New US National Security Advisor John Bolton Chairs a Website that Spreads Disinformation About Migration

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he would be replacing National Security Advisor Lt. General H.R. McMaster with John Bolton, an attorney and former US representative to the United Nations (2005-2006). While Bolton has had a long and varied career that he describes on the website of his political action committee, he fails to mention there the role that we at Migration Voter find most interesting, as the chair of a website that been successful in spreading false and misleading information about migrants in Europe, the Gatestone Institute.

On Gatestone’s website, John Bolton is described as the “Chairman” of the site, a role he has occupied since 2013, when it was announced by Gatestone Founder and President Nina Rosenwald. (Rosenwald is an active philanthropist who has been described by The Nation and The Intercept as one of the chief financiers of the anti-Muslim movement.) At the time Bolton commented, “I am privileged to be a part of an organization that provides vital information and analysis on a daily basis to address the critical issues facing the United States and all freedom-loving people in a dangerous world.” Since then he has been an active contributor to the site, penning pieces such as “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First” and “How to Get out of the Iran Nuclear Deal.” Gatestone confirmed today that Bolton is still chairman with a press release congratulating him on his new position and stating that his appointment “is great for America, great for its allies and great for the free world.”

Spreading Fear and Confusion

The website spends a great deal of time commenting on America’s allies and its idea of a free world, and their view is rather frightening. Articles like, “Sweden: Rape Capital of the West“, “Germany’s Migrant Rape Crises Continues Unabated“, “France: Toward Total Submission to Islam, Destruction of Free Speech“, “Is the United Kingdom an Islamist Colony?” are filled with inaccuracies and confusing, baseless claims designed to link migrants, particularly Muslim migrants, to sex crime and societal problems. For instance:

  • In the article linked above on Sweden, the authors suggest that Sweden’s rape rate is mainly owed to a “mass influx” of immigrants from the Middle East, but then admit that reports on rape statistics do “not touch on the background of the rapists.”
  • The article on Germany relies heavily on statements that many sex crimes in Germany are unreported or unsolved- a claim that may be true, but bears no plausible relation to alleging the culprits must be migrants.
  • In the article about France, the author claims that opponents of Islam are fiercely prosecuted while “hate-filled, racist organizations are never touched”- and yet government statistics show hundreds of criminal cases brought against people for anti-Semitic hate speech, statements “apologizing for terrorism” and anti-Christian hate crime (among others.)

Using poorly constructed arguments that rely on conflating statistics, anecdotal evidence and logical fallacies to spread misinformation, Gatestone has managed to become prominent, cited by anti-immigrant sources from Breitbart to white nationalist terrorist Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in the 2011 Norway Attacks. (Breivik quoted a Norwegian Gatestone blogger, “Fjordman” aka Peder Jensen, over a hundred times in his terrorist manifesto.)

Links to the European Far Right

The website also hosts thinkers with deep connections to Europe’s far-right anti-immigrant vanguard. For instance, David Horowitz, whose foundation the David Horowitz Freedom Center frequently comments on Gatestone, came under fire in California for possibly violating IRS rules by donating election funds to Geert Wilders’ far-right People’s Party (PVV) in the Netherlands. According to The Intercept:

Records posted by the Dutch interior ministry show that in 2014 and 2015 the Freedom Center provided multiple donations totaling 126,354 euros — approximately $134,000 — to the “Stichting Vrienden van de PVV,” or the Friends of the PVV Foundation, the fundraising arm of the party.

As described in last year’s election manifesto, Geert Wilders’ PVV platform includes withdrawing from the European Union, banning migration of Muslim people to the Netherlands, accepting zero refugees and banning the Koran.

What does Bolton think?

Bolton fails to mention the chairmanship position he has held at the Gatestone Institute since 2013 on either his political action committee biography, his twitter biography, or his biography at the American Enterprise Institute, where he is a Senior Fellow. Will he pursue an agenda in line with Gatestone’s distorted anti-migrant, anti-Muslim worldview in his new position advising the US president? For an administration that has made opposition to migration one of its hallmarks, it seems unlikely Bolton will not add more fuel to the fire.

Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 2.36.14 PM

 


Sources and Further Reading
President Donald Trump announcement on Twitter, March 22, 2018
Meet John Bolton, BoltonPAC.com
The Sugar Mama of Anti-Muslim Hate, Max Blumenthal, The Nation, 2012
Her father championed Jewish refugees. She finances the anti-Muslim refugee movement. Lee Fang, The Intercept, 2017.
Breivik’s political idol Fjordman emerges from anonymity VG Nyheter, 2011
One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre In Norway, Åsne Seierstad, 2013
California Non-Profit May Have Violated Tax Law by Donating to Anti-Muslim, Far Right Candidate, Lee Fang, The Intercept, 2017
Where do the Dutch Parties Stand on Refugees? MV
Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr, https://bit.ly/2FYi0c5 (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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Can the Czech Runoff Election Impact the Country’s Stance on Migration?

On Friday and Saturday, voters will head to the polls in the Czech Republic for a presidential runoff vote between incumbent Miloš Zeman and his competitor, Jiří Drahoš. The polls are very close, with Czeska Televisa 24 / MF Dnes reporting a slight lead for Drahos with 47 percent of the vote to Zeman’s 43 percent, with ten percent still undecided.

In Czech, the president appoints the prime minister, making this vote more than a referendum on Zeman’s past performance. Waiting in the wings is billionaire populist and recently elected Prime Minister Andrej Babiš of the ANO (“Yes”) party, who has endorsed Zeman and expects his support if he wins in forming a government. A vote for Zeman then is a vote for Babiš, who is under investigation by Czech authorities for decades-old corruption charges related to EU subsidy fraud, charges which he denies. Whether this association is an advantage or a liability will only become clear this weekend.

As we have explained previously, the immigration debate in the Czech Republic is extremely tilted towards immigration restrictionist views, with nearly all parties and political figures united in their opposition to accepting asylum seekers as part of the EU’s proposed quota distribution system, and politicians making outspoken remarks against migrants from Muslim majority countries. Both Babis and Zeman have in the past made remarks characterizing people who migrate or seek asylum as dangerous threats to Czech citizens, with Zeman comparing Muslims in general to Nazis and warning of a “super-Holocaust” during an interview with the Guardian in 2016. Such violent rhetoric has been accompanied by a rise in hate speech and an antagonistic environment for minorities. (Given that there are very few accepted refugees in the country, threats and attacks have rather been aimed at minority groups such as Roma and groups who show support for refugees, according to Amnesty International.)  In addition, Zeman is an important figure in the Visegrad Group, the club of countries (with Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary) that have strongly opposed EU distribution of people seeking asylum.

But where does his opponent Drahoš stand, and would a win for him be an opening for a change in the country’s stance on migration?

Drahoš, formerly the president of the Czech Academy of Sciences, lays out his stance on refugees on his website, where it is second on his list of “frequently asked questions“. He states, “As a scientist, I am used to finding solutions to problems and I believe that even the refugee crisis has its solution.” This would consist of the following steps, according to Drahoš:

  • Strengthen secret services to help identify people entering the EU and offer assistance to Italy,
  • Invest in measures to improve the living conditions in countries people are currently fleeing from,
  • Distinguish between “real” refugees and people who are seeking welfare benefits, who he ideally would not let in at all,
  • Terrorism is not a reason for excluding refugees and can be combatted, but we must fight against the erosion of our values and standards,
  • Migrants should be interviewed at European borders to determine whether they are willing to embrace European norms and values.

In short, Drahoš embraces a center-right stance on asylum, a view that on the surface has much in common with other mainstream parties in Europe, such as Mark Rutte’s VVD in the Netherlands. These proposals also largely match the solutions stated by the Visegrad group. The “V4” also calls for aid packages to incentivize people to stay in their home countries and for better distinction between what they refer to as “economic migrants” and refugees. Drahoš’ policy proposals fit squarely in, with the exception that he does not outright oppose quotas (at least here), but rather argues that forcing people to stay in a country they to which they did not intend to immigrate violates the principle of freedom of movement, a creative argument that somewhat avoids the question.

