A response to recent columns
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, March 1, 2017
We write in response to Liam Stewart’s recent columns, “A Writer’s Response” and “Democrats applaud judicial overreach, again.” In doing so, we do not attack this specific author; instead, we counter the arguments currently employed to justify President Trump’s failed immigration ban, as represented by Stewart in the aforementioned articles.
In “A Writer’s Response,” Stewart examines the issue of immigration law in the United States. He claims that the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to block President Trump’s immigration order is judicial overreach, without an examination of the Constitution, nor an acknowledgement of the concept of checks and balances upon which our country was founded.
The judicial branch must judge the constitutionality of executive action and Congressional legislation — this is not a partisan issue. To do so, the judicial branch applies precedent and examines the Constitution. Alexander Hamilton writes in Federalist 78 that without limitations on the power of the executive and legislative branches through judicial courts, “all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing.” The judicial branch thus maintains the essential power to evaluate legislative and executive action.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals addresses Stewart’s point of judicial overreach in its decision. While Stewart argues that the president retains significant power in shaping national security and immigration policies, this augmented amount of presidential discretion does not equate to a complete freedom from judicial review; the president cannot pass unconstitutional executive orders. The judicial branch is obligated to stop unconstitutional action and has done so in rejecting the president’s executive order.
Stewart writes that the U.S. “is a nation of immigrants, but also a nation of laws, and these concepts are not mutually exclusive.” To suggest that the U.S. currently lacks laws regarding immigration and that President Trump’s failed immigration order would fill this void is highly irrational and ignores concrete immigration policy. Stewart further suggests that “we should never underestimate the unimaginable devastation that can result from a small number of [immigrants] driven by hatred.” “National security and public safety,” he writes, are “the preeminent functions of government.”
This argument is framed around the idea that national security and humanitarian aid are mutually exclusive. Stewart quotes Bill Clinton and Barack Obama calling for more severe borders in an attempt to establish a bipartisan desire for increased border control. However, in doing so, Stewart blends the issues of migration across our Southern border and enacting a travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries, two issues that clearly require individual policies and unique consideration. Conflating the two generalizes the issue of immigration to an extreme extent.
No one, Democrat or Republican, is anti-national security. However, the fact remains that thinly-veiled targeting of a specific religious group which President Trump repeatedly demonized during his campaign will not address national security concerns.
On Feb. 25, a Department of Homeland Security draft published in the New York Times concluded that “the country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.” Although the Department has since stated that the released document is simply a draft, the statement confirms the legitimacy of the report’s data, if not its conclusions. Of the 82 individuals who were convicted of “any terrorism-related federal offense” cited in the report, over half were U.S.-born. None of the foreign-born individuals hailed from a country banned in President Trump’s executive order. President Trump’s ban similarly ignores Saudi Arabia — the nation from which the majority of the Sept. 11 attackers hailed.
America’s status as a home for immigrants and the “greatest beacon of hope and freedom on Earth,” as Stewart proclaims, is symbolized through the inscription on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” America’s vetting process — under both Bush and Obama — is already severe. It takes months, and sometimes years, for a refugee to enter the U.S. We are morally, legally and ethically obligated to help refugees escape their plight. Even ninety days can be a matter of life and death”
The evidence for President Trump’s executive order is lacking at best. According to the Court’s decision in Korematsu v. U.S., any basis for such a widespread denial of rights and privileges to a single religious group must have a “pressing public necessity … [to] justify the existence of such restrictions.” We thus cannot forsake the values on which this country was founded without a proven national security concern. Given its lack of a basis in fact, the executive order may indeed be just what its critics claim: a xenophobic response to a religious “other.”
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.