This is Not Okay

I am in favor of more immigration that the US currently allows.  If you asked me if we should stop issuing visas to citizens of certain countries, I would say no.  But if I lost, well, the government does lots of stuff I dislike, that’s the price of living in a democracy rather than a dictatorship run by me.

Preventing existing visa and green card holders from reentering the country is not the same.  People built their lives around a promise from America, and we yanked it away with no chance to adjust.  Newborns have been separated from their parents.  People who endangered their lives helping the US Military are going to be left among people who wish to kill them.  We did not even have the decency to give enough notice to prevent people from getting on a plane to a country that would not let them in.

This is not border security, this is punishing people for cooperating with us and trusting us.  The net effect of this is that people will do those things less.  Honestly, this is probably the point.  Even though the order was overturned in 24 hours, even though it’s probably illegal, even if the next president does everything he can to welcome immigrants, there will be a chilling effect.  To the extent that foreign terrorists living in the US constitute a problem this does not touch it at all, because terrorists are not putting down roots.  Trump didn’t kick out anyone actually in the US, and terrorists probably don’t go back and forth much for this exact reason.

I didn’t participate in the women’s march last week, because it’s not my thing and I didn’t see the point.  I went to the SFO airport protest today, despite coming off of a week of travel and really not feeling like it, because it had a specific, actionable demand that would have concrete effects, and would be a return to the status quo, not a new action.  It worked– but not by much.  People who were on planes when the ban came through are not being sent home, but they may be kept in detention.

For the benefit of any Republican strategists reading this: I am not a liberal, I am not a Democrat.  I voted for Johnson.  You want me in your coalition.  You will never get it while someone this incompetent is your leader.

I considered my donation budget spent after my big transfer to Tostan, but I just donated $35 to the ACLU.  I think this is an excellent example of where effectiveness analyses go wrong.  The ACLU was supremely effective today because it had the capacity to take action immediately.  If Trump hadn’t done this, that capacity would have been wasted and they would look less effective.  Having strong institutions matters, even if you’re not using them.

A note to my fellow protesters: don’t protest bans on travel by shutting down modes of travel.  Seriously, it’s just annoying.

EDIT 1/28: I’m getting a lot of commenters who disagree with me, which is great, but the comments are low quality, which is not.  I’m leaving them up for now, but what I really want are strong arguments from the other side.  People who are angry at me: instead of just saying that, I’d like to invite you to write out your thoughts long form, or link me to a blog post, news article, or book.  I commit to reading the first 20 of these (for books I reserve the right to stop after the first chapter), and anticipate reading all of them eventually unless my blog gets way more popular.

36 thoughts on “This is Not Okay”

  1. The ACLU filed for a stay independent of the protest. It is odd and pretty unsubstantiated to say the protest worked, as if federal judges make rulings primarily based on people collecting with signs at airports, as if they wouldn’t have issued a stay on an unconstitutional executive order without it.

      1. “Popular action influences some people in some way” is not sufficient support for the claim “this particular popular action caused a ruling that would otherwise not have occurred.”

        You don’t think judges are influenced by Constitutional law?

    1. Yes, you really do. Trump squeaked out a victory in 2016 against the second-worst candidate since WW2. If you want a coalition that can win an election against a tolerable Democrat, you want to convince people on the fence that the Republican Party is a good home for them. Reagan did that, and even GW Bush didn’t screw it up too badly. But Trump is driving them away, and if Clinton had been even a hair less incompetent at campaigning, that would have cost you the election.

  2. Upon leaving office, Obama removed and dismantled the NSEER system. It will take some time to set it up again (if they do set it up again). In the meantime, if you are the president and it’s your job to prevent terrorism on US soil what do you do?

    Congress can http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/21/politics/schneiderman-obama-muslim-registry-nseers/

    Most interesting was the rational that the program was a failure because “it didn’t result in a single terrorist conviction”. That is odd logic, considering a terrorist action would be necessary for said conviction and the fact there weren’t any would be evidence the program worked (or at the very least, not evidence the program DIDN’T work). They wanted to prevent Trump from using these tools…which were the exact tools his predecessor used.

    1. Measuring the dog that didn’t bark is very hard. I don’t think terrorist acts are required for a conviction because in the US conspiracy doesn’t require overt acts, but of course a trial risks releasing information we want to keep secure, so of course lack of convictions still doesn’t mean lack of effect. But the last three presidents have used that justification to expand government power and control, and at some point it has to stop being a blank check or we become Soviet Russia.

      And even if immigrants from those countries are highly dangerous, I would put in a goddamned exception for the Iraqi translators who are marked for death because they helped us. Even if I didn’t feel a moral obligation to these people, even if I didn’t care about the US soldiers who feel a moral obligation to these people (http://thehill.com/policy/defense/316625-veterans-worried-refugee-halt-will-hurt-translators), it makes future anti-terrorism efforts less effective because no one will cooperate with us.

      1. I agree we have an obligation to help those people.
        Reality check: It took five years of active and aggressive effort to get even the translator for Matt Zeller (No One Left Behind CEO) a visa to come to the US. I don’t think four months is such a burden (in that context) for people who have been waiting years to get here.

