Executive Orders and “Extreme Vetting”

President Trump issued a very broad executive order yesterday, banning immigration for up to 120 days, and including so-called “Green Card” holders, holders of permanent visas.  This order was effective immediately and almost immediately protests erupted.  Moreover, several Federal judges have issued temporary injunctions against the order’s application to certain individuals.  Political types on roughly the same side of the spectrum have disagreed—Libertarians seem to be dead set against it, while Conservatives appear in general support.  Finally, Christians are coming out on both sides of this order.

My goal here is to examine this order from a policy standpoint and as a Christian.  Before I begin, I am aware that some readers may hold strong opinions.  I am attempting here to remain as objective as I can, but will obviously “land” somewhere.

From a policy standpoint, first, the president is obviously acting consistently with his campaign promises, but he has not acted more radically—but rather, less radically—than he promised in the campaign.  So right off, we can see that the executive order (EO) was less stringent than one might have expected.  What then does it do?  Very simply, it forbids entry into the United States, for a period of no more than 90 or 120 days, any person who comes from a nation designated for “extreme vetting.”  These nations are located in the Middle East and are predominantly Muslim.  The order applies to any person who is a citizen of one of those nations, even if they hold dual citizenship or permanent visas.  The nations affected are considered sources of terrorism by the administration.  Finally, exceptions can be granted by the proper officials.

Was the EO too broad?  Probably a little too broad.  The president perhaps should have exempted Green Card holders, while at the same time ensuring that their presence here was legitimate.  As I write, I have learned that Green Card holders are exempted from the order.  Was this order specifically aimed at Muslims, as some assert?  This is a thorny question.  It seems obvious that it is primarily aimed at terrorism.  It incidentally affects Muslims more than non-Muslims, since terrorism originates predominantly in Muslim countries and regions—except for those “home grown” terrorists who are citizens of nations not generally known to produce terrorists.  The argument that Muslims are being targeted is then misplaced.

In addition, it is a pretty well-established principle that each nation has a basic right of sovereignty (though that has been eroded recently).  Sovereignty includes those measures that actually preserve a nation as a coherent and stable political and legal entity, including its political and legal institutions.  It hardly needs further explanation to say that potential terrorism can severely erode a nations stability, and even destroy its existence over time.

What about immigration in general?  I have said before that in general I favor open immigration, but consistent with the idea of sovereignty, I favor carefully controlled open immigration, the kind that does not threaten the very institutions that have made the United States the particular nation it is.  The nation, through its government, has the legal authority and duty to preserve those institutions. When it perceives them to be potentially threatened, it may act within the parameters of the Constitution.  The president has the chief authority to take such actions.  As an aside, I am confident that any lower court rulings would be overturned on appeal, though there are some possible limits set by Supreme Court precedents.  But most of those have to do with withholding funds from sanctuary cities and not with general immigration policy (but see Illya Somin of George Mason Scalia Law School for a possibly different opinion).  Personally, I welcome any and all cultures, but not all civilizational elements are “created equal.”  Civilization includes aspects like the legal and political ideas and institutions, among other elements, the kinds of things that bring unity and stability while allowing diversity in cultural practices and customs.

Finally, what ought a Christian think?  Once again, some are invoking the Old Testament texts that tell the Hebrew people to welcome the stranger and the alien, apparently without any restrictions at all in the interpretation of those opposing the order or immigration restrictions of any kind.  I don’t disagree that these texts can be used as general principles to guide a nation, since the Hebrew Commonwealth was established by God and governed by laws given by Him for their good.  Therefore, what we see in the laws cannot be bad in itself for a nation, though of course we have to be careful in interpreting and applying the texts properly. But there are several problems with this view held by those opposing Trump.  First, those invoking the texts to welcome the stranger and alien have apparently forgotten the associated texts that command that the aliens who wish to live among the Hebrews (as “citizens”) also are required to obey the laws of that nation.  That in turn would seem to have a valid application that allows a nation’s government to make a determination as to whether those seeking citizenship are trustworthy.  This “extreme vetting” includes screening for possible terrorists and criminals.  In addition, it presupposes some legal mechanism for attaining citizenship.  Illegal immigration would not have been condoned then, and need not be condoned now.   If we take the laws as a whole and not just selected few, they actually can support both an open kind of immigration and strict screening.