His proposals also enter familiar territory for the center-right immigration stance: ideas that sound tough but end up flirting with illegality or impossibility. For instance, pre-selecting between “real” refugees and others, “ideally” outside of the borders is an idea frequently floated but in violation of the ground principals of the 1951 Refugee Convention and other laws and treaties. Namely, individuals have a right to leave their own country, to enter a country to ask for asylum and to have their claims evaluated while they remain in the country. Sending them back to a country where they potentially face persecution or preventing them from entering before evaluating their claim risks violating binding international and European law. (We have pointed this out repeatedly in response to similar proposals by the Front National and the Tories.)

Further, conducting interviews to ascertain whether individuals adhere to “European values” is perhaps not illegal but highly unrealistic. What are “European values”? How is asking someone to adhere to European values different or better than holding them to follow the law? How can you square the requirement to hold a certain set of beliefs in order to enter with the European legal concept of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights article nine?

These policies differ from Zeman not so much in substance as in style. While Zeman has run a “non-campaign” and has not proposed concrete policies, he has made his opposition to migrants, and especially people from Muslim majority countries, well-known. In an interview with Večernje Novosti in 2017, he repeated his typical war-like language to describe migrants and Muslims more generally:

“…[I]t is said that in Africa, at least several million people are ready to migrate to Europe. Because they are mostly Muslims whose culture is incompatible with European culture, I do not believe in the ability to assimilate them. 

By the way, when you look at the history of Europe, it was actually a constant war with Muslims. And I think that Serbia has experienced it, among other things, in Kosovo’s field.” 

These comments don’t elucidate much in the way of policy recommendations and do not differentiate between migrants who are Muslim or citizens of Europe who are Muslim. In either case, he is suggesting that they do not belong because of their religious affiliation and should be viewed as a hostile enemy, as the Ottoman military forces were in Kosovo in 1389, but he does not promote any policy proposals to exclude them. It is rhetoric that promotes fear and enmity without directing it anywhere concrete- perhaps because policies that exclude or discriminate on the basis of religious belief violate numerous European laws and do not stand up to judicial scrutiny.

The fact is, even with a incomplete or unrealistic immigration policy, Drahoš presents an alternative to rhetoric that relies on fears from back in the Middle Ages. The policies he promotes do not suggest a major departure for the Czech Republic’s stance on refugees and migrants, but they do take a risk in actually spelling out ideas that can be subjected to debate. As the President of Czech does not legislate, his stance on the refugee issue is mainly symbolic. But for voters, its a question of a leader who sounds like other mainstream European leaders, or one who sounds like he is expecting all-out war against a religious minority.

 

Sources and Further Reading
The latest poll for the election favors Drahos, a tenth of voters still hesitate, [Czech] Czeska Televiza, Jan. 22, 2018
ANO supports Zeman for President, Babis for Prime Minister, [CzechNovinky (also linked to on official ANO website), Jan. 22, 2018
If I wanted to hide something, I would have stayed in the shadows, [Czech] Andrej Babis’ blog in iDnez.cz, Feb. 2016
Milos Zeman: the hardline Czech leader fanning hostility to refugees, The Guardian, Sept. 2016
Facebook has a problem with death threats in the Czech Republic, Vice News, Nov. 2017
Czech Republic 2016/2017, Amnesty International Report
Frequently Asked Questions, [Czech], JiriDrahos.cz (campaign website)
Guide to Article Nine: Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion, [pdf] Council of Europe
Interview of the President of the Republic for Večernje Novosti, [Czech], Reprinted on the President’s website, http://www.zemanmilos.cz
Header image: Via Ivan Centes on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2neIdqB (CC BY-NC 2.0)

“Fake News” and Elections: How did disinformation campaigns come to focus on immigration? Part One: USA 2016

With numerous new studies investigating the impact of false and misleading news on election campaigns, it seems taken for granted that a majority of the false or misleading information relates to immigration. In a new research series, Migration Voter asks why the topic of immigration became central for those wishing to sway campaigns and referendums, looking at the USA, Britain, France and Germany. 

Online manipulation and disinformation tactics”

The US-based democracy watchdog Freedom House released their yearly study investigating freedom on the internet this week, Freedom of the Net 2017. This edition evaluated 65 countries on a range of indicators, including state restriction of internet access and attacks on independent media, but one finding really stood out for us at Migration Voter:

“Online manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 18 countries over the past year, including the United States.” Freedom House

The study discusses numerous forms of “online manipulation and disinformation” in the lead up to elections: completely fabricated news stories about the parties or candidates, bots and fake accounts retweeting and amplifying campaign messages,  and accounts with no discernable side simply sowing chaos and confusion.