        Nutshell: The previous president dismantled a program for vetting that he utilized until the end of his term. I have to wonder why. It seems very politically motivated and I’m not sure what he had to gain. Whatever his motivations, the current president must now deal with that. Bureaucracy is HUGE, and he isn’t a dictator (which is probably best, candidly).

      2. Just read your edit above and I hope my post isn’t “low quality”. I don’t have a blog and really can’t contribute information as I would like to. I can give you a direct example of the way the “vetting” bureaucracy in the US works (from a security perspective) from my own experience though. I won’t and can’t state anything direct.

        My husband once wrote a manual that required a top secret clearance to read. His own clearance expired and he didn’t have a reason (at the time, different job) to restate it. That year, the manual he wrote had to be revised so he was asked to come to a meeting to abridge the manual he wrote. He needed to get a new clearance to attend the meeting for the manual he wrote. But unfortunately, we’re both first generation US citizens (and his parents are from a country that isn’t friendly to the US). So the process drug out a long while. They postponed the meeting about six months, if I recall correctly. That was his (fourth, I think?) clearance.

      3. The low quality comment was aimed at comments like https://acesounderglass.com/2017/01/28/this-is-not-okay/comment-page-1/#comment-709 , which contribute absolutely nothing. I mostly disagree with your comments but appreciate you making them.

        I am very worried that Trump will be a dictator. I was worried Obama would make a large power grab as well, although I never used the word dictator. I don’t know how much of the difference is due to media coverage versus actual facts (which is the reason I’m most eager to here opposing opinions). Certainly Homeland Security ignoring a court order is very worrying.

      1. It encompasses more people, but that doesn’t make it more effective.
        Statement about NSEERS from the Department of Homeland Security:

        “Because the Secretary of Homeland Security’s authority under the NSEERS regulations is broader than the manual information flow based on country designation that has now ended, the underlying NSEERS regulation will remain in place in the event a special registration program is again needed.”

        The above statement admits the regulation should remain in place in case it is again needed…which would refute the statement that NSEERS is ipso facto “redundant”.

        From Vox:
        http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/16/13649764/trump-muslim-register-database
        “This is true, but it doesn’t mean that NSEERS — or a new program along similar lines — wouldn’t do anything. The US government still doesn’t have a reliable way to track visa overstays (something that immigration hawks have complained about for years). By requiring check-ins for “special registration” subjects, the government had an easy way to apprehend someone who had accidentally overstayed a visa (or had slipped between the cracks in the past before getting a new one).

        The worst-case scenario for NSEERS — a mass expulsion of everyone in the database from the US — never materialized. It would have been very hard to do. Instead, NSEERS was used as an easy way to identify and scoop up people who hadn’t followed every step of the process perfectly, who just happened to come from countries the US considered dangerous.”

        AUG, Thought I’d share an NPR piece I just became aware of. It is dated the morning after Trump’s Executive Order went into effect. The specific type of case we were discussing…an Iraqi translator. The type of person who would have a Special Immigration Visa rather than the foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas, who were all officially excluded in the EO language. An Iraqi man who was granted a Special Immunity visa and coming to the US to live with his wife after serving as an interpreter of US troops.

        Link to the conversation here:
        http://www.npr.org/2017/01/28/512164295/veteran-who-worked-with-man-stopped-after-immigration-ban-talks-about-colleague

        Let’s view the pertinent portion:

        FRIEDMAN: “Well, I’m concerned that other people are going to be stopped and detained the same way. And my overriding concern is that the others that are going to be stopped and detained aren’t going to be released as he has been. My fear is that other people are going to be stopped and they’re going to be turned around and sent back. And that’s very un-American.”

        Here’s the timeline: the translator arrived after the executive order went into place, at 630 PM.
        He was released the next morning, at 1030 AM.
        Yes, that’s not a pleasant night.
        But let’s put some perspective on this…he wasn’t turned away, and he was detained less than 24 hours then released. My concern is now abated.
        NPR claims the interpreter was released “In part because of you and people like you Mr. Darweesh was able to get some attention to his case”.
        If it had taken days I would agree, but bureaucracy does not react anywhere near this quickly if the system isn’t already in place.

  3. We can’t keep our promise to half of our citizens about the American dream, but if your concern is elsewhere, then Alej is correct: I don’t want you in my coalition. 1.6 million Americans don’t even have indoor plumbing right now. Maybe instead of hanging out in posh airports you could travel to backwoods West Virginia and explain to them why you care about someone else so much?

      1. It won’t bring plumbing to anyone. That was not the purpose of mentioning it. What the hell does going to SFO do for Iranians? Nothing. But that wasn’t the purpose of you mentioning it.

    1. What a dumb, spiteful world-view: “West-Virginians are suffering, so what’s the big deal fucking with a few foreigners?” The insinuation is that people protesting don’t give a damn about your favorite constituency, so whether justice is being done to people they care about is totally irrelevant to you. If you wrote a piece about Appalachian poverty, do you think there’d be left-wingers sneering at you because they thought you were insufficiently vocal about the travel ban?

    2. I live in the backwoods. I have lived without indoor plumbing. I still care about the values of America. This ban offers nothing to people who do not have plumbing or are otherwise suffering from lack of economic opportunity. If this is how you seek to honor the values of our country, you do not know what America is for.

