Monthly Archives: November 2017

Immigration and terror

On Halloween, an Uzbek man, in the US legally, rented a truck, and drove it onto a popular New York City bike path, killing 8 people, at least 6 of them tourists. The killer, one Sayfullo Saipov, claimed allegiance to ISIS in a note left behind in the truck. Saipov was shot by an alert New York police officer, and is currently under arrest. New Yorkers, meanwhile, headed off to their Halloween parties, which is precisely what they should have done. Terrorists want to terrorize; the best response is to not allow yourself to be terrified.

President Trump, with that delicacy of expression and sensitivity to nuance that seem never to desert him, used several Twitter posts in an effort to console the nation. His complete failure to do anything of the kind is as predictable as it was dispiriting. Of course, we know this; we know he can’t help but be divisive, that even something as basic as compassion is not in his wheelhouse. Prompted, apparently, by what the dolts on Fox and Friends were saying about the event, the President decided that blame for the attack should be laid at the feet of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The terrorist came into our country through what is called the “Diversity Visa Lottery Program,” a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based. We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter).

Of course, it’s deeply wrong for anyone to politicize tragedy. Sorry, no, I got the rules wrong; what’s wrong is for liberal Democrats to politicize gun violence. It’s perfectly okay for a Republican to politicize a terrorist attack.  At least, that’s the official position of the executive branch of the United States, as articulated by Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

It goes without saying that Trump’s tweets were factually wrong: Chuck Schumer, in fact, is on record as opposing the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. I would suggest that both this President and Senator Schumer are wrong regarding the policy in question.

It’s important that we remember this: Trump is not only an odious and repugnant human being. He is that, but that’s tangential to the real danger he represents. He’s also wrong about policy. It’s uncanny; on every issue, he takes the wrong side. He supports proposals that would make everything worse, not better. He says he wants an infrastructure bill. Great, we have major infrastructure needs. But his public/private approach is a proven failure. He thinks the opiod epidemic is a major public health problem. Indeed it is. He resists, however, doing anything that might actually help. And so on.

It’s difficult, of course, to tell where Trump stands on any issue at all. Either he knows absolutely nothing about policy, and isn’t aware how contradictory his public positions actually are, or he’s a showman and con man who doesn’t care about policy at all, so long as someone, somewhere, cheers.  Still, whatever he might have said about health care policy, he did, in fact support the various ghastly attempts by Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. And so on.

And so, yes, he’s wrong about immigration. Of course, that’s the mistaken policy with which he began his run for the Presidency; he spoke then and remains now unconscionably racist. And the biggest applause line in his stump speech–such as it was, it was actually more like a stump stream-of-consciousness–was his cretinous call for a Really Big Wall. Which Mexico would pay for.

The Diversity Visa Lottery Program, then, is not, in my opinion, a particularly good program. It’s far too restrictive.

Here’s how it works. Millions of people would like to come to the United States. Most lack the specific skills Trump’s ‘merit-based’ program requires. Most also lack relatives who are already citizens. Most come from places where they can’t plausibly request political asylum. But they can apply for a diversity lottery visa. It’s a weighted lottery, which last year offered green cards to 50,000 immigrants, out of 9 million applicants. Once selected, prospective immigrants are carefully screened. And then they receive the documentation they need, to live her, work here, and within five years or so, apply for citizenship here.

I said it was a weighted lottery. That’s because you can’t even enter the lottery if you come from a country that has sent more than 50,000 people to the US over the last five years. So your chances are largely based on where you’re from. Uzbekistan and Nigeria had disproportionately large numbers of lottery winners last year.

Sayfullo Saipov won the lottery. He also became a terrorist. Ergo, the Diversity Visa Lottery program promotes terrorism. Post hoc propter hoc. Blarg.

No. The United States of America is, at bottom, a nation made up of people from different places who unite together behind common ideals. Immigration is a social, moral and economic good. Immigrants start businesses. Immigrants raise families. Immigrants obey the law, with a few exceptions, of course. And, specifically, Muslim immigrants, immigrants from Muslim countries, reject terrorism, and are a massively useful resource in combating it. None of those statements are even remotely controversial among experts who study immigration. Those are simply the facts regarding immigration.

So, yes, the Diversity Visa Lottery program is flawed, but not because its vetting requirements are insufficiently rigorous. It’s flawed because it does not accept enough people. The ratio shouldn’t be 50,000 accepted out of 9 million. It should be closer to 1 million to 9 million. Yes, a million people, in addition to the refugees we should also be welcoming. And yes, some of those people will do bad things. A few might even become terrorists. It doesn’t matter. We will never win the ‘war on terror’ until we stop massively overreacting to terrorist acts. Catch the bad guys, and get on with our lives. Disproportionately many of those doing the arresting will themselves be recent immigrants, or their kids.

Of course, Mr. Trump is uninterested in making sense on this issue. He’s all id, all seething resentment and vile prejudice and pompous and ill-informed nativism. in fact; I’ll go further. I don’t think he gets it. He doesn’t understand, appreciate, or sympathize with what it means to be an American. He doesn’t grok it; he’s more foreign, in many ways, than some non-English speaking guy straight off the boat. I suspect that the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty is an incomprehensible jumble of words to him. Diversity–what America is basically about— is a mystery to him.

Sadly, he can’t even pronounce it: