Just when I think it might be possible to rescind my call for Xanax in the national water supply, something else happens. Now it's hyped up outrage over an Executive Order signed by President Trump to halt issuing visas for 90 days and the refugee program for 120 days for applicants from countries that are on the State Department list of terrorism sponsors or terrorist havens.

XENOPHOBIA! Or not. Let's break this down. Before you lose your mind it might be prudent to review the extremely well written and researched article by Graeme Wood for The Atlantic, "What ISIS Really Wants". If you've never read it, you should. If you have, you know that the goal of radical Islamic terrorism is to drag us kicking and screaming back to the 8th Century B.C. The adherents to these literal interpretations of the Qur'an are the individuals we should be concerned with entering the U.S. They are radically opposed to the Western ideas of democracy in all of it's forms and individual freedom.

Next, let's take a look at some of the more glaring failures of our current processes to identify individuals who are adherents to this philosophy and have come to the U.S. using the visa and refugee programs. The most devastating were those who used the program and were key members of the cell that executed the attacks on 9/11/2001. The Center for Immigration Studies publish the following table:

 


If this is an accurate table, the execution of 9/11 depended largely on tourist visas, one of the easiest visas to obtain. This process is currently suspended and under review.


More recently, the K-1 visa of Tashfeen Malik allowed her to enter this country and participate in the murder of fourteen Americans and to injure twenty two others. Reviews showed her application was not thoroughly vetted. K-1 visas are issued for intended spouses. While it was reported her social media profile showed evidence of radicalization, it was later corrected to private messages with her future husband. However it did have the desirable effect of a policy to examine the social media of visa applicants.


The tourist visa brought in brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who used a pressure cooker to kill three and injure 264 at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The family later sought and obtained asylum granting them residency. According to Philip Bump in The Atlantic (emphasis added):


"This visa application is the first point at which the government would begin the most important part of the process: conducting a security screening of the applicants. Given the number of tourists who visit the United States each year and the limited time period of the tourist visa (six months, at most), this is the least rigorous security screening conducted. (For what it's worth, the 9/11 hijackers used tourist and business visas to access the country.)" - "How the Boston Bombing Suspect Became a U.S. Citizen"


These are three stunning failures of the screening process to correctly identify individuals who may have been radicalized that cause death, destruction and injury.


Now, some will tell me, this Executive Order would not have prevented the Boston bombing! To which my response is, precisely. Because it is not a "Muslim Ban". It is the suspension of the visa and refugee process from countries that State Department has designated to be those that have governments that sponsor or harbor terrorists using government money, resources or tacit acceptance. Further, specific policies dating back to the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 paved the way for this order. The seven nations are not specifically named in the Executive Order, rather it refers to this Act and the policies that were derived from it. In fact according to U.S. policy, individuals from these seven countries were already subject to visa waiver restrictions.  To which I will add, these designations and the Act were made, passed or maintained during the administration of former President Obama. An administration which also halted the Iraqi refugee program for six months in 2011 as Sean Davis of The Federalist has reminded us.


It is also not a "Muslim Ban" because it does not include the counties with the highest Muslim populations as this exceptionally intelligent tweeter noted:


https://twitter.com/ldoren/status/825208848017395712

Finally, it is not a "Muslim Ban" as one of the most persecuted groups in the Middle East, Syrian Christians, are also affected by the ban. This group whose numbers have dwindled from nearly 2,000,000 to 400,000 since civil war erupted in Syria according to NGO reporting, are not excluded from the impact of this pause in any documentation I can find. Update: There is however a subsection of the Order that provides for the evaluation of religious minorities and admission to the extent possible after the 120 day pause on the refugee program.

Next I hear, "But people who followed the process were detained!!!" to which I reply, good. As history shows and has been observed the vast majority of those detained are likely Tourist or Business visa holders. Inconvenient, sure it is. On the flip side, you may have halted the next cell planning a 9/11 style attack. Update: There is also a provision in the order that allows for interim review of Visa and Green Card holders to be admitted during the 60 day period. Given many Green Card holders are sponsored by employers it is not, in the language of the order, in the national interest to deprive firms of their employees who are productive and confirmed to be the individual holding the Green Card.

These two immigration processes are going to be reviewed in a period of three and six months respectively. None of which is longer than the Obama administration suspended the Iraqi refugee program. I'd suggest everyone just take a powder and see what the findings and recommended fixes are.

In the end it may be there are some nations who have been so devastated by war and authoritarian regimes who are material sponsors of terrorism that it is impossible for us to safely accept them. In which case I am a proponent of the idea of working with allies in the Middle East and NATO to create safe havens within the region. The ultimate goal after all should be that these displaced individuals are at some point able to return home. 

The threat of radical Islamic terrorism is real and many Americans are tired of the past administration's unwillingness to call it what it is and effectively contain and eliminate its reach onto our shores. This is but one process that needs to be reviewed or enhanced for the federal government to perform its most basic duty, ensuring the safety and security of it's borders to protect American citizens.

You may read the text of the full Executive Order here.