  4. > Even though the order was overturned in 24 hours…

    It hasn’t been overturned. A temporary emergency Stay on deportation of people with valid visas and people with approved refugee paperwork has been ordered. People who are neither currently in transit, nor currently physically in the US awaiting entry can still be denied entry.

    Here’s the Eastern District judge’s order: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/28/us/politics/trump-darweesh-decision-stay-refugee-ban.html

    Direct PDF link: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3437026/Darweesh-v-Trump-Order-on-Emergency-Motion-For.pdf

    Here’s the NYT’s analysis of the judge’s order: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/28/us/refugees-detained-at-us-airports-prompting-legal-challenges-to-trumps-immigration-order.html

    And -in case you haven’t read it- here’s the entire text of the Executive Order in question: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/us/politics/refugee-muslim-executive-order-trump.html

    If you haven’t, take twenty or thirty minutes and carefully read it in its entirety. On your first reading, try to read it in the most neutral way possible. (That is to say, read the EO as if the motivations described in its Purpose section are the only motivations for the orders contained within it.)

    > [The protest] worked– but not by much. People who were on planes when the ban came through are not being sent home, but they may be kept in detention.

    The thing that worked was the District Court emergency petition. Protests make you feel good, and get you in the news, but judges deal with matters of law. 🙂

  5. Warning: long.

    My thoughts about this sort of topic are dynamic and changeable currently, and I don’t entirely disagree with you, so I might not be the most efficient foil here. However, I appreciate the attempt to discuss this civilly; most of the discussion on the internet about this is some combination of ridiculous and terrible.

    As with most politics, we risk characterizing this in black-and-white terms rather than recognizing that all policy has pros and cons, and our position on them should be based on what our priorities are and our estimation of how to best enact them. If you are a politician, you have the unsavory additional wrinkle that you need to navigate the pragmatic elements of what sorts of politics you can actually perform, and how they will be perceived by the populace.

    So.

    There are two levels to this issue. If we don’t clearly divide them we risk bait-and-switch tactics. The first is this specific action by Donald Trump; the impact of this specific executive order. The second is the general question of immigration, border control, the broad question of how you figure out what people are part of your country, and how Trump approaches that.

    To the first level: we need to first ask why Trump made this order in the first place. There are a few non-mutually-exclusive possibilities:

    -He thought that people from these countries present a legitimate risk if let into America.
    -He wanted to create a symbolic gesture of protecting Americans against terrorists to increase the power of his figure
    -He wanted to stir the waters a bit to see how people would react, giving him a clearer picture of the political landscape and the motivations of some of those around him (for example, he learned that the Attorney General wouldn’t ‘march to order’ and so fired her)
    -He wanted to set precedent and tone to make some future action easier, perhaps (for example) by demonstrating to other countries that he has various ways to put pressure on them if they don’t cooperate with him.

    I think all of these are true to an extent. I think the single non-political point among them – that this will protect Americans – is not COMPLETELY false but is very minimally true. So that’s a very minor ‘pro’.

    Is this good politics, measured by ‘does this help Donald Trump’s political power?’ It’s hard for me to say, I’m not very good at politics. I’m inclined to say ‘yes.’ So this could be a pretty big ‘pro’ from Trump’s perspective, and a pretty big con to any of his opponents. I would also say that it’s a pro for Americans in general when we have a President who has a reputation for being powerful and taking action, and a con when their president seems to be incompetent or power-hungry. This is a pretty mixed bag. My overall impression is that Trump is trying to create a reputation as being someone to be respected and not to be messed with in order to create political leverage, inter and intranationally. Perhaps he even knows this order will have little practical benefit, and is just using it for the chaos and symbolism it creates.

    So what are the cons?

    -Obviously, a good chunk of people will not be able to travel to the United States. That’s a con for them if they want to travel to the United States.
    -Most specifically, some people were operating under the assumption that they could travel here and so have been kind of screwed over by having their plans disrupted.
    -Lots of people disagree with this measure, though it’s not clear that this is much of a con as most of them opposed Trump anyways.
    -It creates easy bad PR for Trump as it’s easy to make human-interest stories about people’s lives being disrupted by this, or to say this demonstrates how hateful he is.
    -It seems like it would have been easy to modify the ban to not exclude people who have things like visas and green cards, so this looks politically incompetent.

    As to the first two, I question how bad this really is. Emphasis on question, I genuinely don’t feel I have good, unbiased information about this and would appreciate some. Will a lot of people die and suffer as a direct consequence of this ban? Most of the claims that they will have seemed unreliable and sensationalist to me. Additionally, Trump has proposed things like created guarded safe zones in Syria to help people escape the violence there; is there a reason this wouldn’t work as well as moving them in to Western countries?

    Of course people will object by saying things along the lines of ‘they won’t have the same standard of living in a Syrian safe zone as they would moving to America.’ But that seems a poor argument to me, as there are several billion people around the world whose standard of living we could improve by moving them to America, yet we don’t feel a moral obligation to do so.

