Donald Trump just completed a major address on his anti-terrorism policy. He was uncharacteristically restrained in his delivery but his policies seemed to echo a distant unpleasant past. In 1798, President John Adams signed a set of four bills comprising the Alien and Sedition Acts. If you want a brief history lesson, there is a nice Wikipedia article here. In summary these acts, and most of Trump’s policies, strengthen national security through tight restrictions on immigration and naturalization and through deportation or imprisonment of dangerous or hostile non-citizens.
One of these acts, the Alien Enemies Act, remains on the books, although I don’t know if its constitutionality has ever been tested. These acts have been used for purposes we would abhor today, like jailing government critics and interning citizens of Japanese descent during WWII. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have no proper application in our present difficult times.
The major argument of the Clinton camp for why such draconian actions are unnecessary is that immigrants, and in particular refugees from the Middle East conflict, are being subjected to incredibly tight screening before being admitted. I believe that is a conscious and deliberate lie! Evidently, not every time is it groundless when Donald tosses out crude epithets like Lyin’ Hillary.
I don’t make that charge lightly. First, I doubt that we have allocated the resources, either funds or skilled manpower, necessary to accomplish this task. I did a crude calculation based on published security clearance procedures and costs that convinces me of this shortfall. I have been through that process myself. It can be difficult and costly in the best of circumstances, and it requires highly skilled investigators who are in short supply.
But more importantly, I am convinced that the needed information simply cannot be obtained. Records are missing or unavailable in the war zone blazing across the Middle East, and interviewing contacts is almost certainly impractical. Obama and Clinton are letting their charitable instincts drive their decisions. This speaks well of them, in a sense, but it is either dangerously naive or more likely disingenuous, since they undoubtedly understand the true situation.
What they actually mean by their claim of tight screening is that it takes a very long time, perhaps up to two or more years to process each application. They even say that specifically when challenged. But if you think about it, that is a meaningless statistic. It is a bit like Hillary’s claim that a million miles of diplomatic travel means useful experience. Moreover, I don’t think such a process is even contemplated for the flood of Syrian refugees, at least not if we are to meet the admission goals of Obama’s proposals.
Of course, this fatuous response by the Clinton campaign hardly justifies Trump’s policies. Probably the best answer lies in some middle ground, however compromise is beyond unlikely in our current political battleground.