President Trump has unleashed his pen and set forth something like twenty Executive Orders, in an apparent effort to carry out a number of his campaign promises. What is obvious about this rush of rash action is that neither Trump nor his advisors have thought through the implications and ramifications of those orders, nor the legal requirements under the Constitution.
One of the basic rights under the Constitution is the right to fair treatment under law, and a keystone of that is the right to due process of law. Certainly, the travel ban doesn’t seem to comply with the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which states that “No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…” Procedural due process requires that government officials follow fair procedures before depriving a person of life, liberty, or property, and those procedures minimally require the government to afford the person notice and an opportunity to be heard.
That apparent failure was one of the legal bases for the various lawsuits to stay or lift the travel ban.
Beyond the legal issues are the practical issues. Forty university presidents signed and sent a letter to Trump protesting the ban, noting that they had students, professors, and university employees scattered across the globe, and that many were being summarily detained or denied a return to the United States, and that the travel ban would have an adverse effect on those universities and individuals. What seemed to be overlooked is that the U.S. hosts over four million international students, and a great number come from countries where Islam is the prevailing religion.
In addition, businesses and non-profit organizations with international activities would also be affected in a similar fashion, and the “roll-out” imposed significant costs and disruptions upon the airlines as well – all without a significant impact on terrorism.
Like it or not, we live in a high-tech, complex global economy, and simplistic, or “simple,” solutions are seldom suited to resolving problems, especially when they’re thrust without notice or warning on unsuspecting travelers, businesses, and, especially, the government officials who are supposed to implement them.
Yes, we’ve had some terrorist acts in the United States, but we’ve likely had more deaths recently caused by driving or walking while texting than terrorist killings. We’ve certainly had more deaths caused by good U.S. citizens killing each other or themselves with firearms, or in vehicle accidents, and I don’t see any Executive Orders banning texting, drunken driving, or detaining anyone carrying a firearm. But our good President can certainly whip out an Executive Order banning anyone from seven countries from entering the United States on the grounds that a handful might be terrorists.
Yes, we likely do need a careful vetting of immigrants, but that’s been going on all along. For the past several years, under present security procedures, the number and percent of Islamist-inspired terrorist activities is quite low in the U.S., and some of those acts have been carried out by people who were either raised here or born here and who would not have been precluded from those acts by the travel ban. We’ve also had some nasty native-born terrorists over the years, such as Timothy McVeigh and Ted Kaczynski, or senseless killings of six-year-olds by automatic weapons at Sandy Hook elementary school, but those didn’t seem to require Executive Orders to address.
Equally important, a slap-dash ban will only increase the incentive for that minute fraction of Islamic believers who are terrorists to radicalize more people. That’s a far greater danger than that posed by refugees and immigrants, and also an example of the damage hasty and ill-thought campaign promises can create when dashed off as Executive Orders.