    So far as visa-holders and greencard holders go, I think this is bad, and I really don’t see why the order didn’t make exceptions for them. I agree that this simply looks like incompetence. Although I would note that incompetence in a single instance doesn’t generalize to the person being wholly incompetent; time will tell.

    But I don’t think the scope of this error is all that large. There are probably very few people affected by it this way, and I am suspicious of propagandizing a few people into a national crisis. I also make a specific prediction that this issue will get resolved very quickly. If people who hold visas and green cards aren’t allowed to travel back into the US within two weeks – perhaps with some additional vetting thing added to the process – I will admit this is worse than I first suspected.

    The reason I believe Trump didn’t allow for a few days of travel for people to get things sorted out is that it risks someone in one of those countries planning to travel to the US and attack us to act immediately out of desperation. If that happened, it would be a nearly fatal blow to his legitimacy.

    So far as the politics of the matter goes, I don’t think this will hurt Trump’s agenda much. His action is legal, and multiple presidents have done similar things, and support or opposition for this measure carves cleanly with people who already supported and opposed him.

    The only con is that it looks a bit incompetent. This is a real ‘con’ but will ultimately be judged in the context of future competency or incompetency.

    —-

    The second level to this whole debate – the way we figure out who can be a part of our country or not – is another ball of wax entirely. I suspect I actually disagree with you more on this issue, though I’m not sure as you’ve spoken less about it here. But enough written for one day, I don’t want to write a book on this all at once lol.

    But I’ll give the tl;dr:

    The overall debate here – the big difference in perspective underlying everything – lies between two different perspectives on America.

    The pro-Trump perspective is that the role of Government – the reason we make one to start with – is to serve as the unique protectorate of the interests of just that country. Citizens within that country are perfectly free to form other sorts of organizations to help others around the world if they believe it is important to do so.

    The anti-Trump perspective is that America is a tool that can be used collectively to help humanity in general, and that it is the proper role of Government to organize and spearhead that effort.

    The former is a more traditional way of looking at things, while the latter is more recent and radical (in the sense that less countries worldwide see things this way).

    My personal sense is that I personally PREFER the latter perspective, but am skeptical if it’s tenable in a world where most state actors don’t already agree to think that way. Because, to be frank, they don’t.

    I haven’t found a good book or essay or anything that represents my position here. I’m currently reading a book called ‘American Nations’ by Colin Woodard. It’s non-partisan and just talks about how America can be better understood as 11 separate ‘nations’ – divided by cultural norms, identity, and base assumptions as to how society should be structured – than a single entity or as 50 confederated states. I think that these sorts of ideas are productive to this debate as it gets you thinking about what exactly we mean when we talk about ‘nations,’ ‘peoples,’ and ‘states.’ We need to start there if we’re going to proceed with the task of figuring out how to deal with the reality of differing cultures and identities, and how they interact with states and government.

    1. Thanks for such a thoughtful response. On Trump in particular:

      I’m confused by the phrase “It seems like it would have been easy to modify the ban to not exclude people who have things like visas and green cards, so this looks politically incompetent.”. The ban *was on* people who had visas and green cards. There is no modifying it to let them in, there is just removing the ban. Although he could have banned visa holders excluding special immigrant visa holders (the people facing death for helping us in Iraq), and not mentioned green card users. This would have been an improvement.

      I think merely ceasing to issue new visas would have been morally wrong, but the government does a ton of stuff I think is morally wrong and I don’t have time to be outraged about all of it.

      Here is why I don’t think this can be dismissed as mere incompetence:
      * Trump did not run the EO by the Office of Legal Counsel, DHS, or state department (http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/28/politics/donald-trump-travel-ban/, http://lawnewz.com/politics/trump-apparently-didnt-rely-on-legal-experts-in-drafting-refugee-ban/)
      * Trump did not coordinate with airports around the country or DHS on how they should handle immigrants in flight (http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/28/politics/donald-trump-travel-ban/, http://lawnewz.com/politics/trump-apparently-didnt-rely-on-legal-experts-in-drafting-refugee-ban/)
      * He is disobeying a court order. Even if I approved of the object level actions, this is stunningly unacceptable. I thought it was outrageous when the Obama administration kept trying to enforce what they meant with the ACA, rather than what it literally said, and even they listened when a court order told them they couldn’t. (https://www.dhs.gov/news/2017/01/29/department-homeland-security-response-recent-litigation ). The level of double speak in that memo should horrify anyone that cares about government accountability.

      If there is credible evidence of an imminent threat stopped by this EO, that could not have been stopped with less collateral damage, I will refine my opinion. But the bar for credible is quite high, as Trump has repeatedly shown he has no qualms about lying or making things up.

      1. > He is disobeying a court order. … The level of double speak in that memo should horrify anyone that cares about government accountability.

        What? What court order is being disobeyed?

        From that linked DHS memo:

        “President Trump’s Executive Orders remain in place—prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety. …

        These [temporarily detained] individuals went through enhanced security screenings and are being processed for entry to the United States, consistent with our immigration laws and judicial orders.

        The Department of Homeland Security will faithfully execute the immigration laws, and we will treat all of those we encounter humanely and with professionalism. No foreign national in a foreign land, without ties to the United States, has any unfettered right to demand entry into the United States or to demand immigration benefits in the United States.

        The Department of Homeland Security will comply with judicial orders; faithfully enforce our immigration laws, and implement President Trump’s Executive Orders to ensure that those entering the United States do not pose a threat to our country or the American people.”

        Where’s the doublespeak? (These are serious, non-rhetorical, non-facetious questions that I’m asking.)

        a) Noone who is not a _citizen_ of the US has a guaranteed right of entry into the country. If you’re not a citizen, you can be turned away at the border without notice. This has been the Way We Do Things for decades, if not centuries.

        b) As I mentioned in my previous comment (the one with all the NYT links), the Federal Judge’s Order only temporarily prohibits the deportation of people who were on US soil or in transit to the US at the time the Order came into effect. Unless another Federal Judge has issued an Order that Stays or even strikes down sections of the EO (and if one has, please link to it! There’s a lot of coverage to sift through and first-hand sources are a little hard to find. 🙂 ), then no Federal Judge has restrained anyone from acting on the EO.

        c) In the text of the EO (which I link to in my previous comment), every single restriction in the EO has an additional clause which reads something like “On a case-by-case basis the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may choose to ignore this EO and let someone in if they think it’s a good idea.” It’s these discretionary override clauses that are allowing DHS to let Green Card holders (and whoever else they deem appropriate) (re)enter the country during the 90-day transitional period during which these new screening rules are implemented and no new alien entries to the country are permitted.

        Anyway, here’s hoping we can have an informative conversation, and that you get the time to read the links I provided in my first post.

        Cheers!

    2. On the overall debate:

      I can see the split you are talking about, but I don’t think it’s *the* split. The Republican party used to stand for less government, period. Americans didn’t need a protecter because they could protect themselves. I miss that party. I’m also pretty horrified by many things the government does in the name of “helping the world”

      How immigrant affect the country socially and economically is a factual question, albeit one without a clear answer. There’s a good debate on this at http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2017/01/george_borjas_o.html . I believe the economics shows that immigration benefits everyone fairly quickly, and support efforts to smooth over those who are hurt in the short term. I believe that historically all immigrant assimilates even when they look really different at first, although it’s plausible that conditions have changed and I’m open to new evidence on that, or to structuring things to facilitate assimilation.

      To the extent the argument is about the drain on government funds, I would be happy getting more immigration but providing less or zero government assistance. If that ends up creating a lot of people dying on the street, I’ll revisit the trade off.

  6. Aceso,

    “The ban *was on* people who had visas and green cards. There is no modifying it to let them in, there is just removing the ban. ”

    You’re correct, I misunderstood a few aspects of how the ban worked. I think the general point that it could have created better guidelines stands, and is also a point of general agreement here.

    I also agree that, from a purely object-level analysis, this ban is a pretty bad bit of policy. Terrorist attacks are like shark attacks; they’re scary-looking so people are disproportionately afraid of them. It’s unfortunate but it’s how humans work.

    “Here is why I don’t think this can be dismissed as mere incompetence…”

    I’m not sure how the first two points demonstrate that. They look like the sorts of errors I would expect from an administration which has next to no experience with Federal administration. I always expected Trump would make a good number of procedural gaffes and errors early on before he figured out what worked and what didn’t, and what sorts of things were permissible.

    That said, it all also fits within a narrative wherein he’s trying to test the waters for further strongarm tactics and put Washington in his pocket as much as humanly possible. So I think this data just doesn’t tell us much yet one way or the other.

    The court order is more interesting, granted. But frankly I’m with anonnymoose here in that I don’t really see anything too sinister in the wording of the document you linked, and it’s also very soon after all this has started happening. As such, from what I can tell no-one really knows who is doing what yet. There are some reports that security officials are not complying with court orders, but I can’t find any evidence that it’s due to any action by Trump or his administration. For all we know it could just be a bunch of security agents not knowing who they’re supposed to listen to, since this is all happening so rapidly.

    Is there some specific thing you think is going on here? You seem to have an idea that there’s an ominous trend or agenda here, and I agree the circumstance requires diligence, but I don’t see any specific hypothesis of wrongdoing just yet.

    1. “I’m not sure how the first two points demonstrate that. They look like the sorts of errors I would expect from an administration which has next to no experience with Federal administration. I always expected Trump would make a good number of procedural gaffes and errors early on before he figured out what worked and what didn’t, and what sorts of things were permissible.”

      I don’t understand how this is a counterargument against incompetence, especially given he was also incompetent as a businessman.

      “That said, it all also fits within a narrative wherein he’s trying to test the waters for further strongarm tactics and put Washington in his pocket as much as humanly possible. So I think this data just doesn’t tell us much yet one way or the other.”

      This does not make me feel better. It is also what I think is happening. I think he is incompetently executing his plan to become a dictator. I had originally feared he would execute a slow encroach on liberty that became clear only once it was too late, so in many ways it’s an improvement to have him overreach so loudly and quickly.

      I’m not sure what you mean by specific thing? I think he wants to be a dictator, but not to enact a specific policy, he just wants the power. I don’t think he believes most of the racism he spouts; that’s just the base he happened to find. Things are still going to go downhill for non-white people in the next four years.

