USA Travel Ban: A short history of the Muslim ban

Published: February 10, 2017 - 17:25 Updated: August 4, 2017 - 16:36

Newly anointed President Donald Trump’s executive order caused chaos and confusion before it was blocked by the judiciary. The ban is a sign of things to come

The television series ‘The Man in the High Castle’ is a dystopian alternative history series that chronicles a world where the Nazis won the Second World War. While the ‘Man in the High Castle’ is highly imaginative fiction, the events currently unfolding in the United States of America are quite real. President Donald Trump is definitely no Adolf Hitler but he and his Goebbels clone Stephen Bannon do share some of the Third Reich’s policy instincts.

That there is a huge deficit of empathy and humanity in Donald Trump’s Manichean view of the world should be obvious to anyone who has followed the man closely. Ever since Trump became President, the aforementioned deficit of empathy and generosity has translated into disastrous public policy. The ‘Muslim’ ban is a case in point. Trump’s executive order suspended the US refugee admissions system for 120 days even though it is considered one of the most rigorous vetting systems in the world. The order also banned entry from seven Muslim majority countries-Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen-for 90 days.

There has been ample evidence of Trump’s ragged intellectual poverty and xenophobia on the campaign trail. Trump had repeatedly asserted that “thousands and thousands of people were cheering”,as “the World Trade Center came tumbling down,” making it clear he was referring to the city’s Muslim residents. “I think Islam hates us,” Trump said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “There is an unbelievable hatred of us.” He went on to say that it is impossible to separate radical versions of Islam from the faith as a whole. Trump has also repeatedly cited “an unscientific, opt-in online poll conducted by the Center for Security Policy,” a far-right anti-Muslim group, to substantiate his claim that a large segment of the Muslim community in the U.S. supports anti-American violence. It should then come as no surprise that Trump has used the ‘bad people’ trope to clampdown on Muslim immigration to the United States. Trump has essentially shown the world that conspiracy theories can be the bedrock of public and foreign policy. It’s another matter that conspiracy theories usually have no roots in reality. According to Politifacts, jihadists killed 94 people inside the United States between 2005 and 2015. During that same time period, 301,797 people in the US were shot dead in gun violence. For Trump and Bannon, gun control is not a useful enough straw man compared to Islamic terrorism.

The greatest irony of the executive order perhaps lay in the fact that it violated an executive order issued by John F. Kennedy on how to present executive orders. The Executive Order 11030, signed by President Kennedy in 1962 was titled “Preparation, presentation, filing, and publication of Executive orders and proclamations.” In its first month itself, the Trump administration has signalled that it has no interest in being even minimally competent.

While Trump and his fibbing acolyte/press secretary Sean Spicer ran around in circles trying to decide what to call the order, chaos reigned supreme as airports became scenes of disruption and confusion. When Acting Attorney General Sally Yates refused to comply with the diktat, she was promptly fired. Fox News, ever eager to lick Trump’s boots aired a segment where Sean Hannity insinuated that the protests against the travel ban were being bankrolled by some mysterious benefactor.

Hannity’s pro-establishment views were shared by a large part of the electorate that voted Trump to power. A Reuters/IPSOS poll found that 43 percent of those surveyed supported the ban. That Trump’s ban has widespread support is beyond any doubt. A substantial number of American citizens view the measure as a necessary precaution. The sort of mass-hysteria that Trump has stirred up would make Joseph McCarthy feel inferior and incompetent.

Trump’s plan for immigrants and penniless refugees is based on the flawed logic that even the slightest risk justifies disproportionate and extreme measures. That caution however does not extend to Wall Street and its cohorts of moneybags. While he may talk a big game when it comes to handling terror attacks, Trump would rather rollover on his back for Big Capital. In the melee` surrounding the travel ban, most of US media chose to ignore the fact that he had signed orders to repeal important parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law. The law was passed to ensure that a repeat of the 2008 crisis never happened. In addition to this, the newly anointed President also appointed Jay Clayton, a lawyer who spent much of his career defending white collar criminals from Wall Street as the head of Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC). Whatever happened to ‘draining the swamp’? A year ago on the campaign trail, Trump was berating Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton for taking money from Goldman Sachs. Fast forward to the present day and Clayton joins former Goldman Sachs alums, Stephen Bannon, Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn as high-ranking White House appointees. The controversy that the travel ban created and other controversies that preceded it were the perfect smokescreens for this egregious U-turn.

If Indian-Americans thought that their community was safe then their illusory bubble was soon to burst. On February 8, two US senators proposed a legislation to cut the number of legal immigrants to the US by half within a decade. The bill proposes to slash the number of green cards issued every year from a million to about 500,000. This bill if passed could act in conjunction with other policy proposals that seek to tighten the H1-B visa program and to raise the salary cap for skilled workers.

The travel ban coupled with the proposal to slash H1-B visas has ensured that Silicon Valley chieftains are up in arms. Silicon Valley relies heavily on foreign talent to fill up its ranks. H-1B visas are given to people across a wide variety of industries, but they’re particularly crucial to tech: The top three H-1B jobs are computer systems analysts, application software developers, and computer programmers. Together, those occupations make up half of the visas in the H-1B program. The National Foundation for American Policy has pointed out that more than half of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion or more have been founded by foreign-born workers. Reed Hastings of Netflix was the first to slam the move, “Trump's actions are hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all. Worse, these actions will make America less safe (through hatred and loss of allies) rather than more safe.” Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai who head Microsoft and Google respectively have expressed their consternation at the travel ban. Google co-founder Sergey Brin went one step ahead and joined protestors at the San Francisco airport stating that he too was a ‘refugee’.

The malevolence tempered with utter incompetence that the incoming President showed in issuing the order ensured that any litigation in response could not be fended off easily. Judge James Robart, of the U.S. District Court, in Seattle, granted the states of Washington and Minnesota a temporary restraining order that put a hold on Trump’s ban, pending further hearings. Predictably Trump lashed out at Robart by tweeting, “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned.” No matter how angrily Trump tweets, another judicial order has ensured that the travel ban, at least for now will be put in cold storage. In an unanimous decision, a panel of three judges from the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals declined on Thursday to block the lower-court ruling that suspended the ban and allowed previously barred travellers to enter the US. Unless the White House persuades the Supreme Court to reinstate the executive order, the travel ban will be consigned to where it rightfully belongs: the dustbin of history.