Trump's order is a balm for Christians, not a ban on Muslims

Trump defends travel ban as protests spread
Trump defends travel ban as protests spread

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Story highlights

  • Carol Swain: the purpose of President Trump's executive order is clear and the goals are well within the scope of his authority
  • Only the most ardent cultural relativist would have reasons to quibble, she writes

Carol M. Swain, Professor of Political Science and Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University, is a prize-winning author, public speaker, and political commentator. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter. The views expressed in this commentary are solely hers.

(CNN)Last Friday, President Trump signed an executive order titled: "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States." In the following days, mass hysteria and an onslaught of misleading news reports have falsely depicted the President's actions as an unconstitutional ban on Muslims entering the United States.

Those who object to the order have missed both the actual content of the executive order and the fact that the seven Muslim nations most affected -- Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen -- were already identified when Congress passed the "Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015." This act prevented nationals of these countries from traveling to the United States without visas. Muslims from other nations like Indonesia, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are not subject to Trump's 90-day restriction. Therefore, it is not a Muslim ban.
Carol Swain
The quick and immediate effort to implement the President's order created an unexpected amount of chaos and confusion after Administration officials misinterpreted the directive, thinking it applies to green card holders. However, the language of the directive makes clear that these immigrant categories were not the intended target, even green card holders that have been associated with domestic terrorism. It is important to read the text of the executive order before making claims about the Trump Administration's targets and its intended goals.
    In section 1, which references 9/11, the order reads:
    "In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including "honor" killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation."
    The purpose is clear and the goals are well within the scope of presidential authority. Moreover, the criteria listed are consistent with American values and principles. Only the most ardent cultural relativist would have reasons to quibble.
    In addition to imposing a temporary ban on persons from terrorist-sponsoring nations and halting refugee admissions for 120 days until measures can be implemented to improve the vetting process, President Trump proposes to reduce the flow of immigrants to the United States. He hopes to lessen the number of refugees from President Obama's 2016 85,000 and 2017's 110,000 per year to a more reasonable flow of 50,000 per year, which is still high by historical standards. Reducing the number of refugees strikes me as reasonable, given the limited resources for refugee resettlement and the enormous burden imposed on local communities that are often ill-equipped to absorb large numbers of people from radically different cultural backgrounds.
    Some people argue that restricting refugees from Syrian and other terrorist sponsoring nations is heartless because many of the persons admitted are women and children. However, there is a serious problem with this argument: there are more male than female refugees. As Megan McArdle of Bloomberg highlights, Europe's immigration statistics have shown that only 27 percent of refugees were female in 2015. Additionally, jihadists groups have increasingly used women and children to carry out attacks. Women bombers have been successful because they can get closer to their targets, as they are considered less suspicious. Thus, it makes perfect sense for our government to strongly vet all Muslim immigrants, including the women and children.
    President Trump has also been condemned for signaling he will give priority to persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East, which means admitting higher numbers of Christian and Yazidi refugees fleeing beheadings, drownings, and other forms of mass torture. Some critics have mistakenly argued that religion should not be a factor in refugee admissions. However, as attorney David French points out, "Religious considerations are by law part of refugee policy. And it is entirely reasonable to give preference... to members of minority religions."
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    Under President Obama's policy, over 98 percent of the Middle Eastern refugees were Muslims. Although the Pew Research Center reports that similar numbers of Muslim and Christian refugees entered the US in 2016, their presentation of worldwide statistics rather than regional obscures the discrimination against Christians in the Middle East. Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, argued that it was almost impossible for a Christian refugee to escape Syria. According to Abrams, although 10 percent of all Syrians are Christian, only one-half of 1 percent of the refugees admitted to the US by fall of 2016 were Christian. Clearly, something has been wrong and we needed a corrective like President Trump's order.
    Instead of complaining about President Trump's executive order preventing terrorist attacks from foreign nationals, when we invoke the words 'We the People,' we should celebrate the fact we have someone in the White House willing to go the extra mile to ensure the safety of our citizens. We should be thankful for the development and implementation of a rational refugee policy that will correct some of the biases and injustices of the Obama Administration.