President Donald Trump this week took another run at his disastrous ban on travel from predominantly Muslim nations. This version appears to be less unconstitutional and less pointlessly punitive toward Iraqi translators, college kids with valid visas and law-abiding legal residents.
But make no mistake: The executive order Trump signed Monday is every bit as counterproductive and antithetical to American values as the one in January that set off mass national protests. And – like an unsettling number of the president’s moves, including his bizarre weekend claim that his “wires” had been tapped by former President Barack Obama – it appears to have no factual basis.
Trump’s initial ban was premised on the notion that national security was at risk from extremists from Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Based on that, he ordered that vetting for foreign visitors be toughened, that refugee admissions be slashed, and that, pending new rules, admission of foreign nationals and refugees from those countries – except for “persecuted” non-Muslims – be suspended for 90 to 120 days.
But not one person from those countries has been involved in a fatal U.S. terrorist attack in the 16 years since 9/11, and the 9/11 hijackers weren’t from those countries. Only 36 Muslims have been implicated in such attacks inside the U.S. since 2001, and of those 32 were either born here or came as minors, according to a database maintained by University of North Carolina sociologist Charles Kurzman. None were from banned nations. Statistically, people here are more likely to be killed for being a Muslim than to be killed by one.
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Trump knows this. An internal study by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, done after the widespread denunciation of his first ban, found that national origin “is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.” Harsh U.S. policies, though, play into terrorist propaganda. And he has yet to explain what the supposed problem is with existing vetting, particularly for refugees.
Trump’s new ban has dropped Iraq from the list – a better-late-than-never attempt to avoid alienating an ally in the fight against the Islamic State – and limited temporary restrictions to people who haven’t yet been issued visas, to minimize civil rights challenges. It also has removed the constitutionally dubious “persecuted religious minorities” loophole from the refugee freeze.
But it will still probably be legally challenged, as it should: Spin aside, this is a Muslim ban, pure and simple. Its aim isn’t to make us more secure. It’s to strong-arm a fact-based nation into a fiction-based policy.