We know, you could substitute virtually any issue for “immigration” in the title and the story would be valid. But the mainstream media’s (and Republican establishment media’s) desperation in trying to stop Donald Trump have brought out the worst in our discourse.
The Washington Post cites a couple of legal scholars in the first few paragraphs of an article headlined “Experts: Trump’s Muslim entry ban idea ‘ridiculous,’ ‘unconstitutional,'” but then—in a juxtaposition certainly worthy of James Taranto’s “Two papers in one!” meme—adds, well, actually, it wouldn’t be unconstitutional:
Barring Muslims who are not U.S. citizens from entering the country may not violate U.S. law in the same way, the experts said, because the Constitution’s protections generally do not apply to people outside the nation’s borders.
The Post article then cites a partial precedent, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was not found unconstitutional. The article also repeatedly refers to “principles of international law and agreements the U.S. has signed with other nations” without specifying any of them. One critic asserts, “I’m sure it would violate innumerable treaties if we suddenly started banning citizens of NATO countries, of Southeast Asian countries.” Tell that to a Turk or Thai who has been denied a visa despite their countries’ close alliances with the U.S.
A point that the article, and most like it, fail to make is that the U.S., like any sovereign nation, has the right to grant or deny a visa to any individual, for any reason at all, and also to deny entry to anyone attempting to travel to the U.S., including those from countries whose nationals do not require a visa.
Meanwhile, Ben Shapiro, writing in The Daily Wire, brings out various straw-man arguments about American military members (which he rightly corrects in a later update clarifying that Trump was not referring to barring citizens) in characterizing Trump’s stance as “desperate.” Um, Mr. Shapiro, Trump is leading in the polls, and his support has only increased since he called for more scrutiny of Muslims attempting to immigrate to the U.S. The idea of trying to ban all Muslim immigration has wide support in polls. Trump has made a policy proposal from a position of strength, not desperation.
Donald Trump did not call all Muslims terrorists. He did not call for a database of Muslims living in the U.S., as the media was quick to accuse him after he didn’t forcefully reject a reporter’s suggestion to that effect. Banning Muslim visitors is not at all like the internment of American citizens of Japanese and other origins in Axis countries during World War II, a comparison that the media has been quick to breathlessly make.
Attempting to ban all Muslim immigrants may or may not be a good idea. It may or may not violate various treaties. It would likely harm America’s standing in the world, victimize innocent people, and, above all, not be practical to implement.
However, none of these is reason to dismiss the merit of the proposal out of hand. It wouldn’t be that difficult to bar foreigners who are obviously Muslim (Muslims often have names identifying them as such, as many countries list religion on their passports), who come from predominantly Muslim countries, and/or whose passports show visits to Syria, or Iraq, or Turkey (the gateway to ISIS-controlled territory). Obviously such a ban would not catch everyone who is a threat. We are not necessarily endorsing any such restrictions.
The real problem with the discussion about Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from visiting the U.S. is that very few commentators acknowledge (1) we are at war and (2) there are always trade-offs in policy decisions.
Almost no one—including, we would venture to guess, Donald Trump—would like the idea of banning people of a certain religion from entering the U.S. in principle. Plenty of Muslims contribute to American society; want to visit as tourists, students, or businesspeople; and wish no harm on the country. However, since there is a significant population of Muslims who consider themselves at war with the U.S., we are right to consider trade-offs. President Obama or the pontificators calling Trump’s idea “ridiculous” have not addressed the question of how many innocent Muslims can reasonably be barred the privilege of traveling to the country in exchange for keeping the country safe from terrorists.