Can The US Legally Keep Muslims Out?
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is calling for the borders to be closed to all Muslims.
Could the US take such a racist and biased position? We did have slavery at one time, and we did intern Japanese-American citizens in camps during WWII.
Many Americans think the government can do anything it wants regardless of what the American citizenry wants.
Well as it turns out there are laws on the books that just might give The Donald his wish.
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP), administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in consultation with the State Department, permits citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa.
In return, those 38 countries must permit U.S. citizens and nationals to travel to their countries for a similar length of time without a visa for business or tourism purposes.
The 38 countries currently participating in the Visa Waiver Program are: Andorra (1991), Australia (1996), Austria (1991), Belgium (1991), Brunei (1993), Chile (2014), Czech Republic (2008), Denmark (1991), Estonia (2008), Finland (1991), France (1989), Germany (1989), Greece (2010), Hungary (2008), Iceland (1991), Ireland (1995), Italy (1989), Japan (1988), Republic of Korea, (2008), Latvia (2008), Liechtenstein (1991), Lithuania (2008), Luxembourg (1991), Malta (2008), Monaco (1991), Netherlands (1989), New Zealand (1991), Norway (1991), Portugal (1999), San Marino (1991), Singapore (1999), Slovakia (2008), Slovenia (1997), Spain (1991), Sweden (1989), Switzerland (1989), Taiwan (2012) and the United Kingdom(1988).
It’s interesting that our closest neighbors, Canada, Mexico and Russia are not on the list. And there is a distinct absence of Middle Eastern nations.
However, not all terrorists look, sound, or think alike. Ideology transcends all nationalities and borders.
People are leaving here to fight against us there. Those people could and probably will eventually come back to fight us here.
The VWP utilizes a risk-based, multi-layered approach to detect and prevent terrorists, serious criminals, and other mala fide actors from traveling to the United States.
It also includes comprehensive vetting of individual VWP travelers prior to their departure for the United States, upon arrival at U.S. ports of entry, and during any subsequent air travel within the United States.
Can Muslims Be Excluded From Immigration?
The Immigration and Nationality Act, or INA, was created in 1952. Before the INA, a variety of statutes governed immigration law but were not organized in one location.
The McCarran-Walter bill of 1952, Public Law No. 82-414, collected and codified many existing provisions and reorganized the structure of immigration law. The Act has been amended many times over the years, but is still the basic body of immigration law.
H.R. 5678 was named after its sponsors, Senator Pat McCarran (D-Nevada), and Congressman Francis Walter (D-Pennsylvania).
President Truman vetoed the Act because he regarded the bill as "un-American" and discriminatory. His veto message said:
“Today, we are "protecting" ourselves as we were in 1924, against being flooded by immigrants from Eastern Europe. This is fantastic. ... We do not need to be protected against immigrants from these countries–on the contrary we want to stretch out a helping hand, to save those who have managed to flee into Western Europe, to succor those who are brave enough to escape from barbarism, to welcome and restore them against the day when their countries will, as we hope, be free again ...These are only a few examples of the absurdity, the cruelty of carrying over into this year of 1952 the isolationist limitations of our 1924 law. In no other realm of our national life are we so hampered and stultified by the dead hand of the past, as we are in this field of immigration.”
Truman's veto was overridden by a vote of 278 to 113 in the House and 57 to 26 in the Senate.
Speaking in the Senate on March 2, 1953, McCarran said:
“I believe that this nation is the last hope of Western civilization and if this oasis of the world shall be overrun, perverted, contaminated or destroyed, then the last flickering light of humanity will be extinguished. I take no issue with those who would praise the contributions which have been made to our society by people of many races, of varied creeds and colors. ... However, we have in the United States today hard-core, indigestible blocs which have not become integrated into the American way of life, but which, on the contrary are its deadly enemies. Today, as never before, untold millions are storming our gates for admission and those gates are cracking under the strain. The solution of the problems of Europe and Asia will not come through a transplanting of those problems en masse to the United States. ... I do not intend to become prophetic, but if the enemies of this legislation succeed in riddling it to pieces, or in amending it beyond recognition, they will have contributed more to promote this nation's downfall than any other group since we achieved our independence as a nation.”
Some Final Thoughts
If you want to follow the strict letter of the law then if the government wanted to keep Muslims out of the US in my opinion they could use existing law to do it.
If the law were challenged with the current makeup of the Supreme Court I doubt it would hold up.
I was struck by the similarities of the 1953 messages, both pro and con, regarding immigration compared with today’s sound bites.
Perhaps immigration fears may, or may not, be justified depending on your point of view. But it seems those positions have certainly not changed in the past 60 plus years.
Or is it we who have not changed?