Donald Trump signed another executive action on Friday blocking the entry of refugees, travelers, students and even (at first) legal permanent residents from seven Muslim-majority countries. This “Muslim ban” exceeds even what nativist and anti-Muslim figures in the United States deemed possible.
A federal court offered some small reprieve on Saturday, issuing a stay on portions of the draconian executive order after the American Civil Liberties Union spearheaded a lawsuit against it.
Nativist and anti-Muslim figures have long wanted a ban on Muslim immigration and refugee resettlement. In an article in National Review, Mark Krikorian of the extreme anti-immigrant think tank Center for Immigration Studies claimed, “large Muslim populations, continually refreshed by ongoing mass immigration, are a problem.” The discredited anti-Muslim outfit Center for Security Policy published a pamphlet by anti-refugee activist Ann Corcoran calling for a moratorium on Muslim immigration to the U.S.
But once Trump’s campaign trail call for a Muslim ban garnered broad condemnation, Krikorian and other nativist leaders were skeptical the executive could politically justify such sweeping measures (and of course, that remains to be seen).
So over the summer Krikorian and his anti-Muslim counterpart, conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, joined together, took their extremism down a notch, and proposed a “grown-up alternative” to Trump’s highly publicized Muslim ban. Krikorian and Gaffney, who have both advised Trump’s team in some capacity, suggested a retrofitting of the the Cold War-era policy known as “ideological exclusion.” This could achieve their goals by practically keeping Muslims out of the country while avoiding the political risks of an explicit ban.
Yet Trump’s recent executive order banning Muslims and refugees resembles longstanding anti-Muslim proposals far more than it does this summer’s more covert alternative. Corcoran’s pamphlet identifies “streams” of Muslim immigrants that must be stopped by country, and has regularly called for shutting down the refugee resettlement program. Trump simply puts these calls into action.
Even the language of the executive order echoes or exceeds the extremism of anti-Muslim proposals. Consider a few comparisons to the anti-Muslim website CounterJihad, a project of the Center for Security Policy.
Trump’s order calls for the “Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern.” It also bars people from from seven Muslim-majority countries including Iraq, Iran Syria, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, and Yemen. Similarly, CounterJihad recommends “[curtailing] immigration from Islamist compromised countries until real vetting can be put in place. Americans must insist that new immigrants share our values.”
Both Trump and CounterJihad attempt to justify the blatant discrimination in their policies with a heavy dose of nationalism and a jingoistic interpretation of American values. Trump’s executive order dictates, “to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.” A CounterJihad article, listing reasons why Trump should “stop importing jihadists,” argues that “America is a nation of immigrants, but it is also a philosophy; immigrants who share American values are the ones who benefit the nation.”
The order also says, “We cannot, and should not, admit into our country those who do not support the U.S. Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law.” This argument presumably refers to the anti-Muslim movement’s Shariah law bogeyman. In an article on “colonization by immigration,” CounterJihad states: “Shariah mandates the spread of Islam by all means possible. Immigration with the intention of dominating the local culture is one of the oldest tactics.”
Given Krikorian and Gaffney’s connection to the Trump campaign and their membership in a secret far-right strategy group with Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions, it’s no surprise that the executive order draws from at least one iteration of their anti-Muslim extremism. According to The Washington Post, both Sessions and Bannon were said to be “deeply involved” in crafting Trump’s executive orders.
Gaffney certainly approved of Trump’s Muslim ban. He wrote in a short blog that Trump is “absolutely right to not import” even “more immigrants” supposedly committed to “imposing Islam’s Sharia.”
It’s clear that Trump has embraced hostile policy measures thought to be too extreme by their own authors and proprietors. And that’s terrifying.