Simplistic “Solutions”

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.

17 thoughts on “Simplistic “Solutions””

  1. Derek says:

    In an effort to keep us safe, none of these Executive Orders seem to address the growing radicalization of white Americans. Apparently we only need protection from terrorists who happen to be brown.

    1. JakeB says:

      Apparently there’s even a push to rename the DHS program “Countering Violent Extremism” to focus only on Muslims (

      Probably because the reports of what Timothy McVeigh, Dylan Roof, etc. have done are all fake news . . .

  2. Tim says:

    From the outside, it would seem that President Trump has signed these orders to show he meant what he said during the election. The fact that legal process or later Congress will not allow him to deliver on them is separate.

    The Trump voter will know that he tried, and that is what is important. So he is stronger for it. That is populism apparently.

    Theatre may be a better term. It may even work like in the Roman senate.

  3. R. Hamilton says:

    Constitutional protections do not apply to the behavior of the federal government with respect to foreigners who are still abroad. They have NO right to due process, equal treatment, or anything else with respect to visa applications, nor with respect to whether existing visas are cancelled.

    Having said that, the rollout was bungled; it should definitely have been better coordinated, and probably grandfathered those with visas and tickets in hand with a scheduled travel date within e.g. a week or some such short interval. But the latter is a courtesy, not an entitlement.

    1. Alan Naylor says:

      However federal law, specifically the Immigration Act which has been amended several times last in 1990, ensures the right of immigration to people of any place regardless of race, color, creed, religion or country of origin. This is just one of several federal laws that are being held to conflict with the Executive Order.

      Executive Orders only have the force of law if they are legally adjudged powers granted by the Constitution or federal law to the president. They can be struck down by court findings or a law that Congress creates.

      Additionally the Supreme Court found, “The Bill of Rights is a futile authority for the alien seeking admission for the first time to these shores. But once an alien lawfully enters and resides in this country he becomes invested with the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to all people within our borders”, during a 1958 court case. Essentially meaning that once some one was here legally they are fully protected by the Constitution. A foreign student who enters the country legally, but goes home for a religious holiday cannot legally be denied the right to return here to continue his education. Yet that is what the Executive Order caused to occur.

      As Tim said, I feel that much of this theatre for the masses to convince them that Trump is doing his best to accomplish what he said he would. When he fails he’ll point to these attempts and claim that the obstructionism of the establishment is what caused him to fail on the delivery of his promises.

      1. R. Hamilton says:

        Then we need to change that, by whatever mechanism necessary, even constitutional amendment if nothing less will suffice. Those not citizens or green card holders, and not actually on US soil, should have NO rights.

        We should skim the cream, and leave the rest to whatever fate holds for them where they came from. We do not need to provide a haven, refuge, goal, or anything else. Having too many of our own unwilling and unprepared to work, we don’t need entry-level types, so the expendables that built the railroads are not a repeatable phenomenon.

        Ethnicity is not a problem, but some cultures are an incompatible infection that ruins most raised in them, and we do NOT need hostile invaders. Europe made a huge mistake in that regard; you’d think they’d have known better, considering what it took to push out the Saracen invaders last time.

  4. Tim J says:

    It seems to me that the numbers paint a very different picture. Carrying out some quick searches, it appears that there have been around 3,500 American fatalities due to terrorist acts since 2001 (including 9/11), but that the number of US road traffic fatalities is over 30,000 a year. I also saw stats that suggested gun violence accounted for about the same level of US fatalities as traffic accidents, and includes gun accidents and suicides as well.

    The gun/terrorism data was credited from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, US State Department (I saw it on a CNN news page), and the traffic stats are from Google stats.

    Terrorism is scary, sure, but I do wonder if, as a society, we are losing our perspective. Terrorists thrive on the exposure. I’d prefer it if they were treated as the criminals that they are. Unfortunately, the solution is hard – finding solutions to the problems that result in radicalisation. Keeping them out won’t work, as it’ll only keep out the law abiding majority.

    Unfortunately, the stats are pretty unexciting. A similar picture emerges here in the UK (albeit without the same level of gun fatalities).

    But why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      The numbers are well known, and irrelevant.

      We can’t force their culture to become modern, so we must either exclude it from among us, or exterminate it utterly.

      The latter is impractical, and distasteful to most of us, so it seems the decision should be obvious.

      Acceptable losses is merely another description of gradual surrender, or an excuse for failing to act.

      1. Tim J says:

        The numbers indicate the scale of different issues. They are not acceptable losses. In theory, governments do what they can to reduce them in all areas, whilst trying to avoid impinging on freedom.

        It seems to me that the numbers indicate that the previous administrations have done a pretty good job in protecting the US. Reducing the losses further is a matter of preventing radicalisation of people already in the US.

        The travel ban simply reduces the freedoms of those already permitted to reside in the US.

        1. R. Hamilton says:

          Losses due to crazy or willfully criminal or negligent acts by citizens are part of the cost of OUR freedom (the only freedom that our government should spend our resources protecting). Losses due to foreigners are not.

