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Navigating the Coming Disinformation Campaigns

It’s pretty clear at this point we live in a world where there’s no such thing as objective news reporting. Social Media has become a den of fake news and sharing news articles engineered to express certain points of view. While our blog here certainly does not claim to be objective, I will never deliberately lie to you, or deliberately twist facts to suit my agenda. I try hard to be honest.

I am going to use the example of the Trump Executive Order on immigration. It’s not my point to argue in favor of it, but it illustrates a very important principle: one, always go to primary sources. Don’t believe someone else’s characterization of something. Read it for yourself. Follow all the citations to legal statutes, and try to understand those. Eventually, you’ll develop a body of knowledge around a subject, and it will be much harder for people with an agenda to bullshit you.

Here’s the full text of the EO. You’ll see a lot of terminology and references to law. Like, what is an immigrant and non-immigrant visa? What is the Visa Waiver Program? What powers does the President have to suspend foreign nationals from entering the United States? So let’s look at some claims:

The EO is illegal and or unconstitutional! The EO is authorized by 8 U.S.C. 1182(f).

Whenever the president finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

This is a broad power. In my opinion it should violate the non-delegation doctrine and actually be unconstitutional. But I’m speaking about what I wish the non-delegation doctrine to be, not what it actually is under today’s body of law. No court has ever overturned the executive’s use of this power, though Trump’s use of it is probably the most broad use of it to date.

The EO is a muslim ban! The seven countries involved are muslim majority countries, but the selection of these countries is a function of law and not the executive order. Congress passed, and President Obama signed a law in 2015 that established this list of countries. It does not represent all muslim countries. This is a bullshit characterization of the EO, though one Trump walked into by suggesting he favored such a ban during the campaign.

Obama picked these countries! Sort of. The Terrorism Travel Prevention Act of 2015 was attached to an Omnibus spending bill he didn’t really have room to veto. TTPA denied anyone traveling to Iraq, Syria, or other countries designated by the executive branch use of the Visa Waiver Program. Basically, if you’re a German National, and you travel to Syria, you don’t get automatically admitted into the US because we waive the Visa requirement for Germany. You have to get an entry Visa if you’ve traveled to any of those targeted countries. The law specifies Iraq and Syria. The Obama Administration added Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Iran.

The EO screwed permanent residents traveling back to the United States! It did indeed. The EO does not target permanent residents specifically, but Trump, wrongfully in my opinion, did not exclude permanent residents from the scope of his EO. Those people aren’t entering the United States, they are coming home.

The EO violates the establishment clause because it favors Christian refugees! Actually, one of the things the EO did do was suspend the admission of all refugees for 120 days, regardless of country of origin. But whether the EO violates the establishment clause is not clear at all. It gives priority to refugees seeking asylum in the United States if they are a persecuted religious minority in their home country. This could apply to Christians, but it could also apply to Yazidis in Iraq, practitioners of Falun Gong in China, or Muslims in Myanmar. I think this is carefully worded enough to pass muster.

Obama and Carter did the same things! Obama’s order only applied to Iraqi nationals who were applying for Special Immigrant Visas. Basically, the program that lets translators and other people who aided the United States emigrate here so they are not in danger at home. Carter’s order suspended all citizens of Iran from entering the United States (with certain exceptions) until our hostages were released. It’s safe to say, I think, that Trump’s use of 8 U.S.C. 1182(f) is the broadest use of that power to date.

The EO violates equal protection principles! There is other parts of immigration law which bar discrimination in the issuance of immigrant visas. Trump’s order certainly violates that, but the law is in conflict with the discretion afforded the President. The equal protection law came later, so there’s an argument to be made that Congress intended to modify the earlier power, but that’s not really clear. No courts have ever resolved that conflict, so it’s an open question.

That’s the best I can do for a no bullshit analysis of what’s going on. All I had to do was read the EO itself and do a bit of research into the claimed powers, and read some reasonable claims by reasonable critics and check their claims against what the law actually says.

13 Responses to “Navigating the Coming Disinformation Campaigns”

  1. Matt says:

    Good analysis. The only disagreement I would have is that permanent residents are citizens of some other country. I would consider their country of citizenship their home.