I am sure Christians will continue to disagree on this contentious issue.  But we also are called to think carefully about it and to look to all Scripture as our guide.  I hope this blog has contributed to a reasoned discussion.


27 thoughts on “Executive Orders and “Extreme Vetting””

  1. “The nations affected are considered sources of terrorism by the administration.”

    Considered perhaps by an IGNORANT administration.

    Really? Then why aren’t Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan (sorry if this is misspelled), Kuwait, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Lebanon on the list?

    The seven nations on the ban list, according to one estimate, make up less than ten percent of Muslim terrorists since 9/11. The nations above make up most of the 90+percent.

    If the purpose of the ban was to protect Americans from nations that tend to produce terrorists, then it has already failed.

  2. “but see Illya Somin of George Mason Scalia Law School for a possibly different opinion”

    See Volokh Conspiracy page at WP (Liked VC for many years now). New essay from him is there.

  3. I’m sorry, I can’t even read this. Trump banned citizens of the united States from entering the country. Regardless of anything else, that is just plain wrong. American citizens have a right to enter their own country.

    1. No, U.S. citizens are specifically exempt, but this does affect dual citizens from other countries, if one of their citizenships is among the 7 banned.

      I’m with Jeff on this one, seems very arbitrary that these particular 7 were picked.

    2. On that, I agree. But I am talking mainly about non-citizens. As for dual citizenship, it does present a problem, but remember they are also citizens of one of the designated nations. As for the other nations not included, there are reasons, some political and some policy-related, and I can see a rationale to some degree. But if anything, that should lead you to want those non-included nations to be included, not the reverse.

      1. Out of those seven nations apparently arbitrarily listed for the ban, only two have ever produced individuals who perpetrated an act of terrorism on the United States.

        I jhope you are not another one of those so-called small government conservatives who can easily rationalize using big government to violate the rights of others.

        Kudos to those genuine believers out there who are denouncing this anti-American and anti-Christian abuse of power.

  4. Just noting, for the record, that the “arbitrary” choice of the seven nations was based on legislation signed by President Obama in 2015 and amended in 2016. So the “arbitrary” selection of these seven originated with Obama.

    Also, sorry, but whether one supports or denounces the order is not in any way whatsoever indicative of whether someone is a true believer or not. Personally, though I do think, as Dr. Clauson does, it maybe is a bit too broad, I tend to support the order with the explicit condition that it is only temporary, which it expressly is. As I see it, to use an illustration, when trying to fix the plumbing, sometimes you have to turn the water off to make the fix, and once done, the water is turned back on.

    Finally, I would say that people on both sides just simply need to control their emotions. Each side makes good points and needs to stop demonizing the other as anti-American or anti-Christian. Those accusations are flung about far too casually these days.

    1. How do YOU know it is temporary? Do you know the future? It seems pretty clear that the root of this is not about national security, but also enacting a ban on Muslims. Listen to Giuliani.http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/316726-giuliani-trump-asked-me-how-to-do-a-muslim-ban-legally

      Yes, they are flung too casually, but this is not one of them. This is about religious discrimination. I consider that anti-American.

      Even Dick Cheney–torture apologist and all–considers it as such. He has said “I think this whole notion that somehow we can just say no more Muslims, just ban a whole religion, goes against everything we stand for and believe in.”

      We are talking about families being broken apart and our fellow humans suffering. I consider support of such behavior as anti-Christian. Jesus made it clear that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. This clearly fails that test.

      Please do not bring Obama into this. He does not support this, obviously.

      I will stand by my statement. One cannot follow the Jesus of the Bible and support this. And, yes, the complete botching of this is anti-American. It is one thing to calmly and rationally vet potential threats to this nations. I agree with such an approach, but what has happened in recent days is neither calm nor rational.

      1. The order specifically spells out the time periods until the bans are lifted. When it says “for 90 days” I assume that means 90 days. If that changes in the future, then you can expect my cautious support for this to drop.

        I listened to Giuliani. Unlike you, apparently, I read ALL of what he said. He described the process by which it was crafted and the idea to base it on religion was dropped very early on and he and Trump both have stated the final version is not religiously based. So, no, it is not at all clear that intentional religious discrimination was the primary factor.