      It’s not super likely he becomes Mussolini, but the thing that will stop him is people objecting early and strongly. I’m worried that even if he doesn’t become a dictator, he sets precedents that lead to a dictator in the next president or two.

      I’m very troubled by the fact that he clearly views all exchanges as zero or negative sum. What has made this country so great for so long is making it easier to have trades both parties benefit from. Treating everything as a contest you have to win destroys value.

  7. “I can see the split you are talking about, but I don’t think it’s *the* split. The Republican party used to stand for less government, period. Americans didn’t need a protecter because they could protect themselves.”

    There’s a lot of ways to carve up reality, of course. All models will be imperfect. The Republican and Democrat parties are coalitions between a few different philosophies. The Republicans tend to believe in minimal government for a variety of reasons, but I think they tend to unite under a sense that government should be focused merely upon the sorts of things that government alone can do. Democrats tend to believe that government should facilitate other (generally altruistic) functions as well.

    But yes, this sort of distinction only really serves as a rough summary.

    “How immigrant affect the country socially and economically is a factual question, albeit one without a clear answer. There’s a good debate on this at http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2017/01/george_borjas_o.html . I believe the economics shows that immigration benefits everyone fairly quickly, and support efforts to smooth over those who are hurt in the short term. I believe that historically all immigrant assimilates even when they look really different at first, although it’s plausible that conditions have changed and I’m open to new evidence on that, or to structuring things to facilitate assimilation.”

    Thanks, I’ll check that out. Before I do I’ll just introduce a few ideas that I believe need to inform any stance we take on immigration.

    First, as you point out the economics are complicated, but it’s at least quite reasonable to think that immigration can help the economy. However, economics are not the only thing people are concerned about regarding immigration. There is a lot of social strife, restructuring, and alienation that can occur when immigration occurs. This happens even in the absence of obvious differences; my father immigrated when young from the Netherlands to a small town in Canada. Both cultures were protestant, agrarian, diverse, and democratic, but I hear the small wave of Dutch immigrants caused a lot of enmity and division regardless. In your next paragraph you talk about assimilation, which is important and can eventually resolve the issue, but it can be a generation or two before the tension fades. I would say this is a pretty significant downside to the whole project which should be kept in mind while evaluating the upsides.

    Second, assimilation is not assured, particularly if the immigration is large enough to form a significant enclave. In this case you can get longterm cultural struggle. I wish this did not happen but it observably does. And if the immigration is large enough, it is quite possible for the ‘host’ culture to become subsumed by it. This happened, for example, in Quebec – where the resulting culture ended up being significantly different than either the native culture or the French culture that birthed it. The same thing happened in South America between the first nations and the Spanish.

    Our modern values make us very suspicious of lionizing one’s own culture, but I don’t think it’s absurd for people to value their own culture and wish for it to survive. And even if it were absurd, it would still happen.

    This isn’t an anti-immigrant stance, just a stance that says that there are logical limits to how much immigration can happen while preserving the host environment that makes it a desirable host environment to start with, and that we should understand those basic limits before we proceed. I don’t necessarily think we’re anywhere near to these limits on a practical level.

  8. @anonymous Yes, I realize the legal situation is more complicated than I described it. I was waiting to respond until I calmed down from being condescended to on a post that was obviously not trying to represent legal minutia, and until I could get my law student friends to rebut quickly. But to answer the doublespeak question in particular:

    The emphasis on how few people it affects. No one accused them of detaining lots of people. Taking 2 passengers out of line and shooting them wouldn’t affect many people either, but it would be still be wrong.

    “These individuals went through enhanced security screenings and are being processed for entry to the United States, consistent with our immigration laws and judicial orders.” sounds like they’re having to going through secondary screening and maybe had their bag searched. It is not an accurate description of being held for 2+ days, without access to counsel, and allegedly being interrogated. The past tense is misleading in a situation that is ongoing.

    “The Department of Homeland Security will continue to enforce all of President Trump’s Executive Orders in a manner that ensures the safety and security of the American people.” and “The Department of Homeland Security will comply with judicial orders”. The executive order was stayed. There is a lot of confusion on exactly what that means, and if they had outlined what they were and were not going to do, I’d allow for some difference of opinion. But they simply said “we will do both”

    1. If your read on my comments was that I was attempting to condescend, then it’s clear that I need to get better at the challenging task of communicating tone across the Internet. My intention is to inform, allay fears, and eliminate misunderstandings, not to condescend.

      One of the key things about properly reacting to a situation is understanding all of the relevant facts of that situation. In the first ~24 hours of the coverage, the vast bulk of the coverage of the EO omitted any link to the actual text of the EO. (Much of it even failed to provide any quotes from the EO!)

      I felt that it was entirely reasonable to assume that you had not yet had the opportunity to read the text of the EO and had based your blog post on media reports of the effects of the EO (and maybe first-hand accounts of people who were detained at points of entry, awaiting additional screening or processing).

      For similar reasons, it also seemed reasonable to assume that you had not yet had the opportunity to read the District Judge’s Order that ordered an emergency Stay on the deportation of people in-country or who were in transit.

