Via BuzzFeed, I’ve been wondering about this. If, as Trump has said, the new and improved “Muslim ban” isn’t a ban on Muslims at all but rather a ban on all refugees from territories with a strong terrorist presence, then logically Middle Eastern Christians and Jews have to be banned too, no? If not, how would you go about discerning that they’re genuine Christians and Jews and not jihadis posing as such? The U.S. vetting process for refugees is thorough compared to Europe’s come-one-come-all policy, involving multiple background checks, an interview, and an average wait time of 12-18 months before entering the United States, but the point of Trump’s ban is that he and his supporters don’t trust that process to sniff out terrorists. If you want to keep jihadis out and you don’t think the government’s current procedures are equal to the task, what choice do you have but to tell Christians and Jews from Syria and Iraq, “Better luck elsewhere”?
The irony of this position is that it’s actually a very un-Trump-like nod to political correctness, with life-and-death consequences. The fact that Trump initially proposed a ban on Muslims means he believed, as many Americans do, that Muslims are a special threat and that U.S. officials would be able to distinguish them from people of other religions. He hasn’t said anything since last fall that I’m aware of to suggest that he’s weakened on either point. The reason he’s shifting from a ban on Muslims to a territorial ban is simply because critics have lambasted him for it, insisting it’s unconstitutional, immoral, unfair to innocent Muslims, and so on. He’s making the same move now that profilers traditionally make when they want to sidestep accusations of prejudice: They widen the net so that it includes everyone from the suspicious group plus some people from outside the group, to give them plausible deniability that they’re looking at any one group with extra scrutiny. He could have stood fast in his belief that Muslims alone need special vetting but he didn’t. So now, if you’re worried about the U.S. instituting a blanket ban on Muslim refugees from the Middle East, good news. We might be banning Christians and Jews from the region too. See, it’s not about religion. They can all take their chances with ISIS equally.
My hunch is that most Republican voters would be okay with admitting non-Muslims from the Middle East as refugees but want tighter scrutiny of all Muslim travelers, especially those from countries with large jihadi groups. Instead they may get a roughly status quo influx of Muslim visitors from non-terror-countries — remember, Trump said he’d be fine with Muslims from, say, Scotland visiting America — followed by a no-questions-asked ban on visitors from terror nations temporarily. Good enough?