A very smart article was posted on the website, The Imaginative Conservative, defending opponents of Muslim immigration. The article was prompted by Donald Trump’s executive order requiring a higher-than-usual standard for vetting immigrants from Middle Eastern countries, presumably to ward off the hoards of refugees fleeing that region – hoards that might include terrorists.
As you have heard, Trump issued an executive order on January 27 titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The order includes numerous paragraphs of procedures for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement to ostensibly keep us safe from the “bad guys.” Invoking the horrific memory of 9/11, the order states,
Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.
So far, so good. Not many Americans would object to that statement. But it’s not the statement, or any sincere sentiment behind it, that is the problem. The problem is the policy. Though Trump’s order does not contain the words Islam or Muslim, the “extreme vetting” process applies only to immigrants from that part of the world. I should say up front, I’m a big proponent of profiling, whether in this case or in the case of numerous public policies when effectiveness requires a rifle-shot approach, not a shotgun approach. Public policy always is better the more personal it gets and always worse in the aggregate. Our reverence for the rule of law seems to belie that priority, but not really. The rule of law requires justice and justice rarely is served in the aggregate. There is a difference between applying the law equally and using the law to tar people with the same brush.
The article in The Imaginative Conservative challenges the idea that Trump’s Muslim brush is the same as another man’s discrimination brush. The claim by opponents of Trump’s executive order is that it’s discriminatory; that not all Muslims are terrorists and, ipso facto, the wholesale ban on Muslim immigration is unjust. The article I mention begs to differ.
The author reminds us of wholesale discrimination against Catholics in early America. He writes, “Catholics and non-Catholics alike now laugh at the anti-Catholic prejudice of the Know-Nothings (aka The American Party) and other groups who were opposed to immigration from Catholic countries in Europe. The anti-Catholics based their objection on the belief that Catholics owed allegiance to a foreign power (the Vatican), and thus, Catholics could never be truly loyal to America and its Constitution. More than that, there were dark rumors about a papist plot to take over America, and about an undersea tunnel that connected the Vatican to New York. This view—that Catholics could never assimilate to America’s democratic culture—persisted in some quarters up until the election of John F. Kennedy.”
The author then asks, “But what if all the things that were once falsely charged against Catholicism are actually true of Islam?” He then cites the idea of theocracy (Catholics no, Islam yes), loyalty to nation or faith (Catholics nation, Islam faith), subjection to foreign influence (Catholics no, Islam likely), bound by Canon law or Constitutional law (Catholics constitution, Islam canon or sharia), and the quest to take over this country (Catholics nope, Islam constantly). The author concludes, “The term “Know-Nothings” originally referred to its members’ habit of responding to every question about its activities with the reply ‘I know nothing.’ The moniker also captured the ignorance of its nativist members. Their opposition to Catholic immigrants was largely based on misinformation. Today, however, the situation is reversed. It’s not the opponents of immigration that are ill-informed, but its proponents.”
It is hard to argue with such claims – unless you maintain the rational habit of NOT tarring all people with the same brush. Precisely because of the historic and circumstantial differences between Catholicism and Islam in America, we cannot lump all Muslims together any more than Catholics. I’m all for vetting immigrants and refugees understanding there are many humane ways to do it, even within the visa-issuance process. But we’re not hunting Muslims; we’re hunting terrorists. In fact, we’re not hunting human beings generally; we’re hunting human beings who specifically desire to hurt us. So why profile Muslims and refugees? Why are we not profiling suspected terrorists?
Trump’s order is not surprising. It contains the exact spirit of his fears concerning undocumented immigrants. Trump’s immigration ideas are irrational and so, too, is his order against an entire faith of people. When I spread pest control on my lawn, I don’t use a toxin that kills the lawn. I use a toxin that saves the lawn and kills the bugs. Why is that process so hard for Trump to understand?