But in many of the countries, the disinformation or manipulation focused heavily on one topic: immigration.

Although Freedom House and others studying this phenomenon seem to take it for granted, the power of immigration-related propaganda to shape elections is not a forgone conclusion. It would be equally plausible to focus on individual-driven scandals, the economy, corruption, or even divisive social issues like abortion or gay marriage, as elections have done in the past. So why the sudden shift, and why such a massive shift?

In this series we’ll be evaluating the new information available from Freedom House and numerous other sources to explore the following question: when trying to influence elections, why did foreign and domestic sources believe that focusing on immigration was their strongest bet?

United States

Examining the exit polls from the 2016 presidential election, one could only conclude that immigration was one of the top issues in the United States. 64% of people who voted for Republican candidate Donald Trump identified immigration as their biggest concern, more than any other subject on either side of the political divide. (Terrorism was the second biggest issue concerning people who voted for Trump.) Asked what should happen to “working illegal immigrants,” 84% of people who voted for Trump called for them to be deported. And 86% agreed with the proposition of building a wall along the US border with Mexico. People who voted for Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, generally opposed both mass deportations and the construction of a wall, while identifying “foreign policy” as the most important issue.

For someone concern about and opposed to immigration, it would be reasonable to vote for Donald Trump, who centered immigration policy starting literally day one of his campaign, calling for restricting immigration from Mexico and linking Mexican immigrants with crime.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best …They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” – Donald Trump

He went on throughout his campaign to continuously highlight immigration- both lawful and unlawful, promising if elected to ban Muslims from lawfully entering the US, “build the wall,” end funding for sanctuary cities, and deport immigrants with criminal records (see how he fared on these campaign promises during his first 100 days here).

So did Donald Trump successfully align himself with voters’ already existent wishes on immigration? In other words, did he tap into a growing anti-immigrant sentiment? Or did he successfully persuade voters to think about immigration first and foremost when heading to the polls?

From Economy to Immigration

Looking back four years at 2012, exit polls show that immigration did not make it into the top four issues in the Presidential Election- for either side. Instead, Republican voters prioritized the deficit as the overall most important issue, with the economy ( which is obviously very related) coming in second.  On a second question about the economy, people who voted for Mitt Romney identified taxes as the most important economic issue and prices as the second- both concerns that have the potential to be affected more by domestic policy-makers than by immigration.

Capture

Exit polls from 2012, via CNN

In the years between the 2012 and 2016 election, migration from Mexico continued to decrease, continuing a downward trend that had started in 2004. Immigration from China and India increased, but the overall percentage of the US population that hailed from abroad rose modestly from 13% in 2013 to 13.5% in 2015- only 3.5% more than in 1850, when data is first available. At the same time, the Obama administration deported record numbers of people who came to the US irregularly, well over 2 million people.

Also during this period, popular opinion shifted: according to Gallup, who periodically polls Americans on the “most important problem” facing the country, fewer and fewer people identified the economy as the most important issue facing the United States.

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Via Gallup.

To summarize, in the time between the 2012 and 2016 election, immigration did not dramatically increase,  Mexican immigration to the US decreased, and record numbers of people were deported. It would appear that, more than tapping into frustration based on surges of immigrants or other observable facts, Trump’s campaign was successfully able to persuade a large number of voters that immigration was at the center of their frustrations, not the economy.

But Trump’s campaign had lots of help.

Fake News and Bots

By now, numerous studies have demonstrated that large amounts of the content surrounding the election, both real and fake (“real”, as in, arising from real people and websites, and “fake” as in, arising from concealed organizations pretending to be citizens or interest groups) focused heavily on immigration.

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Image via Slate:

Following Trump’s election, both the US media and Congressional investigatory committees have been heavily focusing on uncovering Russia’s attempt to influence the US election in favor of Donald Trump. So far this influence appears to have played out heavily over social media. Testifying before the US Senate, Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said Facebook learned that a set of “coordinated, inauthentic accounts” had spread 80,000 pieces of content using paid ads between January 2015 and August 2017, reaching an estimated 11.7 million people directly, and perhaps 126 million people indirectly through shares, a number that is over one-third of the US population. The content covered a range of issues, including, Stretch notes, immigration.