    • Sebastian says:

      Except they don’t live there. They live here.

      • Matt says:

        The word home is an emotionally loaded word. Some residents live here almost continuously some split their time. They don’t all live here. The requirement to keep your residence is to basically stay in the US more than six months a year. So you can live in your home country half the year. You can also leave the US for longer periods with special permission. I would suspect that many of them are here to work and intend to leave the US at some point. These people would probably consider their home to be outside the US. Some of course intend to stay and become citizens. I would still argue that your country of citizenship,the place you owe allegiance to, is your home.

        • Sebastian says:

          If you have a home here and split your time, there are other visas that will work which are easier to get. You can stay under the Visa Waiver Program for up to 90 days, and if you really want to be safe you can obtain a B2 Visa if you wanted to stay six months.

          Permanent residence is essentially allows you to legally work and reside in the United States. I’d wager the number of people splitting their time is relatively small, since most working people can’t spend six months of the year not working or switching jobs every six months. There are a lot of other visas that are easier to get if you’re living that lifestyle.

    • Nick says:

      That’s cool and all — but during my permanent residency, I lived here, graduated from middle and high school here, worked here, paid taxes here for a couple of decades, and married here. Eventually I applied for and was granted American citizenship — after which I started to vote here too.

      Keeping permanent residents out — people who have been vetted, and may well be on the way to qualifying for citizenship, people who have made lives here and paid taxes here — I’m thinking the country owes them the right of re-entry, unless they have evidence of the commission of an act that could result in the rescinding of permanent residency. But what do I know?

  2. aerodawg says:

    You expect people to actually read? An optimist are we?

  3. Whetherman says:

    Something just reminded of all the sentence-parsing we used to see, by people “proving” that Obama or Hillary never intended to ban guns, and that people saying they intended to were just full of shit. ;-)

    • Sebastian says:

      I think Obama and Hillary would ban guns if they could. And perhaps Trump would also ban muslims from entering the US if he could get away with it politically. But I’m speaking here only of the EO and what it does. It would be like arguing the sanctions Obama put on Russian arms amounted to a gun ban.

  4. Dale_ND says:

    I liked the provision requiring reporting of honor killings, commission of terrorist acts, etc and will be interested in the results.

  5. Patrick says:

    His previous EO on Immigration enforcement had a few hidden gems/turds (depending on viewpoint) that the media missed. They’re obvious if you read it and associated law, though. For instance,

    Pursuant to section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii)(I) of the INA, the Secretary shall take appropriate action to apply, in his sole and unreviewable discretion, the provisions of section 235(b)(1)(A)(i) and (ii) of the INA to the aliens designated under section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii)(II).

    Innocuous enough, but the MSM are too lazy to chase it down.

    What this apparently does is allow a single immigration officer to determine – on the spot – whether someone claiming asylum has a worthwhile claim. If not, the asylum seeker gets sent back immediately, and the decision is not subject to further review. No more 600 day appearance tickets that let applicants into the US while awaiting a hearing (that few ever show up for).

    Obama claimed that such further review (for reasons exactly opposite Trump’s) was illegitimate because the Executive has that power granted to it by the Legislative (via prior Acts) and several layers of courts agreed…with Obama. Those same judges are likely to be upset when their rulings are used to attain an outcome they do not like. Of course, they expected the outcome to be Hillary.

    Another section allows for detention of aliens indefinitely. No more “catch and release”. Another Obama-era executive power turned on its head (Obama claimed the Executive had power to decide such matters unilaterally, and yet more liberal legal authorities agreed with him).

    So yeah, it’s good to read these things. The order has a lot more than has been reported. I think a lot gets skipped just because the reporters are “literally 27 year old know-nothings”, as a former White House advisor so famously quipped.

    • Patrick Henry, the 2nd says:

      Its like they never ever considered what would happen if the other party got in power. Never give yourself a power you wouldn’t want your worst enemy to have.

      • mac says:

        I forget who said it, but I remember an explanation of US legislature as thus: the American system is such that you can pass any law you like, but it gets enforced by your worst enemy.

        The Repubs would do well to remember this too.

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