      In regards to the DHS press release, less than 25% of it is dedicated to speaking about how few alien travellers were affected by Saturday’s bureaucratic SNAFU. Fully 75% of it is dedicated to assertions that the EO in question is legal, and that the DHS remains committed to executing the immigration laws of this country, as well as treating the travellers that it interacts with humanely and professionally.

      Additionally, while it is _absolutely_ true that being stuck in limbo for 2+ days is an _inexcusably_ shitty thing to have happen to a traveller, isn’t the fact that this happened to It is not an accurate description of being held for 2+ days, without access to counsel, and allegedly being interrogated. The past tense is misleading in a situation that is ongoing.

      You’ve misread that sentence. They are being detained while the entry processing procedure completes. Ostensibly, the entire reason for prohibiting new entries into the US for the next -er- 88 (87?) days is to develop, deploy, and train agencies and personnel in whatever new security screening and entry processing procedures are required to comply with the new EO. Doing this shit right is hard, and _noone_ wants to have travellers hanging around for days in limbo in an airport. Not only is it a PR disaster, it’s a significant logistical problem, and a _super_ shitty thing to do to another human being.

      So, until the procedures are baked and deployed, and everyone’s trained on them, it’s best to limit entry of people from the countries that will require these new procedures into the US to those cases where the DHS or the Secretary of State has already done the required vetting and approved the traveller’s entry into the country.

      > The executive order was stayed.

      Would you be so kind as to link to the judge’s Order that stayed the entirety of the EO in question? The only Stay that I’m aware of is the Darweesh v. Trump emergency Order (linked to in my first comment) which prohibited the _removal_ from the US of people either in-country, or in transit, but failed to speak to any other part of the EO. It’s entirely possible that I’ve missed one or more Orders in this flurry of media coverage, so I’d be eternally grateful for a clarifying link or three.

      > The ban *was on* people who had visas and green cards.

      The entry ban was on every single non-US-citizen who isn’t either an ambassador, or NATO personnel. The EO excludes : “… those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas..” from the entry suspension. One could read those carve-outs as either

      * Trump’s unwillingness to create a political shitstorm by requiring politically valuable people to petition the SoS or DHS for entry to the US

      or

      * The tacit acknowledgement that foreign ambassadors, UN ambassadors, and NATO personnel are already really well vetted, so there’s no reason to bar them from entry

      Again, my purpose is not to condescend. My purpose is to ease your fears and concerns with the facts of the matter, along with some small analysis of the same.

      1. Well, crap. The commenting system failed to inform me that I need to escape less-than signs.

        The section that reads “Additionally, while it is _absolutely_ true that being stuck in limbo for 2+ days is an _inexcusably_ shitty thing to have happen to a traveller, isn’t the fact that this happened to It is not an accurate description of”

        Should read:


        Additionally, while it is _absolutely_ true that being stuck in limbo for 2+ days is an _inexcusably_ shitty thing to have happen to a traveller, isn’t the fact that this happened to (less than) 1% of those travellers (rather than -say- 99% of them) an important thing to mention? Should the DHS not have attempted to authoritatively describe the scale of the fuckup and -instead- have left that task to the various news organizations?

        Also:

        “These individuals went through enhanced security screenings and are being processed for entry to the United States, consistent with our immigration laws and judicial orders.”

        > It is not an accurate description of being held for 2+ days, without access to counsel, and allegedly being interrogated. The past tense is misleading in a situation that is ongoing.

        My (nonexistant) kingdom for a “preview” button!

      2. Ah. You think these are implementation bumps in a reasonable program meant to increase safety. I don’t think these make us any safer at all, I think they’re security theater at best and a precursor to active persecution at worst.

  9. > You think these are implementation bumps…

    It’s not entirely clear what you mean by “these”. I will assume that you mean “The travellers who were stranded over the weekend in bureaucratic limbo.” and proceed from there.

    Here’s my read on what happened; let me know if you think it’s a reasonable interpretation of the events.

    * The EO calling for the development and implementation of an “enhanced screening” program for “problem” countries is signed. Because of expected issues with development, deployment, and training an overridable 90 day ban on entry for aliens from “problem” countries is instituted.

    * Because the EO took effect immediately, and because bureaucracies are cumbersome beasts, the predictable happened; people from “problem” countries were unexpectedly being denied entry, and noone had a coherent plan to handle this.

    * Darweesh (with the help of the ACLU) petitions the Eastern District court and is granted an emergency stay of deportation for himself and all other travellers who are currently in limbo as a result of this EO.

    * Time passes and (if what’s happening in New York is any indication) the overwhelming majority of those stuck in limbo have been granted entry into the country.

    I don’t see how these can be called implementation bumps, as the program hasn’t been implemented yet. That’s (ostensibly) why entry for aliens from “problem” countries is restricted for 90 days; to implement and deploy the program. If -during that 90-day period- people who’ve been cleared by the DHS or SoS (as the EO permits) start somewhat regularly running into the sorts of troubles with border entry that we saw this weekend, then it’ll be abundantly clear that there’s something fishy going on.

    If that doesn’t happen, and it’s smooth sailing from here until late April, then wouldn’t it -at that point- be reasonable to say that that shitty, shitty long weekend for all of those travellers really _was_ a bureaucratic SNAFU, rather than something sinister?