Immigration Russia Facebook Ad 2016 Election

A sample facebook ad paid for by a Kremlin-backed group, according to the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

But Kremlin-backed groups also published free, “un-boosted” posts, and these may have had an even wider reach. Jonathan Albright, research director at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, made public his data demonstrating that the reach could have been much higher than estimated by Facebook, especially considering the views of images on Facebook-owned Instagram. The unpaid posts were often lengthy diatribes containing odd wording or mistakes (“Now wait to see how many more states will also ban the so-called ‘refugees’ – more appropriately to call them ILLEGALS.”)

But regardless of the exact numbers of people reach (or influenced) by Russian created content, the influence coming from inside of the United States also tended towards discussing immigration negatively.

The Breitbart Effect

Hyperpartisan media outlets and social media users continued to flourish online and affect the visibility of and attention paid to more balanced sources of news and informationFreedom House

A study cited by Freedom House argues that, more than Russian influence, one “hyper-partisan” media outlet had an outsized impact on the outcome of the election by dragging the conversation of the mainstream media towards both Trump and the topic of immigration: Breitbart News.

The study, conducted jointly by researchers from Harvard and MIT, examined over a million stories published between April 2015 and election day, showing that Breitbart and a related network of conservative media outlets set a tone for the election that successfully influenced coverage from the mainstream media of both presidential candidates Trump and Clinton. For Clinton, this translated to covering scandals such as her emails, and for Trump, this largely translated to covering one of Trump’s primary campaign themes: immigration. By partway through the campaign, the number one word polled voters associated with Hillary Clinton was “email” and for Donald Trump, “immigration.”

While mainstream media coverage was often critical, it nonetheless revolved around the agenda that the right-wing media sphere set: immigration. Right-wing media, in turn, framed immigration in terms of terror, crime, and Islam, as a review of Breitbart and other right-wing media stories about immigration most widely shared on social media exhibits. Immigration is the key topic around which Trump and Breitbart found common cause; just as Trump made this a focal point for his campaign, Breitbart devoted disproportionate attention to the topic.  – Benkler et al in Columbia Journalism Review

The chart below demonstrates just how prominent the theme of immigration was for Breitbart, based on the articles sampled.

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Proportion of Media Coverage Focusing on Immigration by Source – via Benkler, et al, Columbia Journalism Review

Numerous of the articles published on Breitbart contained information about migration that was false, misleading or simply confusing, combined with alarmist, eye-grabbing headlines. For instance, from August 2015, “Unchecked Immigration Greater Threat to US Than ISIS” was an opinion piece that borders on incoherence:

“Americans need to understand that too many legal immigrants from one region, country, or ethnicity which is opposes our historical norms cripples our country’s ability to have a future that stays faithful to our past.”

Another example from August 2015, “Mainstream: Polls Show Americans With Donald Trump on Immigration,” misleadingly stated that a majority of Americans backed Trump’s restrictive immigration measures, using as evidence a poll conducted by Trump campaign advisor Kelly Anne Conway and a poll that surveyed only Republican voters as prime examples.

In another example, Breitbart published in June 2016 this scandalous piece by former congressman Tom Tancredo, “Obama invites 18.7 million immigrants to avoid oath of allegiance, pledge to defend America,” claiming that then-President Obama had unilaterally exempted naturalized citizens from pledging to bear arms, a claim very far from the truth and apparently meant to frighten readers about gun rights, immigrant loyalty, and the motives of the Democratic president.

Why lie?

The combination of Kremlin-backed accounts spreading frightening falsehoods and memes about immigrants with Breitbart’s misleading alarmist invective provided a backdrop that reinforced and spread Trump’s messaging about immigration, touting his proposals (many of which have been impractical to enact) as the only solutions for America’s most urgent issue (according to them). In short, there is ample evidence for the sort of manipulation and disinformation spread during the US election campaign cited by Freedom House and many others. But it still doesn’t tell us why so much of that misinformation was about immigration.

