January 31, 2017 by John Bruce Leonard
The Argument on Immigration We Aren’t Having
THE REPUTATIONAL DAMAGE done to America by Mr Trump’s action will be dangerous, as well as large. The attributes that make America attractive to migrants—its openness, fairness and opportunity—are also among its most effective security mechanisms. They help explain why America is at once the most desirable destination for migrants and less prone to jihadist violence than almost any other country with a large Muslim population. By singling out Muslims for discrimination—including a group currently detained at John F. Kennedy airport in New York who had risked their lives working with Americans in Iraq—Mr Trump’s order is a repudiation of these American strengths.
Nothing much can be faulted in the recent article from The Economist magazine regarding the consequences of President Trump’s executive orders on immigration. It is consistent, level-headed, and fair, which is to say, it holds to the usual Economist standards. Yet this single paragraph could not help but catch my eye and alert me once again to the fact that, in a fundamental way, all our arguments regarding immigration are but flashes on the surface of much deeper waters.
What the paragraph above seems to suggest, is that the best security measure that can be taken against jihadist violence, is to open our borders to Muslims. This is, surely, a sound argument in the following respect: if we adopt a stance of flagrant discrimination against Muslims as Muslims, we are not liable to garner much well-wishing for ourselves amidst the most violent and extreme partisans for Islam; indeed, we are certain to call down their ire.
Yet it appears that the Economist strays a step further than this after all rather routine claim: for, as the article points out, America hitherto has been less prone to jihadist violence “than almost any other country with a large Muslim population.” The implication seems to be that American openness is a measure we should adopt, not so much in the pacification of Muslims living abroad in radicalized and poor Muslim countries, but rather in the pacification of the Muslims living within American borders.
There is good reason to think as much. We should not forget for a moment that, time and time and time again, it has often been, not foreign Muslim agents, nor even first-generation Muslims recently come to our Western countries, but second-generation Muslims, who have carried out some of the bloodiest attacks on Western soil.
This reframes the argument somewhat, both for and against Trump’s executive ban. I think it indisputable that in its blunt inability to make sensible exceptions, in its evidently quite hasty and even offensive lack of due preparation, it has been a charade. But is there not something at the base of it that we really must begin to confront, particularly considering the demographic force that Muslim families represent in Western countries? The Economist, I cannot help but feeling, is very subtly suggesting we embrace the same kind of prudent tip-toeing that has lead the Occident again and again and again to meekly capitulate before the desiderata of a segment of our population, notwithstanding the fact that such desiderata are often basically inimical to our fundamental liberal social structure.
Does this mean we must shut down our border to all Muslims as Muslims? Of course it does not. But it does demand that we begin to open certain questions we have put off far too long, about the nature of our liberal societies—and, let us not shrink from saying it aloud, about the nature also of Islam.
UPDATE: Find here an excellent article addressing the very questions I mention above. Fortunately, in certain quarters, we are having this debate.