    > …in a reasonable program…

    I’m fairly certain that I’ve never spoken to you regarding the reasonableness of the “enhanced screening” program for aliens requesting entry who hail from a “problem” country. The reasonableness of the program depends both on its implementation and the validity of the threats it is intended to ward against. See below.

    > …meant to increase safety.

    The Purpose section of the EO clearly states as much. I expect that you and I both hold similar opinions on on an awful lot of “anti terrorism” programs (especially those associated with aviation (fucking TSA “security” “screening”)). I hope that both you and I share the opinion that if a government agent (whether federal, state, or local) can both _reasonably_ and _justly_ do something that will be _effective_ in preventing a violent attack against another person in the US (or its infrastructure), that that agent _should_ do that thing. (Notice the three requirements! Both dragnet surveillance and racial profiling are ineffective, unjust, and almost always unreasonable. Deliberate, careful investigation that follows both the letter and the spirit of the law is almost always both reasonable and just and usually effective.)

    The countries affected by the EO are countries considered by the US to be (the list of reasons is long, so I’m summarizing with a vaguely appropriate word) “assistants” of terrorist organizations, and/or otherwise threatening to national security. (This list of countries significantly predates the Trump Administration.) It seems reasonable to assume:

    * That the Intelligence Community isn’t always wrong about which nations harbor significant, violent, anti-US sentiment, and that many countries on that list are on it for legitimate reasons.

    * That -when we care to _actually_ do the work- we’re _pretty_ good at doing a through background investigation of a person and figuring out whether or not they’re likely to want to cause harm to people inside the US, or to its infrastructure.

    * That we can tell DHS to perform thorough background investigations on people requesting entry who hail from a “problem” country, and that the DHS will both do as we order and do the task properly.

    If we assume those things, and we also assume that most of the folks in charge of the program (and the data that it relies on) aren’t secretly racists pushing their secret racist agendas, then it seems safe to say that the program will be largely reasonable and just. Do you disagree?

    Will it be effective? A big part of the _real_ answer to that question is a look at the cost/benefit ratio of the program. It seems likely that we taxpayers will never hear about that, unless the program is legitimately _spectacularly_ ineffective. However, it seems _highly_ unlikely that it will be more expensive than the programs that grant Top Secret/SCI clearances, and will almost _certainly_ be less invasive. (Honestly, how likely is it that a State Department investigator is going to be going door-to-door in Baghdad to track down and interview everyone who has had non-trivial contact with an applicant over the past ten years?)

    Anyway, I do hope that you get a chance to read through the EO and Eastern District judge’s Order. I also hope that you get some time free to meaningfully address both the comments as well as the questions that I put to you in the three comments I’ve posted thus far.

    Here’s hoping for a productive, engaging discussion!

    1. “I don’t see how these can be called implementation bumps, as the program hasn’t been implemented yet”

      This is word games. “We weren’t ready to implement the program at the time we implemented it” is not a defense. I also disagree with the sequence of events you describe: people are being pressured into giving up visas and green cards (http://www.scpr.org/news/2017/01/30/68577/lax-immigration-agents-asked-detainees-to-sign-awa/). If they were terrorists 1. they wouldn’t sign and 2. there’d be no need for them to

      “If we assume those things, and we also assume that most of the folks in charge of the program (and the data that it relies on) aren’t secretly racists pushing their secret racist agendas, then it seems safe to say that the program will be largely reasonable and just. Do you disagree?.”

      I do not agree and I’m surprised you think I would.

      * Even discounting racism, the incentives are terrible: agents face no penalties for rejecting a valid applicant, no reward for accepting a good one, and ton of penalties for accepting an applicant that commits crimes after admittance. No one makes good decisions under a framework like that (hello FDA).
      * All of the incompetencies that went into the initial order, like not consulting DHS or White House Counsel
      * Not exempting people on Special Immigrant Visas. Either he knew about this highly vetted, highly deserving group and didn’t choose to exempt them, or he didn’t ask the right people. Neither of these bode well for future immigrants.

      I also don’t see how we can’t discount racism, given Trump’s affiliation with Steve Bannon and others.

      Refugees are already extremely tightly vetted ( http://www.vox.com/first-person/2017/2/2/14459006/trump-executive-order-refugees-vetting ).

      I don’t think the order is about safety because if it was, we would be going after visa and green card holders who were in the country when the ban took effect. Enforcement based on who happened to be flying that day is *stupid*.

      To be clear: I tentatively disagree with the 90 day halt and the supposed intensive security procedures (I will be surprised if processing resumes in three months), but the country does stuff I disagree with all the time, including on immigration. What I am outraged by is the effect on legal immigrants, and the sheer incompetence with which this was implemented.

  10. The strongest arguments in favor of the ban are arguments against massive levels of immigration in general. Imo the best arguments there are in the HBD and cultural memetics communities, and I’m not going to rehash them here, but they boil down to whether introducing people from places that are bad at democracy into a democracy will be good for that democracy. The travel ban was probably more swift than it needed to be, but I don’t see a problem with a country managing its immigration as strictly or loosely as its duly-elected leaders wish.

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