What does it mean that both Kremlin-backed sources and the Conservative/ Far Right media led by Breitbart focused so heavily on misleading immigration-related stories? Were they sincerely concerned with representing the voices of Americans opposed to immigration? Were they attempting to help the Republicans by moving the national conversation to an arena they felt Democrats were weak on?

Both motivations are difficult to accept from the Russian side. What incentive would the Kremlin have to either amplify the concerns of any sub-section of US citizens, or to attempt to highlight policy differences between the two parties? As for Breitbart, the website had focused on immigration prior to both the election and to Donald Trump’s primary win, before which it was still possible that Republicans would lead a traditional campaign focusing on security and the economy. Moreover, it would seem unnecessary to conflate facts, lie and mislead about immigration if Breitbart sincerely wanted to highlight a real political movement.

So what was the real motivation? It seems to us that Breitbart, Trump and the Kremlin all recognized the power of activating a divisive issue like immigration and fueling fear and uncertainty with false and misleading information. As a wedge against both centrist Republicans and Democrats, it could prove capable of making Trump stand out from opponents on both sides with a clearly defined problem and a simple, clear-cut solution. After the primaries, it could be used to move the conversation away from complex areas like foreign policy or the economy, and on to a topic Democrats would be reluctant to engage with but the media would be forced to report on. They knew that such a strategy could bring fringe groups with unusual, even radical views into the mainstream, where they could force real changes that most politicians would have previously been unwilling to touch.

They didn’t just hope, they knew. Because they had just watched the exact same tactic work in the UK.

 

NEXT in our series: The Brexit Referendum in the UK 


and Further Reading
Freedom of the Net 2017, Freedom House, Nov. 2017
Exit Polls of 2016 US Presidential Election, Published by The New York Times, collected by a consortium including ABC News, The Associated Press, CBSNews, CNN, Fox News and NBC News.
Exit Polls of the 2012 US Presidential Election, Published by CNN
Trump Calls Mexicans Rapists (video clip), Youtube
In Historic Shift, New Migration Flows from Mexico Fall Below Those from China and India, Migration Policy Institute, May 2015.
Frequently requested statistics on immigrants and immigration in the United States, Migration Policy Institute, Feb. 2015
Gallup News: Most Important Problem, Gallup, Accessed Nov. 2017
What we know about the Russians’ use of Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Slate, Oct. 2017
Testimony of Colin Stretch, Facebook General Counsel. US Senate Judiciary Committee on Crimes and Terrorism, October 2017.
Sample Kremlin-Backed ads, Democrat House Select Committee on Intelligence
Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda. Benkler et al, Columbia Journalism Review, October 2017.
Oath Creeper, Snopes.com,
Header Image via KellyBDC on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2hv3EB6, (CC by 2.0)

 

Could backlash over Charlottesville damage Trump’s immigration reform plans?

By Christina Lee

Last week US president Donald Trump endorsed a proposal for a new immigration policy, known as the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, or RAISE Act, co-sponsored by Republican Senators David Perdue and Tom Cotton. The plan would dramatically alter the US immigration system by reducing family reunification in favor of a points system that would allocate visas to people based on qualifications such as language and skills. It would additionally abolish the diversity visa program, set a modest limit on accepted refugees, and remove residency and employment rights for parents of US citizens. The entire text of the bill can be read here.

Last week the White House seemed geared up for a fight over the topic, sending out combative adviser Stephen Miller to convince the press (video here). But events over the weekend completely stole the spotlight from even this incredibly controversial topic.

On Saturday, a rally of white supremacists erupted in chaos and violence in the collegiate town of Charlottesville, Virginia. A protest organized by a coalition of right wing groups under the banner ‘Unite the Right‘ met to demonstrate the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, and ended in tragedy when a participant mowed into a group of counter-protesters, killing one.

There has been massive national and international outcry against the incident as well as Trump’s initial response, which many claimed did not explicitly disavow white supremacist groups as he condemned violence “on many sides”. He made an additional statement on Monday which then did so, calling white supremacist groups “repugnant to all that we hold dear as Americans”. Nevertheless, the incident and Trump’s response has prompted a massive surge of interest in white supremacist/ white nativist groups- some of whom have ties to members of the Trump administration. With concern and interest about such groups at an all-time high, will the main architects of Trump’s immigration policy be discredited by these ties? Let’s take a closer look.

