Cultivating opposition and confusion is not a political end in itself. Yet the sudden, unexplained rollout of President Trump’s executive order on immigration from terror-spawning countries last Friday suggests that the Trump White House is actually seeking to provoke hysteria on the part of its enemies—or else is dangerously short on public relations and administrative skills. The Trump team needs to up its game quickly if it is going to fulfill the president’s mandate.
Trump’s order is legal and defensible. For 90 days, citizens of seven countries with particularly virulent terrorist networks will be denied entry to the U.S., while the administration investigates how better to research a visa applicant’s possible terror connections. It was President Barack Obama who designated the seven covered countries—Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen—as so dangerous that if a European citizen or anyone else eligible to enter the U.S. without a visa merely visited them, that citizen would lose his right to visa-less entry to the U.S. Individual exceptions to Trump’s entry pause may be made on a case-by-case basis.
The order also suspends most refugee resettlement for 120 days and suspends the resettlement of Syrian refugees until further notice. The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security shall report to the president on deficiencies in visa and refugee screening within 30 days of the order and recommend how to improve the screening: what sort of identity documentation should be required, for example, how to better detect fraud, how to determine an intending immigrant’s likelihood of becoming a productive member of society. The executive action calls for regular disclosure of terrorist charges brought against foreign nationals, the extent of radicalization among foreign nationals, and the gender-based violence against women committed by foreign nationals.