Here we go again. As of Saturday (January 28) and well into Sunday (I didn’t check late Sunday), the White House website had not yet posted the executive order that had dominated the weekend news sparking wide-spread protests. Interestingly, by Sunday other executive actions taken after the infamous order of January 27, 2017 had been posted on the White House website, but for some reason the most controversial one had not. Monday, I saw it was finally there. Whoever is running that site has no sense of timeliness for communicating with the average citizen interested in seeing the full text unfiltered by the news media. I’m beginning to wonder if the site staff shut down operation early Friday afternoons for the weekend. I’ll have to monitor that over the next few weeks. If this White House is serious about circumventing the “mainstream media”, it should post all new items before, or at the very least same time, as they are released to the news media.
Fortunately, this time the New York Times published the full text the day of the order so it has been available for review. Beginning last Friday, I started review and drafting my thoughts about it, but it was not an easy one to read and more research was necessary to confirm what news reports were saying about its content. The wildness of the weekend events kept unfolding and I tried to make revisions of my thoughts as I learned more, but ultimately decided to just shut down for a few days. So, I am finally now finishing this to get something posted and move on to other items.
In general, I see this executive order as the beginning of implementation of “extreme vetting” of foreign nationals seeking visas and immigrant or refugee status. It is a lengthy order that defies simple summary, so I am not even going to try to do that. Instead I will call attention to just a few, but certainly not all, of the most alarming parts.
It begins with what I consider to be typically “Bannon-esque” language to attempt to justify the action. It fails to justify anything, in my opinion.
On first reading, several thoughts crossed my mind. One, this order gives too much power to the collective group of the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence. By that I mean the order stipulating in several different sections the consensus (I read it as unanimity) of the three in carrying out some decisions and some exceptions to enforcement of this order. The practical application of this means anyone they deem is a ‘friend’ who otherwise would not qualify under this order to be admitted to this country, will in fact be admitted. By the same token, any person deemed not to receive an exemption or special treatment by any of the three officers stated can deny entry to that person. That is way too much power for one individual to hold in this volatile political world environment.
Two, this order effectively expands definition of acts that can lead to deportation. It is not only based on conviction of a crime, but also simply being charged with a crime. Beyond that, in the so called ‘interest of transparency’, several reports are to be published that include the numbers of foreign nationals who have been “…radicalized after entry into the United States and engaged in terrorism-related acts, or who have provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States…” How exactly such activities are going to be discovered and defined as such is not included in this executive order. Illegal surveillance may well become rampant.
Three, the provision requiring a review and potential change of visa reciprocity with other nations can only be seen as petty vindictiveness having nothing to do with the individual’s or our country’s best interest in visa approval decisions.
Four, there is reference to religious persecution as a basis for granting immigrant status, but only “…provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” This apparently is why some of the news reports I have seen or heard say only Christians will be admitted or calling this order a “Muslim ban”. The official language of the order does not mention any specific religion, but when the nations that fall under its provisions are majority Muslim, it is clear what the intent is. However, the language in this order reveals a lack of understanding, or perhaps even awareness, of the intra-Muslim conflicts that lead to religious persecution in several countries. I doubt the the vague language will consider Shia Muslims coming from a majority Sunni nation, or vice versa, as members of a minority religion. The many nuances of the Muslim world beyond Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Sufi, Wahabi, etc. are not likely recognized by the developers and signatory of this executive order, but regardless, this order does not make clear that sects would constitute minority religion status. If the president or his people would clarify this as the case, that clarification would go a long ways to dispelling the notion this is a “Muslin ban”.
Since first reading the order, one issue that has come to better light is what happens to Green Card holders. By law, they are legal residents of the United States with more or less permanent status in that regard. This is neither the time nor post to go into the detailed nuances of the Green Card law, so my comments will be limited to the fact that the order does allow exceptions to be made to the general order (as noted above) and the administration has attempted to clarify that Green Card holders will be treated as a class with less detailed vetting. Apparently there was disagreement as to how the order should be interpreted by the staff. While Homeland Security said Green Card holders were exempt from the order by virtue of that status alone, presidential advisor Steve Bannon’s view that they were not exempt and would need to be vetted won out. Although some news reports are saying there has been a change in policy due to the reaction in the public, I do not believe that is the case. It remains to be seen how the various law suits about this order in general and this issue in particular will play out.
One curious provision – to immediately expand the Consular Fellows Program – seems out of place in such a punitive executive order. This program is a means for developing future members of the State Department’s foreign service as diplomats, etc. It is a kind of internship/training program. As I recall, one of the actions of President Obama that I reviewed last year included some mention of expediting the hiring of fellows from this and other programs. My early conclusion on why this provision is placed in this order comes from the concurrent news about all the State Department senior staff being let go. This appears to be an attempt to rush replacements for the needed staff in embassies and other venues of action by the State Department. This provision seems to be getting lost in the controversy over other items, because I have seen nothing about this in news reports
There are so many progress and follow-up reports required in this order by various departments and on various timetables, that I cannot help but wonder if this president also expects each of those reports to be one page in length. His well documented short attention span could hardly handle anything more than that, it seems.
Much more could be said about this insideous attempt at appeasing a small minority of voters by “delivering on a campaign promise”, but the news media have covered and continue to cover this so extensively, that I will refrain from writing more here and now.
Apparent Executive Order reportedly signed January 27, 2017