As she emerged from a House leadership meeting on Monday, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said, “I think we need to work on better communication.” She was referring to the Trump administration’s order that suddenly closed U.S. borders to all refugees and to citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations. After a weekend of chaos and widespread protests, it was quite the understatement.
Trump signed the order late Friday afternoon, before congressional leaders had been fully apprised. Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, played down the lack of coordination, telling the New York Times that all administrations had “a little bit of chaos” early on.
A little bit would’ve been a vast improvement. Without talking points on the order, members of Congress were unable to answer basic questions. Key agencies were operating with different information. Many travelers were unnecessarily detained. Some of them can’t get back to their jobs. On Tuesday, the administration said a limited number of refugees would be allowed into the country.
The Pentagon was caught unaware and scrambled to get exemptions for Iraqis who have assisted U.S. military efforts. Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said, “Even people that are doing seemingly benign things in support of us – whether as a linguist, a driver, anything else – they often do that at great personal risk.”
The president reportedly did not consult with his defense secretary or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Department of Homeland Security announced on Tuesday that Iraqi holders of special immigrant visas would be exempt from the order. But Iraqi refugees are still in limbo. Such missteps could’ve been avoided if the executive order weren’t put together in haste.
University presidents in Washington state weren’t sure what to tell affected foreign students. The best advice they could give was to not travel back home for the duration of the ban, which is currently 90 days.
Keeping Americans safe is, of course, the president’s job, but the reason for choosing those seven nations isn’t clear. No imminent threat was identified. No fatal attacks in the U.S. have been committed by people from those countries. Most of the 9/11 jihadists were from Saudi Arabia, which is not on the list. Since 9/11, all Muslim-related terror attacks on American soil were committed by legal U.S. residents. How does this order contain homegrown terror?
Beyond the unnecessary confusion, the most disheartening aspect of the executive order is the 120-day shutdown of refugee arrivals. Many are Muslims who were terrorized by Muslims, and they have suffered enough. Historically, refugees have not posed a danger. Plus, the order prioritizes Christian refugees, which looks like the sort of religious test our country has proudly avoided. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says it is unconstitutional, and has filed legal action.
Many Americans are protesting, because this order represents a change in values. We all want safety, but we don’t want to surrender the compassion that has shaped our nation’s character. It’s not too late to take a more thoughtful approach.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.