In the next few days President Trump is likely to revise his Immigration/Refugee/Travel Executive Order (EO), because the judiciary has halted it. Or, he could appeal to the Supreme Court, but either way, he will keep fighting for some form of a ban. The original EO did three things: banned immigration from seven predominately Muslim countries for 90 days, refugees for 120 days, and Syrian refugees indefinitely. Let us assume that a new EO does some portion of this, how should we evaluate the costs and benefits of it? Consider four elements: security, economy, humanitarian, and legality. Basically any version of the EO is going make the US security worse and hurt the economy.
Security: the stated point of the EO is security, but any form of this EO will make the US much less safe. While some heavily vetted people will be prevented from coming to the US, it is propaganda boon for terrorist organizations. Further, the US will have trouble recruiting help both overseas, and in the US, from the effected communities and people who are worried they may be next.
1) Keeps people out: depending on the ultimate length and breadth of any new EO, it will block some people (probably in the tens of thousands range) from coming to the US who would otherwise have come. Refugees and immigrants have a lower crime rate than native born Americans. There have been zero terrorist attacks by refugees and immigrants from the seven marked nations. This makes sense, because there are good and bad native born Americans, but immigrants and refugees must pass through an insanely difficult vetting process. But, give Trump his due here, there is a non-zero probably that someone will commit a crime, so simply having less people prevents any crime they may commit.
2) Propaganda: any form of this EO is going to be perceived as a Muslim Ban overseas (by basically everyone, but Trump’s lawyers). Trump repeatedly called for a Muslim Ban and Rudy Giuliani confirmed that this EO was an attempt at a legal Muslim Ban. Trump’s top adviser, Steve Bannon, thinks all Muslims are dangerous. I will address the legal question below, but the perception around the world is that this is a Muslim Ban. And, ISIS and other terrorist organization are and will use this to recruit new terrorists.
3) Recruiting Collaboration Overseas: the US has soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. They need translators and informants to help them. Iraq is one of the seven countries targeted in the original EO. Some of the people stopped by the EO were people who fought for years with the US and were finally coming to safety in the US. Who is going to volunteer to work with US if they may get left behind in a loss? This is a huge problem for a country that has troops all over the world.
4) Recruiting Collaboration in US: “Report: US officials say Muslims frequently report terror threats.” The FBI needs US Muslims to cooperate with on going internal investigations. How well will that go if people are worried about relatives now permanently trapped overseas? Or worse, that they themselves, could see their legal status changed? The original EO blocked immigrants with valid visas coming from seven countries from entering the US, but what about people with those exact same visas in the US. They are going to be worried and they are not going to cooperate as easily.
Economy: the EO is a massively damaging to the economy. The US relies on taking the best and brightest from around the world and having them work in the US. This will curtail that immigration. Also, we will lose out on both Muslim tourism to the US and the ability of US business-people to travel freely around the world.
1) Innovation: would you recommend a young, talented scholar to come the US? What if their type of visa is revoked at the last moment or when they are mid-studies? The US gets the smartest students to come graduate school and teach and research in US. Some return to their native countries, but regularly come back to give attend conferences. Others stay and teach or start innovative companies that employ Americans. 25 percent of US doctors are foreign born. What would happen if the best and brightest computer scientists start turning down Stanford and Harvard for Oxford and Cambridge. The loss to the US could be staggering.
2) Tourism: would you book a big vacation to the US, for next year, if you were a Muslim, even from a non-targeted country? What if Trump shuts down Muslim travel at some point, you will not get your money back. Back of the envelope calculation is that Muslim tourists spend about $18 billion per year in the US.
3) US Travel: other countries are already considering or instituting retaliatory measures against US travelers. Specifically, Iraq is considering a retaliatory ban, which would be devastating for the US war on ISIS. And, also be quite costly to any American companies exploring opportunities in Muslim-majority countries.
Humanitarian: clearly the ban makes life worse for people seeking refuge and/or opportunity in America. I will not go into too much detail here, pending any new EO. But, the original EO stopped people who were already in-transit, after selling all of their possessions.
Legal: a lot of the legal questions will be updated if/when a new EO is issued. But, there are three points to consider: religious test, affect on US citizens, clarity of order. First, the EO does not need to ban all Muslims to be a religious test. If Trump makes a carve-out for minority religions in Muslim-majority countries (which he implied for the original), than it actually only bans Muslims. Second, many US citizens have relative in other countries. Any EO that blocks them from visiting or reuniting permanently is a burden on those US citizens. Third, the original EO was “amended” multiple times by haphazard statements. Any replacement needs to be clear and enforceable.
I am not a lawyer, but it seems legal that Trump can do something that makes the US less secure and negatively impacts the US economy, and it could be legal. But, I will leave that up to the courts.
Anyway, this just a rant to collect my thoughts and keep myself prepared for the next EO. I am sure there are typos and confusion, so please comment!