President Trump’s new immigration Executive Order (EO) was issued. You can read it at the New York Times of March 6, 2017: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/06/us/politics/trump-executive-order-immigration-text.html
The order is a variation on his earlier January 27 order which was stopped from taking effect by a Federal court and the Federal Ninth Circuit. How is this one different? First, it exempts any person who has some legally granted right to be in the United States, those with “green cards,” those with valid visas, etc. Second it removed Iraq from the list of targeted nations, since that nation has stated it will engage in strict screening. The EO is predicated on both the president’s authority under Article II of the Constitution and Congressional authorization under 8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq., and section 301 of title 3, United States Code. In addition the order explicitly states that its intent is not to ban Muslims per se but to establish a proper procedure to screen immigrants. This EO will pass muster in Federal court, though if it is challenged again somewhere on the West coast, it might get a little opposition in the lower court. Certainly the Supreme Court will not strike it down.
Will it be effective? I can’t say. I am a little concerned that since some nations that have produced terrorists and who look the other way at radicalization are not included, the temporary order will not be all that effective. But then again, since it is temporary, the final process may be sufficient for all nations.
Some pundits and politicians have said that the order isn’t necessary since we have had so few terrorists from other nations. And some have condemned it because they just don’t like restrictions of any sort on immigration. And some say our current procedures are so extensive and thorough that the EO is a solution looking for a problem. Let me address these.
The first objection seems irrelevant. Just because we have to this point had so few terrorists from other nations does not mean the future will always be the same. Moreover, it is not clear whether the allegation is correct. It seems for example that more than a few people from other nations have been arrested on terrorism charges since 2001. It doesn’t take many to cause problems either.
The second objection is just a fundamental disagreement about the sovereignty of a nation and its right to address the question of who should be admitted. That I can’t settle here. At any rate, I have said something already in several blogs. While I welcome immigrants, we cannot allow criminals and potential terrorists. Thus, some sort of screening is most definitely legitimate.
Finally, are our current procedures actually as good as officials allege? Procedures are only on paper. What actually happens “on the ground” is the key question. I have said it before and I say it again. Large bureaucratic agencies, and especially those that have a large number of long-entrenched bureaucrats, are prone to many pathologies. Some of these may well affect how well rules are followed. And oversight is hard to do if Congress and the heads of agencies simply cannot or will not put in the time and effort required. Oversight is even more difficult if the agency head does not wish to pursue any action that might upset the bureaucrats.
Again, will this EO be successful? That depends on what we want it to do. If it is simply a holding period during which new and better policies are enacted, then it may be what is needed. If we expect too much, then of course it will fail in our eyes. But in addition to possibly better screening process, we also need to address agencies themselves and their pathologies. That certainly included the State Department, an agency that for years now has been suspected of being, shall we say, a bit more independent than it should be.