Friday, January 27, 2017

Flashing for the refugees

My parents both entered the US as refugees from Nazi Europe, My mother and her family were from Nuremberg and got out via the UK. Here՚s the passenger manifest from their trip from Liverpool to the US in 1940.



And here՚s her passport from Nazi Germany:



Trump, because there's no level of cartoon villainy too farfetched for him to play to, chose International Holocaust Remembrance Day to announce a ban on admitting any refugees to the US.

The calamity that is his presidency is starting to impact real, specific people, in addition to irreparably damaging the world standing of the US. Sorry refugees, in addition to having your home destroyed, you now have your fate dangling at the whim of an ignorant and narcissistic sociopath, which the US – occasionally advertising itself as a beacon of freedom and hope for the world – decided to elect as its leader.

Oh well I never much believed in countries and governments anyway. The values of freedom and humanity are real enough, but I don՚t really expect states to embody them consistently. Now that we've decided to turn ours into complete shit, they will have to manifest themselves through other means. I support the International Rescue Committee, please consider doing the same.


11 comments:

Scott said...

It's not "a ban on admitting any refugees to the US." It's a moratorium on travel or immigration from seven named countries for 90 days, and on the entry of Syrian refugees for 120 days. Exaggerating it doesn't help your argument.

An emotional and nostalgic appeal to your family history also isn't really relevant. Jewish refugees from 1930s Germany did not, to the best of my knowledge, set off bombs at events like the Boston marathon as the Tsarnaev brothers did, shoot up their workplaces as Nidal Hassan or Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik did, behead their co-workers as Alton Nolen did, drive trucks into crowded public spaces as Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel did in Nice and Anis Amri did in Berlin, spray a public theatre with machine-gun fire as groups of Muslim terrorists did in Paris, and on and on and on.

The common thread connecting all of these events is militant Salafist/Wahhabist Islam. It takes willful blindness not to see this. Such terrorism is the product of a belief system that encompasses not only a religion, but also a political ideology and a system of laws which are incompatible with the kind of secular, democratic, religiously pluralistic, and sexually egalitarian order that prevails in the western world. It is amazing to see people who purport to believe in that order defend and sympathize with people whose fondest wish is to destroy it and them.

There are doubtless many innocent and harmless people among the refugees from the Middle East, but there is no way at present to distinguish them from those who wish to do harm, and who have claimed refugee status to enable themselves to do it.

Trump's order was hamfisted in its drafting and amateurish in execution, typical of what we have seen so often during his campaign, but I believe it will stand up legally in most if not all aspects. The need for a pause in order to determine how to vet these people is reasonable. If anything 90 days for the seven named countries, and 120 days for Syria are very tight deadlines.

mtraven said...

You are wrong on the facts; Trump's refugee ban extends to all countries.

You are also wrong about Jews, who are just as capable of terrorism as Muslims (although they didn't have much occasion to practice it much in the US, unless you want to count the Jewish members of the Weathermen). Ever hear of the King David Hotel bombing? Or Kach and Meir Kahane?

The common thread connecting all of these events is militant Salafist/Wahhabist Islam.

That may be true. What evidence is there that refugees from Syria are Wahhabis? There are 1 billion Muslims in the world, and maybe 20 million Wahhabis (actually I couldn't find a good figure with Google, so that is a guess),

Under your logic, we could ban all Christians because of the action of the IRA.

And of course Trump's edict did not target the major Waahabi countries like Saudi Arabia, and did include Shia countries like Iran who are extremely hostile to Waahabism.

Trump's order was hamfisted in its drafting and amateurish in execution, typical of what we have seen so often during his campaign, but I believe it will stand up legally in most if not all aspects.

We'll see...it's being fought out right now, the recently departed acting Attorney General seems to differ with your no doubt educated opinion.

Look, let's grant your basic assumptions: there are some people who want to do us harm and they should be kept out of the country. No doubt that is the case. Do you think banning all Iranians, including graduate students like Samira Asgari, who was headed for a computational biology postdoc at Harvard and is now stranded, is a good way to accomplish this goal? Is the goal of safety so paramount that it should be achieved at all costs, even the cost of severing productive relationships with the rest of the world?

Nothing about this makes even a particle of sense. Even George W. Bush, who I have no love for, had enough sense to know that it would not be a good idea to declare all of Islam an enemy.

Scott said...

It's a question of the volume and frequency of terroristic activity. Yes, Jews and Christians (and atheists) have committed terroristic acts in the past. None of these were on the scale of recent Islamic terrorism.

Moreover Jewish and Christian terrorism has long been quiescent. If Zionists were actively bombing hotels or the Provisional IRA were resuming its attacks, I'd hope that the President acted to prevent persons originating in the hotbeds of such activity from entering the United States. We aren't facing such terrorism, though - the terrorism we face is being committed by Muslims, in the name of Islam.