        And I will bring Obama into this when it is logical to and it was specifically as it regarded the question “why these 7?”. The answer to “why Trump picked these 7?” is that these 7 were identified as problem nations under the Obama administration. That was the extent of the point and anyone that can read should have been able to tell that.

        You can insist it is a Muslim ban all you want, and cite all the quotes you want, but the facts simply do not support you. There are dozens of Muslim-majority nations in the world and most of them are completely unaffected by the order. If this were truly about religious discrimination, then another 40 or so nations would have been included, or the order would simply have said “anyone identifying as Muslim from anywhere”. It does not. Your logic fails.

        Yes, the roll out of the order could have been handled much better, and has generated alot of confusion. But that does not make it anti-American. Botching something means botching something, nothing more, nothing less.

        Finally, a secular government is not bound by the same duties as the church or the individual Christian. Yes, we are to love our neighbors. That is a requirement of the church, not the United States government. The church is to show the love of Christ to the world, the government’s God-given duty is to protect its citizens. The implication of an action being anti-Christian would be to classify that action as a sin. I am sorry, but supporting a temporary ban on immigration from 7 of the nearly 200 nations in the world is not in anyway sinful. And I will continue to stand by that statement.

  5. ‘The argument that Muslims are being targeted is then misplaced.’

    I agreed with most of your analysis. I disagree here. Trump has publicly declared that Christian refugees would receive priority going forward. I don´t think we can get away from the conclusion that, in his mind at least, this is quite deliberately aimed at excluding a religious group.

    1. Well, the executive order gives persecuted religious minorities priority. That could be very easily applied to persecuted Sunni and Shi`ite minorities, depending on the country.

      1. Sure. But that’s not what Trump has said. My point wasn’t about technically how it could be used. I was pointing out, when we look at the intent behind the move, that Trump has made it clear what he intends.

      2. That actually brings up a very important question: What is Trump’s intent?
        One of the issues that I have with Trump (and the Clintons) is that we can’t really trust anything that they say. As a side note, Trump has actually surprised me with how well he has followed through with his campaign promises. However, because I find it difficult to believe anything that Trump has said, I find it helpful to look at what Trump has actually done rather than what he has said.
        Based on what the executive order says, I don’t think we can reach the conclusion that this is aimed at excluding a religious group.

  6. I still say “Extreme Vetting” sounds like a bridal themed reality show hosted by Dracula.

    1. I respect you, and your essays here are the best on this blog by far; but I am not sure this is a time for humor. I know you didn’t mean anything bad. People are needlessly suffering today. I just cannot find that funny. Sorry.

  7. I will admit that it is not a ban on all Muslim-majority nations. Rather, it is an attempt of DJT to fulfill his campaign promise of a Muslim ban.

    As DJT advisor Rudy Giuliani has said, DJT has desired a legal way to enact a “Muslim ban.” That’s been the goal.

    Recognizing he could not ban all Muslims from entering or reentering the country, for legal and for practical reasons, he (white supremacist Steve Bannon from Breitbart) chose seven Muslim majority nations so he would avoid legal hot water. Which by accounts has failed. He is in deep hot water, and this nation may have a constitutional crisis on its hands.

    All because he wanted to enact a Muslim ban. Within days after becoming president.

    You are free to say it is not a Muslim ban. I say it is.

    1. A constitutional crisis? For what reason?
      Whatever you think of the ban, even if it were an actual Muslim ban, it is legal, at least according to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. Section 1182(f) states: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate”

      Now that seems pretty cut and dry to me. “Any class” of aliens. No religious, ethnic, or national exemptions. Sure, it is valid to debate the wisdom of the order, the morality of the order, the effectiveness of the order, or the necessity of the order. All those are important concerns to many people. But what many are doing right now, whipping people into frenzies with accusations of unconstitutionality, etc is downright false.

      On one thing we agree. He is doing it to fulfill a campaign promise.

  8. Nathan said, “Yes, we are to love our neighbors. That is a requirement of the church, not the United States government.”

    Do you see what you just did? Think about it.

    Just for an example…

    So why then oppose abortion? If you believe that respecting pre-born life, assuming it such respect biblical, is a requirement of the church and not of the US government, then why oppose it in the public sphere?

