November 15, 2018

Why I’m for vetting, but against Trump’s ban

I wanted to take the time to lay out clearly why I dislike Trump’s executive order on immigration. I think there’s been too much of people (including me) getting angry about it without explaining why. You can’t have a debate that revolves around anger, it has to be about ideas and facts.

I want to start by saying that I support vetting people coming to the US. I particularly support vetting people who want to become permanent residents here. That’s both logical, and moral. I have no argument against that.

The reason Trump’s order troubles me is two-fold. The first part that troubles me is that it’s focused on the wrong places. Trump chose to ban entry from seven countries that certainly have major terrorist activity, however they’re not the countries that have posed the most threat to America. Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, and Syria certainly have their problems, but the sad truth is that American allies like Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia have produced far more terrorists over the years. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in American history, was a mostly Saudi Arabian affair.

Lets look at the attacks since 2010 and see the origin or familial background of the attackers:

2010 Times Square Bombing
– Faisal Shahzad (Pakistan)

2010 Arlington Bomb Plot
– Farooque Ahmed (Pakistan)

2010 Virginia Military Shootings
– Yonathan Melaku (Ethiopia)

2010 Portland Car Bomb Plot
– Mohamed Mohamud (Somalia)

2013 Boston Bombings
– Tzarnaev Brothers (Chechnya)

2014 Seattle/NJ Shootings
– Ali Muhammad Brown (African-American Convert to Islam)

2014 Vaughn Foods Beaheading Incident
– Alton Nolen (American Convert to Islam)

2014 NYPD Killings
– Ismaaiyl Brinsley (African American Muslim)

2015 Islamic Art Contest Shooting in Texas
– Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi (American Convert & Pakistani Descent)

2015 Chattanooga Shootings
– Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez (Kuwait)

2015 UC Merced Stabbings
– Faisal Mohammad (Pakistani Descent)

2015 San Bernardino Shooting
– Rizwan Farook and Tafsheen Malik (Pakistan)

2016 Columbus Melee
– Mohamed Barry (Somalia)

2016 Pulse Nightclub Shooting
– Omar Mateen (Afghan Descent)

2016 Roanoke Stabbings
– Wasil Farooqi (American-born Muslim of unknown origin)

2016 Minnesota Mall Stabbings
– Dahir A. Adan (Somalia)

2016 NY/NJ Bombings
– Ahmad Khan Rahami (Afghan)

2016 Ohio State Attack
– Abdul Razak Ali Artan (Somalia)

Looking at that list, it would seem like Pakistan, Somalia, and Afghanistan would be the three countries of origin of most concern, however only Somalia is on Trump’s list.

In fact, Somalia is the only country on Trump’s list that had US terrorists that hailed from it in this decade. The other countries had ZERO. Countries like Kuwait, Chechnya, and Ethiopia have produced terrorists that attacked the US, but they’re also not on the list.

This is the first reason I dislike Trump’s ban. It’s poorly targeted. It’s not even hitting the places that have hit us the hardest. That’s either foolish, or willfully stupid.

I’ve heard some people comment that the seven countries were chosen because their governments are either in shambles, or state sponsors of terror. That doesn’t explain why Afghanistan isn’t on the list — its government is no more well-organized than Iraq’s. It also doesn’t explain the absence of Pakistan, whose government has repeatedly been shown to have been infiltrated by extremist elements, even in their security service, the ISI. It also doesn’t explain why Palestinians using PA-issued passports, or temporary Jordanian passports aren’t banned. Any Israeli would tell you that a ban that doesn’t target those passports is not a good one.

The second reason I dislike Trump’s executive order is because it’s incredibly heavy-handed. In an attempt to not actually make it a “Muslim ban” in word, he made it a clumsy Muslim ban in practice. By banning all visa holders from those seven countries from entering the US, Trump managed to hurt Persian Jews, Yazidi Christians, Kurds, and Sudanese Christians, none of whom are, or have ever been a threat to the US. Rather than exempting them from the ban, Trump made it a blanket ban to avoid a court ruling the ban was illegal because it specifically targeted Muslims. We needed a surgeon, we got a butcher.

When you combine those fundamental weaknesses of the executive order with the fact that it was poorly rolled-out, rushed, and that the details of it were vague and not double-checked with the agencies who were supposed to enforce it, it’s an abject failure.

The central premise of the ban is also questionable. Will it make America safer? That’s not terribly clear. It most certainly will make Americans traveling abroad less safe. They’ll be even bigger targets now. ISIS is already using it as a recruitment tool. But will it even make us safer at home? Most of our Muslim terrorists in the past decade have been American citizens, who wouldn’t have been affected by the ban. The ban also likely increases the chances that one of the 3.3 million Muslims already in America will become radicalized, or that a non-Muslim who converts will become radicalized. Does that make us safer?

Vetting is important. Security is important. No one disagrees with that, but it needs to be done well. It needs to be done intelligently. This ban is neither intelligent, nor well implemented, and in that respect, it’s a clear failure.

Even if you support a blanket ban, you should be asking Trump to add Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Palestinian Territories, Egypt, Chechnya and Turkey to the list. If he doesn’t, you know he actually doesn’t care.


Jonathan Maseng’s work has appeared in LA Weekly, The Press Enterprise, The Jewish Journal, and the Jerusalem Post Magazine. He also writes regularly about the New York Mets for SB Nation’s Amazin’ Avenue.