You'll note that I wrote Wahhabi AND Salafist. Al-Qaeda (and its Syrian affiliate al-Nusra) are Wahhabi; Usama bin Laden was Wahhabi. ISIS is Salafist. The Muslim Brotherhood is Salafist. Both Wahhabis and Salafists are Sunni. When we look at the Syrian refugees admitted in FY 2016, 12,363 of the 12,587 were recorded as Sunni Muslims. Only 24 Yazidis and 68 Christians were admitted. Considering that Yazidis and Christians have been the principal victims of persecution in Syria, Yazidis are estimated to be 1% and Christians about 10% of the Syrian population, it is curious that such relatively small numbers of these groups were admitted.

We have no effective way of knowing what the backgrounds of the persons claiming refugee status are. In some cases we don't even know whether they are really Syrian. Don't you think it would be a good idea to find out about more about such persons before letting them enter?

Here's a perspective from the Netherlands on this issue:

http://www.dutchnews.nl/features/2017/01/it-is-almost-impossible-to-tell-a-jihadi-from-an-asylum-seeker/

mtraven said...

We have no effective way of knowing what the backgrounds of the persons claiming refugee status are...Don't you think it would be a good idea to find out about more about such persons before letting them enter?

Oh bullshit. We were already submitting Syrian refugees to an intensive vetting process, as has been widely publicized. The current executive order does nothing to help us "find out more about them", as you said.

No security policy is perfectly foolproof, of course. Nor without costs. Let's say the Trump regime keeps out 1 potential terrorist at the cost of 1000 solid citizens, the Harvard postdocs and Google employees and shopkeepers, and of course violating the Geneva convention and unnecessarily making enemies of 23% of the world's population. Is it worth it?

Maybe! Depends on how scared you are. Since I am far more likely to be the victim of non-islamic terrorists than Islamic terrorists, and either of those risks is vanishingly small compared to other risks I face, I don't spend a great deal of time worrying about it, and don't think it's a risk that demands paying the extreme costs of isolationism to prevent.

But if you are terrified of Islam, I don't suppose I can argue you out of it, there are some scary aspects to it even though it isn't actually much of a threat. If the threat of Islamic terrorism is so worrying, do you really think that Trump's approach is likely to reduce it? He's announced that he thinks we should have seized Iraq's oil reserves, which besides being yet another violation of the Geneva convention instantly validates the worst fears of Iraquis, alienates whatever allies we might have there, and undermines our rationale for being there in the first place. Do you really think that's made us safer?

Fear is one thing, enacting idiotic policies because they play to people's fears is something else.

mtraven said...

Also, check this out. Probably more forgiving than I would be.

Scott said...

I live in Minnesota. We have a large local population of Somalis, almost all of them Sunni Muslims. They were mostly resettled here by Lutheran Social Services. What was going through the poor naïve Lutherans' minds I will never know. These people have not assimilated well. Non-trivial numbers of them have been arrested for collaborating with ISIS. Perhaps you have read the reports in the New York Times or the Washington Post. Late last year one of them ran amok at a shopping mall in St. Cloud. He stabbed several people before being shot by an off-duty cop.

We haven't been used to this kind of occurrence here, and I don't think we should be obliged to become used to it.

There may be greater risks than that of being stabbed or shot by a mad jihadi, but most of them are difficult to control. We can control the jihadi risk relatively simply by not letting them into the country. There are likely more potential jihadis than potential Harvard post-docs among the immigrant/refugee population - and Google ought, anyway, to be hiring U.S. citizens rather than bringing H1B visa holders into the country on terms resembling indentured servitude.

The President's authority to suspend travel and immigration is well established in statute and has been exercised by the last six presidents. Tomorrow I will furnish citations to the relevant sections of U.S. Code, to a monograph on the subject by the Congressional Research Service, and to the entry in the Federal Register recording Barack Obama's most recent use of that authority.

You are hyperventilating because you detest Trump. It isn't helping your argument.

David Rosenthal said...

Jewish refugees from 1930s Germany did not, to the best of my knowledge, set off bombs...

No, and neither have Muslim refugees from Syria! Yet *both* were/are kept out of the US (with some lucky exceptions, like mtravens family and mine), in part because of the fear that maybe bad guys are hiding in their midst -- Nazis then, ISIS now.

This was a shameful episode for America in the 1930's -- a time when we failed to live up to our ideals, because of isolationist cowardice and ignorance.

Deuteronomy tells us to "love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." The lesson we are supposed to take away from our refugee experiences is to treat other refugees kindly. The authors of Deuteronomy lived in a dangerous world, and well understood that it could be risky to be kind to refugees, but they said to do it anyway.

