Sunday February 05, 2017
The Question Journalists Should be Asking Trump About His Anti-Refugee Ban
There was a key moment on NPR's Weekend Edition this morning when host Lulu Garcia-Navarro inteviewed William Lacey Swing, of the International Organization for Migration, which, according to NPR's website, oversees the travel plans of most refugees resettling in the U.S. They were talking about Pres. Trump's recent excecutive order, of course, banning refugees along with all immigrants from seven specific countries:
Can the vetting [of immigrants] be improved? This is all, fundamentally, according to the adminstration, about keeping Americans safe.
Well, it's hard to imagine a more strict vetting than we have now—this came in after the 9/11 attack in 2001. You have eight U.S. government agencies who are vetting them, they are looking at six different security databases, they are doing five different background checks, they have three separate in-person interviews and then two interagency security reviews of that. So part of the problem has been that since 9/11 security vetting has been so strict that you're talking about at least 18 months until you can travel.
Since a week ago Friday, I've been waiting for a journalist, any journalist, to ask that question of the Trump administration—with this tweak: What about current vetting worries you? What needs fixing? Once again, though, the press is letting Trump get away with ignoring the details, even though it's the details that matter. We are safe, or not, in the details. That should be the focus.
I've been waiting for this, in part, because in my day job we've interviewed and featured quite a few immigration lawyers over the years, so I'm at least aware of the arduous vetting process for immigrants. I know it's arduous. I know immigration attorneys want it impproved. I doubt Trump's EO is the improvement it needs.
That EO, of course, has been temporarily struck down by a federal judge (in Seattle!), but even this, I fear, plays into Trump's hands. Imagine if we now get attacked from within—by Muslims or refugees, rather than the usual crazy white Christian men with guns. This would play right into his and Bannon's hands: “We tried to keep you safe but they stopped us. Now give us the power we need.” It could be Trump's Reichstag fire.
Anyway, bravo to Garcia-Navarro for asking the question and kudos to Mr. Swing for his answer. To the rest of the press: Follow the details.