By Dr. Jonathan Z. Ludwig, Visiting Assistant Professor of Russian, Oklahoma State University & Member, Advisory Board, SAGE International Australia
The Anglosphere has always held two advantages over much of the rest of the world: a commitment to the rule of law and the welcoming of legal immigrants. Both are now under threat in the United States of America, not by forces from without, but by forces from within.
A recent Executive Order signed by President Donald Trump prohibiting legally documented individuals, potentially including some holding green cards, from entering the United States from seven predominantly Muslim nations, subverts both beliefs: it denies due process, by replacing the right of everyone coming into the country to have an individual hearing with an INS official with a blanket ban on entry, and it runs the risk of keeping others, from other nations, from looking toward the United States as their potential refuge and new home.
Legal immigration has been the life blood of America since its founding. Nearly everyone who is reading this in an Anglophone country is likely an immigrant of some sort at some point in their ancestral history. My immigrant roots stem as far back as the American Revolution, when one of my ancestors served with General George Washington, helping to found this nation, so rebellion against authoritarianism runs in me, as some in academia have learned, much to their dismay. Others came later from Prussia and Ireland, among other places, all in search of a better way of life. Many struggled, broke sod, built farms, depended on the weather and the crops they could grow to make it through to another year, eventually leaving farms to work in factories, all while educating their children and trying to build a life that would make things better for them. I know that my roots are in the land, where many of them toiled for so many years, although I am fortunate enough today to be teaching at a university and educating the next generations – one of my more recent ancestors served as the first President of The Ohio State University, so education runs through my veins as well.
Those who are being turned away today want nothing more and nothing less than the opportunities my ancestors had. Today, however, they no longer come to farm: they come to work, often as teachers, doctors, scientists, or engineers; they come to get a world-class education; or they come to live free and without fear, neither of which they could do any longer in the homes they are leaving behind. Those from the seven predominantly Muslim countries, who are being stopped from flying into America, have already undergone “extreme vetting,” a process that sometimes takes as long as two years. They are coming here legally, with the blessing of the United States and the documentation to prove it; as such, they must be allowed in, not turned back at the last minute. To do anything else would be to violate the “rule of law” that the United States has held as the chief tenet of our nation.
This is not the same as illegal immigration, and those who display signs reading “No ban, no wall” are conflating two entirely different issues. Those who cross the border illegally are committing a crime – they are violating the law – and they should be held responsible for their actions, up to and including deportation, keeping in mind DACA provisions, which, if they are to remain in force, should be codified in law. There are solutions for these issues, offered as far back as the Reagan-Bush primary debates in 1980 and brought forth again by President George W. Bush, all of whom proposed, among other things, a guest worker visa program, possibly leading to more permanent residence status down the road. None of these proposals were ever taken up by Congress; they should be now. A wall is not a financially feasible way of halting illegal immigration, but a nation committed to the rule of law has both a right and a responsibility to defend its borders from illegal crossings. However, a nation built on immigration should also be committed to finding ways to make legal immigration easier, with the appropriate security safeguards, for those who wish to come and begin a new life. Legal immigration is not now, nor has it ever been, a national security threat to the United States.
While all this has been going on, a potentially serious threat to American national security has occurred behind the scenes, almost unnoticed. Another Executive Order has reconstructed the National Security Council. No longer will the Director of National Intelligence or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sit on the NSC; however, Steven Bannon, one of Trump’s most controversial political advisors, has been given a seat on the Council. Domestic policies, including immigration, will always be political; national security never should be. Military action, when and if it should be needed, must be based on national security concerns, properly vetted intelligence, and military capabilities, not on political viability or need. The addition of Bannon to the NSC makes the latter almost a certainty, and this is a danger to the national security of the United States and the stability of the world. With Bannon on the NSC, and the DNI and the Chairman of the JSC missing, coherence in foreign/military affairs, based on verifiable facts, is no longer assured.
After the 2016 election, I wrote to remind, comfort and, yes, teach that America is a nation of laws. Everyone who serves the nation swears an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” not the President or any other individual. The Founders placed the Legislature in Article 1 before the President because they did not want an imperial Presidency. The Presidency is, by design, a weak office, with no more than “the power to persuade.” That holds true today, although it is increasingly clear that Trump is not being very persuasive, except to the contrary.
Bill Kristol noted in a 29 January 2017 tweet: “When you’re a con man, speed, surprise and confusion are your friend. But ultimately being president isn’t a con.” The only way to ensure that it remains thus is to be eternally vigilant. As Thomas Paine noted: “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” We’re a Republic, not a monarchy, “if we can keep it,” if we support it, no matter how exhausting it might be. No one person should feel like he or she has to do everything, but everyone should try to do something.
For our friends both in the Anglosphere and beyond, all who believe in the rule of law, we could use your help, however you see fit to give it. The future of the Republic and the “indispensable nation” may very well depend upon all of you as well as all of us.