liberals.