Tempering Trump’s Temptations


By Edmond Y. Azadian

Armenia and America have a common issue: migration, but in reverse order. Armenia has a problem of emigration and America has a problem of immigration. The first cannot stop the outflow of its people and the latter cannot halt the influx of people.

Enter President Donald Trump. He has a spectacular solution for this, as in everything else. Before hitting the first 100 days in his presidency, Mr. Trump is still in the mood and temperament of his TV show, “The Apprentice,” where the name of the game is the element of suspense.

Early on, he got into a fight with our peaceful neighbor to the south, Mexico, which is one of America’s major trade partners. He threatened to do away with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which incidentally affects Canada, another major US trading partner. He tried to impose his view of America’s security on the Mexicans, vowing to build a wall to be underwritten by the government of Mexico. The Mexican government predictably said “no.”

His bold policy statements are gradually meeting reality; he has not yet mobilized the fleet of buses and boats to deport overnight 11 million undocumented aliens, nor has he moved the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which he had promised to do on his first day in office. He has softened his stance on Israeli West Bank settlements, which he finally realized were not “useful” for the peace process.

But his spectacular game to keep some of the Muslim refugees is still in progress. Indeed, the president issued an executive order to ban the influx of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. But his order did not remain unchallenged. Judge James Robert of the Federal District Court in Seattle overturned the president’s order, thus allowing immigrants temporarily barred to enter the country. The case brought by Washington State was immediately joined by Minnesota.

The president’s order specifically names seven countries whose citizens are to be banned from entering the US: Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. No citizen of these countries is on record for committing a terrorist act in the US. Besides the concern to protect the country from dangerous elements there is also a political overtone to the order. Saudi Arabia is not on the list, yet 16 out of the 19 terrorists on 9/11 came from that country. Nor is Pakistan, which is a hotbed of Taliban terrorists. Similarly, Turkey, the training ground for ISIS terrorists is spared.

Thus, the order has created more problems than it has solved. The main issue is whether the states have suffered a direct and concrete injury that gives them the standing to sue. But the main question is whether Mr. Trump has the constitutional and statutory authority to exclude some categories of people from entering the US.

The Justice Department has maintained that the state courts may not second-guess the president’s national security determinations. The states argue that the due process and equal protection of peoples, along with the First Amendment’s projection of religious liberty, render the travel ban unlawful.

A column in the New York Times opinion pages states: “The Trump administration is right to treat the threat as a global one, but characteristically fact-resistant in its imagining that visa-seeking nationals of the ‘particular concern’ countries listed above are the most likely perpetrators of slaughter in the name of the Islamic State.”

The order had its repercussions in the country and across the world. Undocumented refugees, especially from the target countries, are in fear. Even many refugees whose documents are in the process or in limbo are rightfully in fear.

Although Mr. Trump’s order plays up to the nationalistic fervor of his constituency, it places many lives in danger aboard. In an after-thought, the president has excluded from the ban the Christians in those targeted countries, which will pit the Muslims against the Christians. All Christians are not visa applicants but their lives in their respective countries will be jeopardized.

Writing in the Dallas Morning News, Prof. Ussama Makdisi, states: “The cynical executive order is not only blatantly discriminatory, but it plays Muslim against Christian, demonizing the former while pretending to be sympathetic to the latter. Trump’s politics of sectarian sympathy and the purported protection of minorities has a long history. It has led to more persecution, not less.

The writer also touches upon an issue that is very relevant to Armenian as well as Christian history in the Middle East and Muslim countries.

While Armenians identify with the West and Western culture, politically the West’s interests in minorities have always been self-serving. Quoting again from the above article, we read, “The Armenians were famously caught between the increasingly xenophobic Ottoman Turkish nationalism of the early 20th century and the false promise of salvation from aboard; what historian Donald Bloxham has evocatively called the ‘Great Game of Genocide.’ Although American missionaries had clamored for intervention on behalf of the Armenians before, during and after World War I, the US government patched up its relationship with ‘The Terrible Turk,’ forgot about the Armenian question, and made Turkey an ally and crucial member of NATO. Western politics of sectarian sympathy is always in cold calculation and expediency.”

President Trump’s order also foresees safe areas in Syria for vulnerable minorities; President Obama rejected that project which had been advocated by strange bedfellows like Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain and Turkey.

Mr. Trump’s order was triggered by an anti-refugee sentiment, which is currently sweeping through Europe and reaching our shores. A number of populist, rightwing candidates and parties are winning elections in Europe, including in Austria, Holland, Greece and Poland, on the strength on anti-refugee platforms. One more waiting in the wings is Marine Le Pen, hoping the time is right now for her and the National Front to lead France.

In the face of cold realities, President Trump is tempering his views and adjusting into more realistic policies. Mr. Trump will certainly temper his temptations.

A country based on and built by immigrants cannot give in to temporary political trends.