January 03, 2017
What is President Trump trying to accomplish with his ban on Muslims from seven countries entering the US? He says it’s to protect the country from terrorists. But some people see White House staffers with an agenda to completely re-write US immigration policy to keep most Muslims out.
From a policy standpoint, these people want most Muslims excluded—not because they are terrorists or want to impose Sharia law, but
because they are believed to have difficulty assimilating and becoming Americans.
The Los Angeles Times Monday singled out two White House aides in particular and said “their ultimate goal is far broader” than just keeping out terrorists.
The Times said Trump’s top advisors on immigration, including chief strategist Steve Bannon and senior advisor Stephen Miller, “see themselves as launching a radical experiment to fundamentally transform how the US decides who is allowed into the country and to block a generation of people who, in their view, won’t assimilate into American society.”
The current ban on the nationals of seven countries only applies for 90 days. During those three months, the Trump Administration will come up with a permanent policy. The Times said the White House aides are considering new, onerous security checks that could effectively limit travel into the US by people from majority-Muslim countries to a trickle.
The chief architects of Trump’s order—Bannon, Miller and National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn—forged strong bonds during the presidential campaign.
The trio, who make up part of Trump’s inner circle, have a dark view of refugee and immigration flows from majority-Muslim countries, believing that if large numbers of Muslims are allowed to enter the US, parts of American cities will begin to replicate disaffected and disenfranchised immigrant neighborhoods in France, Germany and Belgium that have been home to perpetrators of terrorist attacks in Europe in recent years.
Within decades, Americans would have “the kind of large and permanent domestic terror threat that becomes multidimensional and multigenerational and becomes sort of a permanent feature,” one senior administration official told the Times.
“We don’t want a situation where—20 to 30 years from now—it’s just like a given thing that on a fairly regular basis there are domestic terror strikes, stores are shut up or that airports have explosive devices planted, or people are mowed down in the street by cars and automobiles and things of that nature,” the official said.
Counter-terrorism experts have long noted that Muslim immigrants in the US are better assimilated and less likely to be radicalized than immigrants in many European cities. That’s in part because the United States has been an immigrant society since before there was a United States, since colonial days, while none of Europe saw much immigration before the 1960s.
But the connection be-tween immigration, security, economics and culture that defines the nationalist ideology of Bannon and Miller has become intertwined in Trump’s own rhetoric.
“Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW,” Trump tweeted over the weekend.
“Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world — a horrible mess!”
There will be pushback from within the government to any such drastic change. The White House staffers will likely to have to shut out immigration specialists from the Department of Homeland Security if they are to prevail.
There has already been pushback from within the State Department. A group of US diplomats has circulated a draft memo internally that argues Trump’s order “runs counter to core American values of non-discrimination, fair play and extending a warm welcome to foreign visitors and immigrants. A policy which closes our doors to over 200 million legitimate travelers in the hopes of preventing a small number of travelers who intend to harm Americans … will not achieve its aim of making our country safer.”
The Pentagon, meanwhile, with written support from Republican military veterans serving in Congress, has begun compiling a list of Iraqi citizens who have worked with the US armed forces and is recommending they be exempt from Trump’s ban. That could potentially shield tens of thousands of Iraqi interpreters, drivers, advisors and others who have worked for the US military in Iraq.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the administration recognizes the help of Iraqi interpreters and others who have served this country, but added that they would remain subject to “extreme vetting.” He said, “We should make sure that in those cases they’re helped out. But that doesn’t mean that we just give them a pass.”
The White House says the harsh immigration policy shouldn’t surprise anyone since it is based on ideas Trump laid out on the campaign trail. During a speech in Phoenix in August, Trump promised to suspend immigration from “places like Syria and Libya” and create an “ideological certification to make sure that those we are admitting to our country share our values and love our people.”
The White House also says that many people were consulted around the country, including the many people on Capitol Hill who helped with the transition. But news reports say one person who was not consulted was John Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, who will be in charge of running the new policies. He was reportedly shown the executive order Friday afternoon, just before Trump signed it.
Two GOP aides complained to the Times that Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, had “absolutely no role” in drafting Trump’s final order. They said that a memo McCaul drafted with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a longtime Trump supporter, and others focused largely on explaining “why the Muslim ban was a terrible idea.”
One of the GOP staffers told the Times, “It’s self-evident that the coordination of this executive order was bungled, that that has had consequences, and we hope that in the future the White House will more proactively engage Congress and the agencies that are affected.”