Details and facts matter. This is true whether they are convenient for us or not. So some time has passed, we know more about Donald’s executive order about immigration, and some other historical context has come to my attention. So let’s talk about it.
About that list
First, like many others I implied that Donald cherry picked the list of countries to be effected by the ban based on his business interests. This appears to not be the case. As many conservatives, including the administration, are pointing out today, the list of countries originated during the Obama administration. It started with the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, which President Obama signed into law. After that, the Department of Homeland Security (again, under Obama) added to the list, bringing it to what it is today. Mea culpa! So the administration didn’t create this list, but I’m sure they were overjoyed to find one that happened to align with Donald’s businesses AND was created under Obama, giving them deniability. Nonetheless, the facts are what they are and we need to acknowledge them.
So that means this is really Obama’s policy, right? Wrong! The list of countries is shared, the policy is not. Due to the Act, the people from these countries (or who had recently traveled to them) are not be eligible for visa waivers, meaning they have to apply for a visa (and go through the requisite screening process) to enter the US. This legislation was criticized at the time, from both sides, but the fact is it goes nowhere near as far the latest executive order. The policies are not at all alike.
But wait, there’s more
Another attempt to tie this to Obama, and therefore indicate that protests are either wrong or hypocritical, is to compare it to his 2011 action regarding Iraq. In a nutshell, in 2011, after a terrorist plot was discovered, the Obama administration stopped processing applications for refugees from Iraq for six months. This article does a good job of describing the differences between this executive order and Obama’s 2011 action, but I’ll summarize the key ones here:
- Obama’s applied to only one country, not 7.
- Obama’s was narrowly focused to refugees and didn’t impact legal immigrants (aka green card holders) or visa holders, where as this one affects those “on any visa category” and has been interpreted to include green card holders–people who have been living in the US legally.
- Obama’s was prompted by a specific terrorist threat involving Iraqi nationals. If this EO was based on any specific actionable intelligence, we have not been made aware of it.
- Obama’s didn’t carve out an exemption for non-Muslims, where as this one gives preference to “religious minority groups” which in Muslim countries happen to be non-Muslims!
So you can argue the merits of either of these actions (and Obama’s wasn’t without negative consequences… according to ABC News “[an] Iraqi who had aided American troops was assassinated before his refugee application could be processed, because of the immigration delays.”) but there are some very clear and very significant differences between them. Don’t let anyone tell you they are the same thing.
Knowledge is Power
As liberals, we must embrace facts. There is power in knowledge. Don’t just blindly repeat talking points, and don’t ignore facts that might (at first glance) not fit our preferred narrative.