It’s been a week since President Trump unveiled his executive order banning refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries. Since its signing, it has been rightly criticized. In case you missed it, the ban was a bad idea and unreasonable. A generous description would stop at under-reviewed. From a political perspective, it was done in the least conscientious manner possible.
So, a week later, what’s missing from the story? I think it’s important to ask this question: Does anyone think Trump actually cares about the millions who are trying to escape the atrocities being committed by ISIS and in the Syrian conflict?
If not, why would he do the following? Reuters reports:
“Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, in a telephone call on Sunday with U.S. President Donald Trump, agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, a White House statement said. Trump, during his presidential campaign last year, had called for Gulf states to pay for establishing safe zones to protect Syrian refugees.
‘The president requested, and the King agreed, to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts,’ the statement said.”
Urging more participation from the Gulf States makes sense. It also makes sense to settle refugees closer to their homes. That way, when peace is established, they can go back.
The Washington Post reports that these wealthy Gulf states are doing a pretty awful job at accommodating the influx leaving the responsibility to countries like Jordan, Turkey and other European countries. Ishaan Tharoor wrote a little over a year ago:
“As Amnesty International recently pointed out, the ‘six Gulf countries — Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.’”
Since then, not much has changed. In his piece for The World Post, “The Best Way To Truly Help The Refugees In Syria,” Dr. Munr Kazmir writes: “[T]here is no excuse for…Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states…not to pitch in much more, especially Saudi Arabia.”
If the gulf states were to accept more refugees, the United States would probably be more than willing to help financially. Since the Syrian civil war began, the United States has given more money for aid than any other country—$5.9 billion as of September, 2016.
Moreover, resettling refugees in the Middle East is much more cost-effective than resettling them in the United States. The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that it costs 12 times as much to resettle one refugee in the United States compared to a neighboring middle-eastern country.
Can Trump successfully get the Gulf States to increase their support? Maybe. But if they accomplish this, will it be enough? Probably not.
But I want to focus on the question previously raised. If Trump is indifferent to the plight of the refugees, why would he seek an alternative course to help them?
The answer is straightforward but has one caveat: He wants ameliorate the crisis, but he is fundamentally misguided.
How so? Let me put it this way. Yes, there is a possibility that terrorists could slip through the system and enter the United States. But the odds are so small, it’s not worth bucking the whole operation.
Conservatives, we need to be consistent in our risk assessment. Radical Islam is a serious problem. But statistically, the threat of an American dying on U.S. soil due to a terrorist attack is incredibly small. We are quick to oppose blanket bans against semi-automatic weapons based in part on the microscopic chance (a librarian at Princeton compared the numbers well) of being killed in a mass shooting. We should also oppose a blanket ban on refugees. Both are at least partially motivated by fear.
I’m not endorsing an open-doors policy similar to that of Germany, which has had negative repercussions. But we have accepted nowhere near the number of refugees that Germany has. If we were to accept a proportional number of refugees, we would accept around 4 million. How many have we let in? Last year, it was a little over 100,000. I think we can sustain those levels while President Trump seeks other solutions to the unspeakable violence going on.
My message to the left is that certain aspects of Trump’s executive order make for better policy than they’ve been given credit.
The vetting system could use a vetting of its own. In addition, giving preference to Christians and other religious minorities should be a bipartisan measure. Some might invoke the first amendment and argue the the government cannot make decisions based on religion. But this does not apply to non-citizens, and the U.S. has a history of giving preference to minority groups seeking asylum from persecution. Trump has a point that Christians face greater danger and difficulty.
Dan Mclaughlin gives some interesting insight for the National Review:
“Liberals are normally the first people to argue that American policy should give preferential treatment to groups that are oppressed and discriminated against, but because Christians are the dominant religious group here — and the bêtes noires of domestic liberals — there is little liberal interest in accommodating U.S. refugee policy to the reality on the ground in Syria.”
The prioritization of persecuted minorities–Christian refugees in this case–is smart policy.
Before I sign off, I want to offer one last point to both conservatives and liberals.
Throughout this whole ordeal, conservatives have pointed to liberal hypocrisy on refugees. Obama temporarily denied entry to Iraqi refugees and ended the wet-foot dry-foot policy for refugees fleeing the brutal dictatorship in Cuba, but we didn’t see people storming Miami beach crying for justice.
But my message to both groups is that liberals are not to blame for this double-standard. That responsibility lies solely on the President. Trump is responsible for earning people’s trust. The reason no one was in uproar when Obama denied entry to Iraqis and Cubans is because no one thought he doing it out of xenophobia. Trump’s past rhetoric has given people the impression that he hates and fears Muslims. If he wants to lead our country, it’s his responsibility to demonstrate that he is worthy of respect and assuage any doubts of his respect for everyone. Blame-shifting isn’t leadership. It’s cowardice.
In today’s outrage culture, it is not only popular, but necessary to attribute the worst motivations to one’s opponents. My hope and prayer is that, as a country, we can move beyond the fear that has captured our discourse and actions— both fear of each other and fear of others.