“AS THE Trump administration fought in court to revive its temporary ban on entry by refugees as well as travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries, the president persisted in perversely suggesting that the judicial branch will be responsible for any terrorist attack carried out by what he portrayed as the violent hordes clamoring to enter the country.
By conflating a dangerous fiction about immigrants with blatant disrespect for an equal branch of government, President Trump fans the xenophobic flames he did so much to ignite during the presidential campaign. “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril,” he tweeted over the weekend, after a ruling by U.S. District Judge James L. Robart in Seattle, who was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush. “If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”
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Even if the courts uphold its actions, it is critical that the administration not use the inevitable imperfections of any vetting process as a pretext to ban refugees for more than the 120-day period covered by the Jan. 27 order. Already, Mr. Trump has slashed the current fiscal-year target for refugee admissions to 50,000, from 110,000.
That’s a trickle when measured against the United States’ traditional role as a beacon to those fleeing violence and tyranny, and against global demand. The United Nations counts some 16 million refugees (excluding Palestinians); more than half are children . By far the largest number, nearly 5 million , are Syrians, who are barred indefinitely under Mr. Trump’s order.
“These are not Jeffersonian democrats,” sneered Mr. Bannon, referring to Muslim immigrants who entered Europe. In 2015, he asked, “Why even let ’em in?”
Similar remarks were made a century ago about immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Germany and Eastern Europe, then widely seen as unschooled, unwashed and, often, violent. No one would ask now, “Why did we even let ’em in?”
“Not Jeffersonian democrats,” Mr. Bannon? Says who? How would you know? Where have you dealt face to face with refugees?
In my “last previous incarnation,” I dealt with refugees from a wide variety of countries on a daily basis. Most of them were folks just like you or me. The just wanted a chance to live (rather than die, be imprisoned, beaten, or otherwise tortured), work, raise their families in safety and security, and contribute to our nation. Pretty much what all of us want, in my experience.
They also had a very keen appreciation of and deep respect for what American democracy and free political and intellectual participation meant — a much clearer understanding than I have ever heard from President Trump or Steve Bannon. Someone who has been imprisoned in squalid conditions, burned with cigarette butts, beaten on the bottoms of the feet, made to walk on their knees over hot sand, or seen family members abused has a much more practical, down to earth understanding of the privilege of living in the United States than most of us who had the good fortune (not merit, but pure good fortune) to be born here.
I wake up every morning thankful that I woke up and that I’m not a refugee (particularly in the Trump/Bannon world).