In the two weeks since he raised his right hand and swore to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, Donald Trump has shut down the entire refugee program for 120 days; pledged that Christian refugees would be given priority when the program resumes; blocked visas to visitors from seven Muslim countries; granted immigration officials power to deny entry to green-card holders from those Muslim countries; promised to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrants; redefined the category of “criminals subject to deportation” to include people whoICE considers a security risk even if they haven’t been charged or convicted of a crime; and threatened to withhold federal grant money from sanctuary cities if they don’t comply with his executive orders.
All this is immoral. There is reason to believe that it is illegal as well. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished the use of national origins in immigration quotas, choosing instead to make skills and family relationships the primary criteria by which an applicant can be judged. Establishing a religious test for refugees runs counter to the values of a country founded on the idea of religious freedom. As for permanent residents, they’re entitled to the protections guaranteed by the Constitution. A federal judge in New York agrees: A day after the ban went into effect and Muslim travelers were detained at airports, she issued an emergency stay.
Trump’s ban currently affects seven countries: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen. At least since 1975, not one fatal terrorist attack inside the United States has been committed by a national from these countries. In fact, with the exception of Iran, the United States has bombed every one of these countries. The administration’s position is clear: We will destroy your homes in our search for terrorists, and if you flee either the bombing or the terrorists, we will close our borders to you. This executive order does not improve the safety of Americans. Quite the opposite: It endangers Americans, because it serves as a recruiting tool for terrorists.
On the day Trump announced his ban, my daughter’s class went on a field trip to the Holocaust Museum in Los Angeles. She returned from school deeply affected by the experience. It seemed incomprehensible to her that people stood by while members of a religious group were marched to death camps. At dinner, when our conversation turned to the executive orders, she worried that the president might deport us. “He can’t deport you, you were born here,” I said. “But what about you?” she asked. “He can’t,” I insisted, “I’m a citizen.”
I only said this to comfort her. The truth is that I am not at all confident that my US passport will protect me. Who is to say what other countries Trump might target next? Who is to say that the ban might not be expanded to naturalized citizens? Some of my friends tell me the president can’t do anything. It would be unconstitutional, they say. But we have known for many months that Trump’s businesses around the world pose conflicts of interest, which would put him in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. He promised several times to resolve these conflicts, but he hasn’t. In addition, he reportedly continues to use an unsecured Android phone inside the White House, which puts him at risk of surveillance from foreign powers and violates the Presidential Records Acts.