A Deeper Look: Carol Swain’s Defense of Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

Carol Swain, a conservative academic and frequent commentator on cable news shows, recently penned an editorial for CNN.com defending President Trump’s executive order on immigration. I rarely agree with Dr. Swain because she’s intellectually dishonest and her views on Islam are repulsive. Her most recent editorial is a perfect example of her logical and factual sleight of hand (and typical of the arguments you will hear supporting many of President Trump’s policies). Let’s take her arguments in turn, shall we?

“Muslims from other nations like Indonesia, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are not subject to Trump’s 90-day restriction. Therefore, it is not a Muslim ban.”

First, there is obvious logical fallacy. The fact that the order doesn’t exclude all Muslims  doesn’t mean it isn’t a Muslim ban. True, it isn’t a complete ban on Muslim refugees, but that doesn’t make the ban less offensive, particularly when the context of the Executive Order hints that a complete ban is the President’s actual objective. And there is a lot of context here, most troubling, Trump’s repeated support for a ban on muslims and Rudy Giuliani’s comments that ““[W]hen [Trump] first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’ ”

The chaos that resulted was the fault of immigration officials “misinterpreting the language … of the directive [which] makes clear that these immigrant categories [permanent residents and green card holders] were not the intended target…”

Dr. Swain encourages readers to examine the full text of the order before making claims about the order’s targets and intended goals. I think the words of the President and his advisors like Giuliani make it pretty clear who the targets are and what the goal is –  but ok, I’ll play along. Dr. Swain provides a link to the full text of the order.  I assume she didn’t expect many people to actually read it. I’m asking you to do so. There is nothing in the text that leads to her conclusion. NOTHING. The relevant operative language is as follows:

I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas). (Italics mine)

Do you see an exemption for permanent residents (aka green card holders)? I don’t. Because it’s not there or anywhere else in the order. There are exceptions, but not the ones she claims are there. Section 3(g) grants the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security the discretion “on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.” That is discretion and it certainly doesn’t provide any guidance to immigration personnel. The confusion arose because the order is written without any input from the people who would be charged with implementing the policy it lays out. I’d be surprised if a lawyer ever looked at it. (For the record, Dr. Swain may hold masters degree in law, but she is not an attorney.)

President Trump proposes to reduce the flow of immigrants to the United States. He hopes to lessen the number of refugees from President Obama’s 2016 85,000 and 2017’s 110,000 per year to a more reasonable flow of 50,000 per year, which is still high by historical standards.

First, please note, that 2017 is less than a month old; 110,000 refugees have not been admitted. Secondly, in the article as published on CNN.com, “historical standards” is hyperlinked to http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/10/05/u-s-admits-record-number-of-muslim-refugees-in-2016/, an article entitled “U.S. admits record number of Muslim refugees in 2016.” The chart there goes back 15 years, which is a pretty short time frame for a discussion of historical data. A better source is here, on the website of the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) operated by the U.S Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. Check out the link “Historical Arrivals Broken Down By Region (1975- Present). The linked document is an Excel File, but here is a graph of the data.



You’ll quickly notice 2 things: (1) Refugee admission in 2016 wasn’t off the charts; and(2) The 2002 starting point for the chart cited by Dr. Swain is pretty much the lowest point of the last 17 years. If anything, our current rate is returning us to historical norms. Maybe Dr. Swain isn’t flat out lying here, but she is using very select statistics to give an impression about refugee admission under President Obama that is flat-out wrong.

Some people argue that restricting refugees from Syrian and other terrorist sponsoring nations is heartless because many of the persons admitted are women and children. However, there is a serious problem with this argument: there are more male than female refugees.

A little more sleight of hand here. The CNN editorial contains link to an NBC story in which President Obama chides those opposed to admitting refugees. She rebuts this argument by citing a Bloomberg article on migration across Europe. Do I even have to say the obvious?  The article deals with European immigration from every country, not just Syria. The number also include economic refugees. It includes applicants, not just those admitted. So the article cited has nothing to do with what we’re talking about. Since we have actually been admitting Syrian refugees, let’s take a look at the people actually looking to settle in the United States, not some irrelevant European cohort: Demographic breakdown of Syrian refugees who are seeking to resettle in the U.S.:  23,826 total applicants — 15,937, or 67 percent, of whom are women (of all ages) and male children (age 0 to 11). Men (age 18 and older) accounted for 25.5 percent.

10 percent of all Syrians are Christian, only one-half of 1 percent of the refugees admitted to the US by fall of 2016 were Christian. Clearly, something has been wrong and we needed a corrective like President Trump’s order.

Ignore the obvious – that Dr. Swain distrust Muslims. Begin with the fact that the refugees the U.S. takes aren’t selected by the U.S.; they are selected by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees and referred to the U.S. If discrimination were taking place, it wouldn’t be on the part of the U.S. but by the UNHCR. This policy wouldn’t change that. Is there discrimination against Christian refugees? I don’t know. I certainly haven’t seen any proof and there are a lot of other explanations for the discrepancy between the Christian share of the population in Syria and the number of refugees. This argument really on makes sense if you believe that President Obama is a secret Muslim. (Though not a devout one I guess. I never saw Michelle in hijab and I’ve seen plenty of videos of Obama having a beer or eating during Ramadan.)

Dr. Carol Swain may be a great academic for all I know. I’ve never read her scholarly work. I do know that her publications in popular literature and her television appearances are just plain silly. Her latest CNN article is not only filled with alternative facts, it is imbued with alternative morality.



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