How bad of an idea is an immigration ban, really?
When deciding upon a course of action — whether as CEO of a real-estate development company or President of the United States — it would behoove one to take inventory of the current state of things, examine how that course of action has worked in the past, and project how things will go in the future. Hell, you can do this in your daily life with the stakes far lower than global stability on the line.
Analyzing a piece of policy can be broken down, in its simplest form, to answering four questions:
- What problem are we trying to solve?
- Is the problem which we are trying to solve actually a problem?
- Does this proposed solution sufficiently solve said problem?
- What new problems could this proposed solution create?
Today, let’s try to answer these four questions as succinctly as possible with regards to Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration. Just how bad of an idea is this?
What problem are we trying to solve?
The title of the Executive Order makes quite clear: “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”
Let’s leave aside the problematic “Foreign” modifier in “Foreign Terrorist” (which tacitly implies that we’re slightly more okay with homegrown terrorism). Here is a list of foreign terrorist attacks in the United States in the Post-9/11 era, the time-span that of unrest that prompted the Executive Order:
July 4, 2002 — Egyptian National kills two and injures four at LAX
December 25, 2009 — A Nigerian-born man attempts to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 en route from Amsterdam to Detroit. Two are injured.
October — November, 2010 — A naturalized U.S. Citizen from Ethiopia fired shots at five Virginia-based military institutions, killing none and injuring none.
November 26, 2010 — In an FBI sting operation, a Somali-born U.S. Citizen tried to blow up what he thought was a car bomb. No one was killed or injured.
April 15, 2013 — Two brothers from Kyrgyzstan set off a series of explosives during the Boston Marathon, killing four and injuring 280.
July 16, 2015 — A Kuwaiti-born naturalized U.S. Citizen kills five and injures two more in Chattanooga, TN
December 2, 2015 — A married couple, a husband from the U.S. and a wife from Pakistan, kill 14 and injure 24 in a series of shootings in San Bernadino, CA
September 2016 — An Afghanistan-born U.S. Citizen set off four bombs in the New York area, killing zero and injuring 34
November 28, 2016 — A Somali refugee injured 13 in a combined vehicular assault/stabbing on the Ohio State University campus
All told, there have been nine terrorist attacks committed on U.S. soil by foreign-born U.S. citizens or foreign nationals. They’ve killed 25 people and injured over 300 more. This is the problem as defined by this Executive Order.
2. Is the problem which we are trying to solve actually a problem?
Depends on through what lens you’re looking. To the families of the victims of these terrorist attacks, this is a first-order problem. One would suspect that these families would not wish their loss or struggle upon other families.
On a global (read — outside the United States) terrorism has spiked in the past half-decade. According to The Atlantic, countries which descend into unrest have seen terrorism increase exponentially, yet it is hard to examine what constitute terror or what does not.
Stateside, ISIS-crafted propaganda has found some takers here in this country, occasionally prompting one-off terrorist attacks by ISIS-inspired attackers born and raised here in the U.S. Largely, post-9/11 terrorist attacks have been carried out in the United States by people born in the United States, or naturalized U.S. Citizens. CNN claims that figure to be 100%. Terrorism at-large still remains less of a problem here than it is in European nations like France, Belgium and Germany. Just seven-born U.S. residents have traveled to Syria for paramilitary training and returned home.
Furthermore, according to the Oxford University Press book Chasing Ghosts:
Even including the 9/11 attacks (which proved to be an aberration, not a harbinger), an American’s chance of being killed within the United States by a terrorist of any motivation over the last few decades is about one in four million per year. For industrial accidents, it’s one in 53,000, homicides, one in 22,000, auto accidents, one in 8,200. Since 9/11, an American’s chance of being killed by an Islamist terrorist is about one in 40 million per year.
The website Our World In Data shows that the United States terrorism risk is dwarfed by the risk in several other nations, largely those in Latin America and the Middle East … and The Philippines. But, even in Europe, where Brookings Institute concludes “on balance, the United States is likely to remain safer than its European counterparts, if only because it is simply far easier for the Islamic State to attack Europe.”
Indeed, the United States — outside of 9/11 — has been remarkably terrorism-free relative to other nations around the world. And even worldwide, terrorism accounts for far fewer fatalities than domestic violence (40x more fatalities), alcohol (190x more fatalities), armed conflict (5x more) and suicide (6x).
The data says Foreign Terrorism in the United States is not a problem. And, yet, a Pew Research Poll conducted last year showed an astonishing 29% of U.S. Citizens labeled terrorism, national security or ISIS as their №1 concern.
3. Does this proposed solution sufficiently solve said problem?
Let’s go to the language of the Executive Order to check our solution:
Sec. 3. Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern. (The countries are: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.)
Sec. 4. Implementing Uniform Screening Standards for All Immigration Programs.
Sec. 5. Realignment of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Fiscal Year 2017.
Sec. 6. Rescission of Exercise of Authority Relating to the Terrorism Grounds of Inadmissibility.
Sec. 7. Expedited Completion of the Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System.
Sec. 8. Visa Interview Security.
Sec. 9. Visa Validity Reciprocity.
Of the terrorist attacks counted above — the number of fatalities accounted for by citizens of, or born from, the countries in question … are zero.
Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen account for zero terrorist fatalities on U.S. soil. The answer to question №3 is no. No, this does not sufficiently solve the problem.
4. What new problems could this proposed solution create?
Well, let’s see, from The Atlantic:
There have been multiple reports since the executive order was signed of people being prevented from boarding flights; refugees, who had gone through the years-long process before being approved to come to the U.S., stranded in third countries; of Iraqis who had worked for years with the U.S. military being denied entry; of Iranian students stuck overseas; of U.S. tech companies recalling its foreign workers because of the possible impact. And there have been protests against the order at airports across the country, including at New York’s JFK International Airport and Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C. , and the Los Angeles International Airport where lawyers, demonstrators, and the media descended to witness the order’s impact.
Mass civil unrest as protests related to the immigration ban hit airports across the country numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
Those are, of course, just the immediate aftershocks of the immigration ban. Any other effects are mere projection, but — given the context of this regime’s other stated goals and current positions on immigration, globalism and authoritarian leanings — it’s easy to see how dark the timeline could get.
This is a tone-deaf piece of policy that addresses a relatively benign problem, through relatively indiscriminate means, in a relatively ineffectual way, in a way where the downsides greatly outweigh the limited benefits.