Is the Muslim Travel Ban Dead?

Last night Rachel Maddow had an exclusive report that might have gotten lost in all the focus on Jeff Sessions and the Trump team’s ties to Russia.

She started the segment by recounting the way the president’s Muslim travel ban has unravelled. First, it was put together in an incredibly sloppy manner – only to trigger chaos and protests. Then the courts weighed in and put a hold on implementing it. The Trump administration rescinded the order and promised a new one. At that point, the whole process began to look much like the Republican “repeal and replace” efforts on Obamacare. Over and over again they promised to release a new ban, only to delay it. A week ago, the AP released a report from the Department of Homeland Security intelligence services that undermined the entire basis of the ban, concluding “that citizenship is an ‘unlikely indicator’ of terrorism threats to the United States.”

All of that was by way of introduction to the fact that DHS has now leaked a new report (dated March 1st) to Maddow which “makes the case that most foreign-born, U.S.-based violent extremists are likely not radicalized when they come to the U.S., but rather become radicalized after living in the U.S. for a number of years.” The report concludes that those facts limit “the ability of screening and vetting officials to prevent their entry because of national security concerns.” In other words, “extreme vetting” is useless. Maddox’s conclusion is to predict that the Muslim ban is dead.

If she’s right, I’ll simply remind you that those who are championing this fear-mongering about Muslims, immigrants and refugees have already signaled an alternative path. Let’s take look again at what Joshua Green reported in his expose about Stephen Miller.

“The media tends to cover immigration issues through the frame of how it impacts everybody but actual citizens of the United States,” Miller complains…

Miller and Bannon want Trump to undertake a radical recasting of U.S. policies, from immigration to trade to taxation, that would invert this frame by making the interests of [white] U.S. citizens (or what Miller and Bannon perceive to be their interests) predominant, almost to the point of exclusivity. This will entail confronting trade-offs most people prefer to ignore and making hard-headed decisions on emotionally charged issues, such as the status of refugees and Dreamers—decisions Miller, with Trump’s blessing, has begun tackling already.

The order temporarily banning refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries is a prime example. Miller contends that national security concerns warranted the move but adds that refugees compete with [white] U.S. workers (“Obviously, a smaller number of refugees will have some effects in terms of raising wages”) and burden [white] U.S. taxpayers (“because of how expensive American benefits programs are”)…

If the Muslim travel ban is indeed dead, what we can expect from the White House and their propaganda arm in the right wing media is a flood of stories about how “real Americans” are losing jobs because of immigrants/refugees at the same time that we have to pay for their dependence on programs funded with our tax dollars. Of course those stories won’t be new. But if banning Muslims from coming here because they’re terrorists won’t work – we’re likely to see a spike in other ways to demonizing them.

As Miller has already signaled, the goal of all of this is to shift the focus away from concern about the plight of immigrants/refugees onto a frame that casts them as a threat to us. Whether that supposed threat is related to terrorism or economics doesn’t matter. Whichever lie works best at the moment is the one they’ll go with in order to inspire a white nationalist response.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.