Op-ed: The Trump refugee ban: bad for conservatism, bad for national security
On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that, among other things, bans foreign nationals from seven different countries, suspends the admission of refugees for 120 days and places an indefinite halt on the admittance of Syrian refugees.
Reports also show that White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon personally overruled the legal interpretation by the Department of Homeland Security that the order would not apply to legal permanent residents. In short, these issues coupled with the fact that dual citizens from the seven countries listed are also barred from entering the United States, show an order that was overly blunt and broad in its construction and contradictory and confusing in its execution.
However, there is a necessary need to add perspective to this discussion that sets it apart from the hysteria and chest-beating happening on either side of the aisle. This executive order is by no reasonable legal interpretation a “Muslim ban,” but as a conservative Republican, this order does not fit my definition of conservatism nor does it help the U.S. in its fight against radical Islam.
To elaborate briefly on why this is not a “Muslim ban”—a charge that I find muddies the legitimate and serious effects this order has—requires an understanding of why Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and Libya, were chosen. First and foremost, Iran, Sudan and Syria are designated state sponsors of terrorism. Second, these nations were selected as “countries of concern” under the Obama administration.
It would be foolish not to consider these nations as the primary focus of a modified and updated admittance process, and the spirit of wanting to pause admittance from the nations until a review of vetting procedures was completed would be prudent.
The Trump administration however decided to forge ahead with no apparent input from the Office of Legal Counsel, a startling departure from procedure surrounding the issuing of executive orders. The result of this haste? A deeply flawed executive action that is flooding social media feeds with stories like that of dual citizens who are green-card holdersunsure of their ability to come home and two Iraqis who put themselves in clear danger to help U.S. troops during the Iraq War.
This kind of thoughtless and counterproductive strategy is neither conservative nor does it further our national security interests. We are the party that warned of the dangers of executive power throughout the eight years of the Obama administration, and this debacle is another indicator of why we are vehemently opposed to a strong executive.
Congress is meant to write laws, and the president is meant to ensure that they are faithfully enforced. The role of Steve Bannon and others shows why unaccountable and imbalanced power is something to be reviled.
This executive order not only goes against the aim toward more limited government, but it negatively impacts our efforts in the War on Terror. Not only did this order already negatively affect two of countless distinguished Iraqis with histories of aiding the U.S. armed forces that will also be targeted under the current guidelines, but the implicit association of all Muslims with jihadist Muslims only helps the narrative pushed by radical groups that the United States is at war with all Muslims.
That said, Republican members of Congress have spoken up against this deeply flawed order. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) rightfully assessed the context of the order as, “two ways to lose our generational battle against jihadism by losing touch with reality,” those being “pretending that jihadi terrorism has no connection to Islam or to certain countries,” and, “the second way to fail: If we send a signal to the Middle East that the U.S. sees all Muslims as jihadis, the terrorist recruiters win by telling kids that America is banning Muslims and that this is America versus one religion.”
U.S. senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) hit on a similar point in a joint statement, declaring that “[o]ur government has a responsibility to defend our borders, but we must do so in a way that makes us safer and upholds all that is decent and exceptional about our nation.” These statements are strong lessons in standing up for one’s beliefs and principles, even when the other person is of the same political party and may have a mixed record of agreements and disagreements.
Healthy criticism is good for any president. President Trump was wrong with this executive order, and fellow conservatives and those wishing to seriously aid our national security efforts ought to be able to admit as much without hesitation.
Robbie Rosamelia is a junior in the School of Public Affairs.