Economically, culturally, strategically, and morally, Donald Trump’s obsessive efforts to ban Muslim immigrants and refugees from the United States have impoverished us all. His most recent attempt proves it.
On Tuesday, a federal judge in Hawaii partially blocked Trump’s third attempt at a Muslim ban, saying that it failed to provide “sufficient findings” to support the argument that allowing immigration from six Muslim-majority nations would harm the United States.
The judge, Derrick K. Watson, cited a Trump campaign document that said, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
On Wednesday a judge in Maryland issued a similar ruling, calling the Administration’s actions “an inextricable re-animation of the twice-enjoined Muslim ban.”
Trump’s record is unambiguous. He has issued a long-running stream of ignorant and bigoted comments against Muslims, including:
“I think Islam hates us.” (It does not.)
“We have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims. We know our current president (Obama) is one.” (We do not. He is not.)
“I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.” (They did not.)
Candidate Trump said that he would not rule out creating a database of all Muslims in the country. He said he would expel all Syrian refugees, despite the fact that it was American military policy that made them refugees in the first place.
He said, “They could be ISIS, I don’t know. This could be one of the great tactical ploys of all time. “Later he said, “This could make the Trojan horse look like peanuts.”
If you say you’re going to discriminate against all members of a certain religion, and then keep issuing travel bans that almost exclusively affect only members of that religion, it turns out that judges remember what you said, take you at your word, and conclude that’s what you meant to do.
A threat to security
Trump argues that his ban makes us safer, but a bipartisan group of national security officials filed an affidavit in response to his first attempt at a Muslim ban that said, in part,
“We view the Order as one that ultimately undermines the national security of the United States, rather than making us safer … It could do long-term damage to our national security and foreign policy interests, endangering U.S. troops in the field and disrupting counterterrorism and national security partnerships. It will aid ISIL’s propaganda effort and serve its recruitment message by feeding into the narrative that the United States is at war with Islam … It will have a damaging humanitarian and economic impact on the lives and jobs of American citizens and residents.”
Some of these officials oversaw highly aggressive and ill-advised military actions in the Middle East, as well as substantial intrusions into civil liberties at home. They are not predisposed to “give peace a chance,” or to err on the side of privacy and other ideals. They may not be credible on every issue, but if they say Trump’s ban makes us less safe, there’s every reason to believe them.
A Muslim ban is certainly not going to help us economically. As we first reported last September, an interdisciplinary task force convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that “immigration has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the United States.”
But what about refugees? People who are fleeing political oppression in other countries typically need some help when they arrive. Surely we can’t afford that, can we? it turns out that we can. Even if you accept the mechanistic, zero-some view of thinking behind austerity economics and the bipartisan fixation on deficit spending – and, really, you shouldn’t – that’s no reason to turn refugees away from our shores.
A new Working Paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that refugees pay more into the government in taxes than they take out in services. Economists William N. Evans and Daniel Fitzgerald found that “over their first 20 years in the United States, refugees who arrived as adults aged 18-45 contributed more in taxes than they received in relocation benefits and other public assistance.”
That means deficit-obsessed politicians should be looking for ways to accept more refugees, not less.
Lady liberty, resistance icon
At its heart, this isn’t an economic issue. It’s about who we are. For many years we thought of the United States as the last, best hope for refugees feeling oppression and immigrants seeking a better life.
Like millions of other people in this country, my paternal grandparents came here because they faced religious persecution and a campaign of extermination in the country of their birth. They were welcomed to the United States, as their fellow refugees should be welcomed today.
We haven’t always lived up to our ideals, but our sense of nation as a place of refuge had bound us together in a shared sense of community.
Now, in order to defend hatred and Trump’s unconscionable ban, even these ideals and sense of community have come under attack.
First, a Trump administration official attacked the iconic Emma Lazarus poem that adorns the Statue of Liberty, one of our most evocative and unifying national symbols.
32-year-old White House aide Stephen Miller, who looks less like an uptight young person than an uptight old person in larval form, echoed a longstanding but empty-headed talking point from the Far Right whose views he promotes, when he argued that the poem was “added later.” (The poem was written to raise funds for the statue.)
A few days later, the sensitive Mr. Miller was joined in hyper-indignation by his ideological soulmates at alt-right outlet Breitbart.com.
A rant by John Carney, a Breitbart editor, was apparently triggered by a photograph of Jennifer Lawrence that showed the Statue of Liberty in the background. “The opposition media,” Carney tweeted, “can’t even do fashion without attacking us.”
For Trump and his supporters, it seems, a symbol of national unity is an attack on their ideology.
Come to think of it, they may be right.
An attack on us all
Trump’s policies divide us by race and religion, even as his party’s policies further divide us into haves and have-nots. At some point, it was probably always going to be necessary for them to attack our unifying symbols. How else can they advance the politics of division?
As a nation we define ourselves as one people, regardless of identity. And as even George W. Bush now says, an identity-based attack on any group of people, therefore, is an attack on us as a national community. And a refusal to help people in need because of their identity, anywhere in the world, is an insult to our national morality.
We should welcome refugees and immigrants to the United States because it’s good for our society, for our economy, and for our nation. But most of all, we should welcome them because it is the right and moral thing to do.