Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Blocking Immigrants?

Mathew Goldstein

Donald Trump's signature proposal on stopping or restricting Islamic immigrants is, like his other proposals, unclear because it changes and is not fully described.  Is it possible to reliably identify who is Islamic?  I am skeptical.  What is the most effective way to the vet immigrants?  Do we have good reason to think that fewer immigrants would be effective in preventing homeland attacks?  How do we measure the additional risk of threat of attacks from accepting more immigrants?   What level of risk should be required to justify an immigration shutdown?  What are the repercussions?  I do not know and it is because I am an ignoramus that I am inclined to refrain from discussing complicated issues like this.  

Nevertheless, I can say, based on what I have read, that there is solid evidence of ongoing efforts to carry out attacks in Europe, and to encourage lone wolf attacks, that rely on religious belief based appeals.  Therefore, a review of immigration policies that includes considering options to take into account religious beliefs when vetting immigrants is not automatically an example of racism, or a violation the Establishment Clause, or Islamophobia, or siding with the religious right, or whatever the hell the latest knee jerk invective is favored by those who seek to try to shut down discussion.  When we set our immigration policies we should do our best to take into account the needs of refugees in addition to the risks and try to strike a sensible balance.  If more people die in car accidents every week than are killed by immigrants every year then restricting immigration is probably not justified.  Otherwise, in the long term, if reduced immigration succeeded in preventing attacks then we could end up accepting more immigrants than we would have if we had instead experienced major attacks and reacted by shutting down immigration.

Trump is terribly wrong in so many ways about so much, which appears to tragically be an unavoidable result for any Republican presidential nominee in 2016 given how that demographic votes.  The bombastic Trump, given his populist track record, and his divisive rhetoric, taints any proposals he makes while engaging in election year posturing in front of the electorate.  A partial immigration slowdown that tries to reduce risks from accepting immigrants is not inherently crazy or irresponsible, although a policy that rejects everyone who is Islamic, as suggested by Trump, is difficult to justify.  Being Islamic says too little about the person.  But if there is a strong enough positive correlation between criminal violence and being Islamic among immigrants, or good evidence of ongoing dangerous plots and capabilities, then it may be justified to make that one of the considerations.

While Clinton currently expresses opposition to restricting immigration, if the context changed so that risks from immigration became larger in the future then I would not be surprised if she reversed course.  I would prefer that she would say now, as a candidate, that reviewing immigration policy would be one option she would consider in the event that violence by immigrants became a substantial problem. I think Clinton has a track record of being pragmatic and thoughtful with respect to policy advocacy, more so than any other candidate, including the third party candidates.  Regardless of what anyone thinks about the other candidates, this election is between Clinton and Trump.

The above commentary is my opinion alone, I speak not for anyone else, and in particular I am not speaking here for WASH.  


Bill Creasy said...

The problem with some of Trump's statements is that they have an apparent grain of reasonableness, until you look hard and think about them. A lot of European terrorist attacks were done by permanent residents, so restricting new immigrants wouldn't help. Most Muslims are peaceful and just want to live in a stable society, so labeling them as possible terrorists is a waste of resources. Those Muslims who actually intend to commit criminal acts will certainly lie about being Muslims in order to get in the country. So Trump's blanket ban on Muslims simply wouldn't work. He seems to have changed his policy from a blanket ban to "extreme vetting," whatever that is.

Explicit Atheist said...

The more immigrants need ie to qualify for entry the more opportunity to deny, or subsequently revoke, entry. A policy targeting only current immigrants is taking advantage of a legal window of opportunity because once someone becomes a legal resident or citizen they are protected by the laws from being deported. My impression is that violent acts were carried out, or were planned but preempted, by converts and non-converts, by new immigrants, by many years resident immigrants, by second and later generation citizens, by both males and females, by both young and middle aged. Given current events and trends, I think it is unlikely that we will experience attacks damaging enough to properly warrant slowing down immigration. Our immigrant context is significantly different from Europe's because we are surrounded by oceans and refugees who arrive here were lprobably vetted by UN staff. Then they are vetted again after they arrive. Nevertheless, the possibility of attacks is significant enough to merit a what if discussion.

Trump calls global warming a hoax and he pinned the blame for the hoax on China. That is par for the course. He falsely scapegoats others and denies his own poor behavior galore. He is a caricature of a person who disrespects evidence, disrespects people, and lacks integrity. The bigger problem is that someone with very good character is unlikely to win many votes on the Republican side in part because the policies they must espouse and the arguments they must make to win the most votes are unworkable, would be harmful if implemented, and are false. Given this context, a Republican candidate who loses in the general election is a relatively good outcome.

Explicit Atheist said...

The first sentence above was intended to be: The more immigrants lie to qualify for entry the more opportunity to deny, or subsequently revoke, entry.

I am not entirely sure what your position is or what you are arguing for. You say the immigrants could lie when being vetted and you noted that Trump callls for "extreme. vetting". Are you claiming that the vetting is useless and that anyone calling for more vetting is siding with Trump? But if vetting is useless then doesn't that favor the conclusion that immigration spiked be shutdown entirely as a security precaution? And isn't the latter a vacuous guilt by association argument?

Explicit Atheist said...

"Spiked" was intended to be "should".

Bill Creasy said...

Here is an interview by Bill Maher that gives a good critique of Trump's policies:

I agree with most of his points.

With regard to vetting, immigrants are being vetted now. There was a story on "60 Minutes" about it last week. But does Trump think he will have access to new information for vetting them that the intelligence agencies don't have now? He has previously advocated for torture, so will he torture immigrants until they confess that they support ISIS? As usual with all Trump's policies, "extreme vetting" is just a buzz word with no details about what he really plans to do (if anything).