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I find it hard to believe that nearly a quarter of 2017 is already behind us, but it’s true to say that one of the hottest topics occupying the international and Australian media over the first few months of this year has been immigration, an issue which is of course close to my heart.
Much of that commentary has been sparked by the unprecedented media furore around the inauguration and ensuing actions of new US President Donald Trump.
Throughout the course of his presidential campaign, Trump put issues of immigration high on the agenda, making the construction of a “wall” between the US and Mexico a core promise, and repeatedly raising the idea of banning or restricting Muslims from migrating to America.
As a result, he naturally attracted the ridicule of the Left, but also criticism and suspicion from the Centre and significant sections of the Conservative commentariat.
Fast forward to January 2017, and the inauguration that most pundits never believed would happen had come to pass. In the days following Trump went about taking steps to enact those controversial pre-election immigration promises.
The newly-minted president started the ball rolling on construction of a physical barrier on the US border with Mexico, and he signed an executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven countries - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - which the fledgling Trump administration had identified as having the potential to export terrorists to America.
Putting aside the merits of Trump’s criteria in picking these countries and not for instance Saudi Arabia, which produced most of the 9/11 terrorists and many more since, and notwithstanding the media backlash and subsequent litigation which prevented implementation of the executive order, it is worth taking a close and calm look at exactly what Trump says he was trying to achieve.
The intention of the January executive order is clearly stated: “In order 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. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including ‘honor’ killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”
There’s hardly any cause for outrage in that.
Trump was more emotive in his own statement when he pointed out that America is a proud nation of immigrants. “We will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border,” he said.
Trump went on to point out that his order was similar to the measures introduced by President Barrack Obama in 2011, when refugees from Iraq were denied visas for six months.
“To be clear,” the President added, “this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion - this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”
And to his credit, Trump is committed to the goal. After the legal challenge to his original order, on March 6 he issued a revised document which excluded “special case” Iraq. That directive, scheduled to come into effect on March 16, has also been slapped with a nationwide restraining order following a legal challenge by the state of Hawaii.
But let’s be clear about what Trump is trying to implement. It’s not a full stop to immigration from the now six countries. It is a reasonable and responsible 90-day pause to enable the government to review and put in place the most secure policies it can to ensure it is not allowing terrorists to become residents of the US.
Put simply, what Trump is trying to do is exercise the legal requirement and moral obligation he and the head of any government has to ensure the safety and freedom of their citizens.
Whatever you think of Trump’s bombastic rhetoric and crash or crash through approach to politicking, he is getting it right on this issue. In fact, if I were a US citizen I would be outraged if my government were NOT taking such steps.