The Good and the Bad of Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

February 1, 2017 5:49 pm Last Updated: February 1, 2017 8:08 pm

Since the women’s and men’s protest marches around the world the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration and the enactment of a number of his presidential orders since, it has become difficult for Canadian friends of the United States to remain confident that, post-election, his rhetoric will change.

Well before election day, many across Canada and the world appeared uneasy with his lack of qualifications to lead a major American political party, especially compared to Hillary Clinton’s impressive civil service resume.

Clinton’s 2014 book “Hard Choices” called for more reorienting of American foreign policy towards “smart power,” by which she meant choosing the best combination of diplomatic, economic, political, technological, military and cultural tools. As a candidate, she was publicly committed to reach out to other nations to build a world, as she put it, with “more partners and fewer adversaries.”

Clinton was not without controversy and many blamed her for some of the less than stellar U.S. policies over the years. This would have been her chance to put her agenda forward and not promote that of someone else.

In Trump’s first days in office, most worrying of all were his executive orders late last week banning residents of seven Muslim-majority countries, having a combined population of about 130 million, from entering the United States for the next 90 days and suspending the admission of all refugees for 120 days.

The first was no doubt perceived as hostile by many of the world’s more than two billion Muslims, the overwhelming majority of which live peaceful lives.

Travelers who fell within the ban’s criteria but were already in the air headed for the United States on Friday, when Trump signed the executive order, were detained on arrival at U.S. airports. Others with visas and airline tickets were prevented from boarding aircraft bound for the United States—some even becoming stranded abroad—as airlines and officials struggled to comply with the chaotic new U.S. immigration policy.

Fortunately, a federal judge on Saturday night issued an emergency stay for people already arrived in America and those in transit, holding valid visas, ruling they can legally enter the United States.

Anthony D. Romero, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union, noted, “Clearly the judge understood the possibility for irreparable harm to hundreds of immigrants and lawful visitors to this country. Our courts today worked as they should as bulwarks against government abuse or unconstitutional policies and orders.”

Seeking to explain Trump’s broader motivation, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote:
Desperate to be liked, Trump adopts a combative attitude that makes him unlikable. Terrified of Mexican criminals, he wants to build a wall that will actually lock in more undocumented aliens than it will keep out. Terrified of Muslim terrorists, he embraces the torture policies guaranteed to mobilize terrorists.

Incomprehensibly, President Trump handed a huge gift to ISIS. Its jihadists could not have imagined a clearer indication of American discrimination aimed at Muslims. In fact, many Muslims at home and abroad have long been part of the U.S-led coalition confronting ISIS and other jihadists.

For Canadians, Trudeau the father perhaps put it best when he told Americans, « Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

While President Trump’s executive order unleashed some chaos, it also has a redeeming element.

Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, said that the executive orders treatment of claims of religious persecution should be “welcome news to every Christian and everyone concerned with human rights and religious freedom.”

The order allows the government in admitting refugees to prioritize individual claims of religious persecution.

Shea points out of the 12,587 Syrian refugees admitted during the last fiscal year, only .5 percent were Christian, although the State Department estimates that 10 percent of Syrian’s population is Christian.

The failure to admit Christian from Syria in any large numbers occurs within the context of a deadly campaign by ISIS to single out Christians, killing their men and sexually enslaving their women.

This prioritization or religious refugees is “critically needed” because religious persecution and terror targeting religious minorities is spreading.

Shea speculates that much of the outrage about Trump’s order is “based on the misconception that it prioritizes Christians per se and functions as a ‘Muslim ban.'”

She points out that Rohingya Muslims from Burma, Ahmadi Muslims from Pakistan, Iraqi Yazidis, Iranian Bahá’ís, and Vietnamese independent Buddhists all qualify under the order for special treatment. Moreover, this prioritization does not preclude accepting compelling cases from majority groups.

David Kilgour, a lawyer by profession, served in Canada’s House of Commons for almost 27 years. In Jean Chretien’s Cabinet, he was secretary of state (Africa and Latin America) and secretary of state (Asia-Pacific). He is the author of several books and co-author with David Matas of “Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for Their Organs.”