          Freedom (but not assured outcomes) of US citizens as individuals, is the ONLY priority; everything else follows from that. Those who come here must share that premise AND not become a public burden, or not be let in at all.

          1. James says:

            Aren’t you making a very definitive statement about the purpose of the US without anything except your opinion to back it up? You are in effect speaking on behalf of all US citizens or at least on behalf of those that wrote your constitution.

            I think a large number, perhaps even a majority (of either citizens or founders) would argue that freedom is not the only thing your government should be striding to provide.

  5. Dan Cody says:

    The Sandy Hook killer had an automatic rifle? I thought he used a semi-automatic. Did he fabricate a auto sear and third pin?

    1. He used a semi-automatic, and it didn’t make much difference. Six year-olds in a confined space are easy targets. The distinction between semi-automatic and automatic weapons is of great importance to weapons experts, and of far less importance to the people either type of weapon kills.

      1. Alan Naylor says:

        The distinction is important to more than weapons experts. It’s important because of the impression it conjures in the minds of the American public. If I tell you I have an ‘automatic assault rifle’ there is an impression of Rambo running around with a belt fed monster of a gun or an Uzi.

        When you are ignorant of the topic you climb up on to a soap box to preach about, it does not help public awareness of the problem. The same guns that police officers use every day in the defense of innocent civilians are the same guns which can be used to kill them. Police officers use semi-automatic weapons. Be the gun a rifle or an handgun. This information, this awareness, when speaking on weapons and attacks specifically associated with guns is important to more than the ‘gun nuts’ and ‘weapons experts’. If the political parties were left to their own devices they would term anything which wasn’t a muzzle loaded smooth bore six foot long rifle illegal.

        When addressing any problem you must understand it, so it should be critically important that the politicians who are dealing with gun issues of any sort be aware of what they are speaking of. Not only the difference between automatic and semi-automatic, but the realistic danger the weapons present.

        In the case of Sandy Hook, a mad man with a large knife would be just as dangerous to those children in a confined space as a man with a semi-automatic rifle was. In fact it could easily be argued that a madman with a knife or pistol would be more dangerous in many ways, given the situation.

        The technical distinctions of what weapon was used to kill you probably don’t matter a whole lot to the dead person. Dead is dead, after all. But it matters to those who were left behind. If your child was killed by a butter knife you might want to see all butter knives outlawed. It matters to those to those who have to do their best to prevent it from happening again through either legislation or direction to law enforcement and protection personnel.

  6. Dan Cody says:

    I agree, I was honestly just confused because I hadn’t heard that before. When i think about it though, it’s suprising that, as far as I know, one of these mass shooters haven’t done that yet.

  7. Joe says:

    Immigration is a difficult problem, particularly because the US isn’t a homogeneous society. As such it needs to be discussed rationally, without fear of retribution.

    A Scientist and a Christian fundamentalist may disagree completely about the same foreigner immigrating. One may perceive that person’s presence as an attack on his culture, his way of life, and the other may perceive him as an asset to those same things.

    Similarly, the owner of a company may welcome the wage-competition provided by new arrivals, whereas his employees do not.

    As a society, we have to have a common position on what we value. People who believe the US should fight to regain its position at the forefront of technology (and it’s losing it), must convince others within that society by sharing the benefits and prosperity it generates.

    The recent hoarding of benefits by the business class has resulted in this polarization which will dissuade the best and brightest from the rest of the world from visiting or studying in the US. Tourism has fallen 20% since the presidential inauguration.

    Scientific conferences are being moved abroad. This decreases the chances that foreign graduate students can participate, which is a career killing prospect. Most graduate STEM students in the US are foreign. If they decide to study abroad instead, the US University STEM departments will be in dire trouble.

    As it is, the US is falling behind in the semiconductor fabrication technology (Applied Micro moved its R&D to Xian, China), translation deep learning technology, to name but two examples.

    People who advocate no rights for foreigners seem to live under the delusion that the US is the source of all greatness, including the inventions enabling our high standard of living. A little study would disabuse them of this nonsense.

    Nevertheless, hordes of new people who believe they should apply the moral standards for their own countries rather than adapt to those here is indisputably also a problem that cannot be ignored. It’s not a problem the US has suffered from much, unlike parts of Germany and Sweden.

    The recent Executive Orders do not strike me as being a well considered solution, and I doubt any solution imposed from above will suit every case. Most likely, the whole of society needs to grapple with the problem and come to a consensus. If this can’t be done, perhaps States or even large cities can come to consensus positions, and should be able to set their own immigration policy.

  8. darcherd says:

    I agree with the comment that characterized the executive actions as theater, and irrelevant to whether they are ultimately proved legal or even practically enforceable. The President appears to have concluded (unfortunately, probably correctly) that he does not need to pay attention to U.S. public opinion, let alone world opinion, so long as he pleases that electoral base that put him in the White House. He is doing what he said he would on the campaign trail, whether I like it or not.

    And as long as he doesn’t do something so outrageous that those who oppose him actually get upset enough to show up at the ballot box, he’ll continue playing to his base and no one else.

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