    Your response clearly indicates that biblical principles are not to be put into practice by government. OR, that you are picking and choosing which principles you want government to enforce.

    All I have to say is, WOW.

    1. You never fail to misrepresent other people’s arguments when you don’t agree. You are trying to say that because the Bible says both things they must universally apply to all people and institutions the same way? I’ll let Nathan respond since he’s the one you’re misrepresenting.

      1. Oh, poppycock.

        I did not misrepresent his arguments. I directly quoted him and then gave it the old reductio ad absurdum treatment.

        Far too many Christians are staying silent at the damage being done largely by a white supremacist member of DJT’s staff (Steven Bannon). Fortunately, some Christians are speaking up and doing more.

        What do I hear on this blog regarding this? Tacit support from one blogger (at least that is apparent through his comments), but nothing from anyone one else. Then again, considering the campus’s demographic (largely white rich kids who can easily bury their heads in the sand while others are suffering), I cannot say I am all that surprised.

      2. You like big words that make you sound all intellectual don’t you? What damage do you believe is being done? What proof do you have that Steve Bannon is a white supremacist?

        “Then again, considering the campus’s demographic (largely white rich kids who can easily bury their heads in the sand while others are suffering), I cannot say I am all that surprised.”

        The baseless attacks against CU continue, huh? Why do you hurl accusations based on your personal assumptions?

    2. Jeff, yes, you did misrepresent my arguments.

      “Your response clearly indicates that biblical principles are not to be put into practice by government.”

      It does nothing of the sort. It simply recognizes the difference between principles to be followed by the individual and ones to be followed by the government. I’ll give you an example. The individual is not to kill. individuals acting as sanctioned agents of the government however, are permitted to do so in certain cases (soldiers in war, capital punishment).

      So why oppose abortion? Because I believe abortion is the deliberate taking of a Human life incapable of defending itself or speaking for itself and because I believe the primary Biblical responsibility given to government is to protect the lives of its people, and since I believe the pre-born are people, then I am going to, in the public sphere, advocate for the government to protect those it should be protecting.

      The failure by governments to carry out their biblical duty in this regard is largely what is causing the crisis in the first place. The Syrian government should be protecting its citizens in the first place so we don’t have to and that should be the priority of the US, helping other nations to be able to do what they should be doing in the first place, not doing it for them.

      But even assuming that “love they neighbor” is a principle the government should follow, that is hardly a policy implication. As an individual, I love my neighbors, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong for me to have a fence (or, ahem, a wall) around my property or to lock my doors. The same with a nation. The government has every right to restrict who can and who cannot enter its borders. And what the government chooses to do in that regard is not determinate of whether it “loves them” or not. The temporary halt to immigration from seven countries does not mean it hates the people in those countries. Not at all.

    3. Jeff, I would like you to say those words to someone right in front of you. Quit hiding behind your computer screen and start talking to people like they are people and not tools for you to lash out on and maybe people would respect what you say. I understand that people have disagreements, but if you call yourself a Christian then why do you treat fellow Christians like pieces of trash? Honestly, would you go up to a CU student and say “You are a rich white kid who buries their head in the sand while others are suffering”? Not only is that so false, but it is just rude. To a certain extent, you criticize Trump for lashing out on people who disagree with him, but how are you any different? The only difference is that at least Trump is sometimes justified in doing so. Point being, despite how wrong you think someone is, talking to them like you are their supreme authority and being a jerk about it while calling yourself a Christian is a paradox.

  9. The Muslim focus, in my opinion, is a very purposeful and intentional act. Trump has been quoted by saying that he would allow Christians to immigrate from even the banned countries and that is not the role of the government. Just look at the PAC writing prompt “was the American revolution biblical?” and it pretty much sums up the role of the government in this area. Why are certain countries banned? not for fear of terrorism, but for fear mongering. All the countries that have produced known terrorists are not banned and for a very persuasive reason: money.

  10. The Bible makes it clear that hospitality is honorable (Romans 12:13, 20; John 12:1-2 etc.). When I heard of this executive order I was sad to hear that people who want to enjoy the United States are being stopped, but I also know safety is a big concern now days. Trump did promise to make big moves like this in his campaign. I will not agree with everything that he does, so I try to think of some good that is coming from his campaign – like SC nominations – and leave the rest to the ultimate Judge.

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