Anyway, I don't even think that Trump's EO implements the less risky policy. The Muslim ban (or whatever euphemism you want to call it) has been effective at denying entry to blind octogenarian green card holders and infants, and it has given ISIS a recruiting tool that must be a great consolation to them as they are about to loose Mosul. But I doubt that it has stopped any terrorists. It really doesn't make me feel safer. I think I'm more likely to die by falling out of bed than by being killed by a terrorist from one of the countries on Trump's list. But the fact that we're making innocent people suffer to combat this largely imaginary threat, that makes be feel unsafe.

Scott said...

As promised yesterday:

Congress has plenary authority over immigration under Article I, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Under existing immigration law passed by Congress a wide variety of aliens are ineligible for visas or for admission to the United States under any circumstance. The relevant statute is 8 U.S. Code 1182. Under section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act,

"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."

All recent presidents, including Barack Obama, have exercised the authority therein provided.

Here is a link to the statute:

https://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-29/0-0-0-2006.html

Here is a link to a Congressional Research Service monograph, Executive Authority to Exclude Aliens: In Brief:

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R44743.pdf

And here is a link to Vol. 79, No. 66 of the Federal Register (A;ril 7, 2014) showing an entry entitled "Blocking Property of Certain Persons With Respect to South Sudan," Section 4 of which invokes presidential authority to suspend entry of designated persons into the United States. This order was issued by Barack Obama.

https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/eoir/legacy/2014/04/10/pd07apr14.pdf

As for "the recently departed acting Attorney General," you don't have to accept my "no doubt educated opinion." You might prefer that of Prof. Alan Dershowitz, who remarked on CNN's that Ms. Yates "made a serious mistake" and “made a political decision, rather than a legal one.”

Scott said...

Anyway, I don't even think that Trump's EO implements the less risky policy. The Muslim ban (or whatever euphemism you want to call it) has been effective at denying entry to blind octogenarian green card holders and infants, and it has given ISIS a recruiting tool that must be a great consolation to them as they are about to loose Mosul.

I subscribe to a point of view that is perhaps novel in this day and age - namely, that the policy of a self-governing country ought to prioritize the interests of its citizens over those of foreigners.

We have extensive experience upon which to judge whether massive Muslim immigration is good or bad for a country. Has it been good for Germany? France? Sweden? Belgium? Holland? Britain?

See, for example:

https://www.merkur.de/lokales/muenchen/stadt-muenchen/polizeibilanz-2016-warum-fluechtlinge-kriminell-werden-7335664.html

And if it has not been good for those countries, why should we expect it to be good for the United States?

We may have some collective charitable obligation, but charity eventually reach a limit beyond which it is injurious to the giver.

It is not just the danger of terrorism that must be considered, but the strain that untrammeled immigration puts on our social welfare system, the introduction of contagion, and a host of other concerns. Existing law contains provisions, which the last several administrations have deliberately neglected to enforce, barring the entry of immigrants that might become public charges, or those carrying contagious diseases. Ellis Island, the focus of so much nostalgic immigrant history, served as a screening facility for such persons. It had a hospital facility where sick immigrants were quarantined, and if incurable they were deported. We should be doing the same today, but aren't.

Because these still-extant provisions of law have not been enforced, we are now witnessing the reintroduction of tuberculosis into this country. It had been practically eliminated forty years ago by extensive public health efforts, but is now resurgent:

http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2016/04/cdc-official-warned-staff-of-health-safety-risks-during-influx-of-illegal-alien-minors-plan-on-many-of-the-kids-having-tb-be-wary-of-personal-safety/

One of the most memorable of Dickens's characters - almost as much so as Ebenezer Scrooge - was Mrs. Jellyby, who was so swept up in her charity to a remote tribe in Africa that she ignored the privations of her own family. Until now, American policy appears to be Jellyby-ism on a massive scale. I hope the current administration succeeds in stopping this insanity before it destroys us.

mtraven said...

That's all completely irrelevant since we are not talking about "untrammeled immigration". We're talking about Trump's EO and how it compares to the previous immigration regime, neither of which is untrammeled in any way.

Further: "Over the last four decades, 20 out of 3.25 million refugees welcomed to the United States have been convicted of attempting or committing terrorism on U.S. soil, and only three Americans have been killed in attacks committed by refugees—all by Cuban refugees in the 1970s." (from here).

Scott said...

What's past isn't prologue in the case of Muslim immigrants/"refugees."

Relatively few such people were admitted during the Obama administration. However, for 2017 the quota set by the outgoing president was 110,000. See:

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/20/u-s-on-track-to-reach-obama-administrations-goal-of-resettling-110000-refugees-this-year/

This was simply handing a time-bomb to the Trump administration.

The behavior we have to look at for prologue is that of the so-called refugees in Europe. Even Merkel is now backtracking on the wisdom of admitting them.