Trump Adviser Stephen Miller tied to Unite the Right Speaker Richard Spencer

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Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr, (CC BY-SA 2.0) http://bit.ly/2fRfWWN

Perhaps the most direct line between Saturday’s rally and the White House goes through Stephen Miller, presidential adviser and speechwriter, one of the chief architects and proponents of the Muslim Ban, and the individual tasked last week with introducing and defending Trump’s immigration reform package to the media.

One of the headliners of the Unite the Right rally was open white supremacist Richard Spencer, founder of National Policy Institute, a white nationalist/ Identitarian think tank based in Virginia. Spencer formerly attended Duke University with Stephen Miller and worked together with him in the Duke Conservative Union to host far-right anti-immigrant activist Peter Brimelow (founder of the nativist website VDARE, where Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler is a frequent commentator) on campus for a debate on immigration, according to two former members of the Union.

In an interview with Mother Jones, Spencer confirmed the two knew each other and shared views on multiculturalism and immigration.

“It’s funny no one’s picked up on the Stephen Miller connection,” Spencer says. “I knew him very well when I was at Duke. But I am kind of glad no one’s talked about this because I don’t want to harm Trump.”

Miller denied the connection to Mother Jones, but did not answer questions about his activities at Duke.

Trump Adviser Kris Kobach Has Ties to White Nationalist Groups and European Anti-Immigrant Extremists

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Image via Andrew Rosenthal on Flickr, (CC by NC-2.0) http://bit.ly/2wgwEWA

Kris Kobach is the current Kansas Secretary of State, a White House adviser, and President Trump’s appointee to a newly established Commission on Election Integrity. He is also a long-standing advocate of radical immigration reform who was advising on immigration policy from the earliest days of the Trump administration.

As the above tweeted photo shows, and Kobach later confirmed as noted by the Kansas City Star, in 2015 he was among speakers at an event of The Social Contract Press, a white nationalist publishing house that hosts conferences and publishes a quarterly journal highlighting anti-immigrant and anti-“globalist” thought. Previous speakers at TSCP events include Peter Brimelow of VDARE (who was person Spencer and Miller invited to speak at Duke, as noted above), and Jared Taylor, the editor of white supremacist website American Renaissance, author of the book White Identity and one of Spencer’s cited major influencers.

Kobach has also branched out beyond the US to forge connections to extremists from Europe.  In March, Kobach hosted Austrian anti-Muslim activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff in Kansas, a meeting Sabaditsch-Wolff documented meticulously for anti-Muslim website Gates of Vienna. She expressed numerous outlandish opinions to Kobach, including her suspicion that George Soros is funding the travel of people seeking asylum through Europe with 500 euros bills, that “Sweden is the European country that is closest to collapse”, and that women in Europe no longer feel safe in public.

Trump Assistant Sebastian Gorka tied to Hungarian Nazi Group

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Image via 7th Army Training Command on Flickr, (CC by 2.0) http://bit.ly/2uXhGk6

Dr. Sebastian Gorka works in an advisory role at the White House and is often seen making the rounds on morning press shows and talk radio to argue forcefully for Trump’s policies. Gorka was born in the UK to parents who fled as political refugees from Hungary following 1956 Rebellion. He has nevertheless been a forceful advocate against allowing refugees like his parents to come to the US, telling Sean Hannity, “We help people when we can help them,” he said. “But that is not a contract for national suicide.” As a spokeman, he has also represented the White House on immigration issues to defend the Muslim Ban and now the RAISE Act, which would also reduce numbers of people allowed to come to the US as refugees.

However, as an active member of Hungarian politics, Gorka was evidently tied to several extreme-right and anti-Semitic groups, including far-right Jobbik. But, as the Forward revealed, he is also allegedly a formal member of a nationalist group that helped deport thousands of Jews from Hungary during World War II and is banned from immigration to the US because of its Nazi ties, the Vitézi Rend.  A high-ranking member of the organization confirmed his sworn membership to The Forward.

“Of course he was sworn in,” Pintér said, in a phone interview. “I met with him in Sopron [a city near Hungary’s border with Austria]. His father introduced him.”

The government of Viktor Orbán has made Hungary a welcoming place for individuals with extremist anti-immigrant and anti-Semitics views like Jobbik, but also for American white nationalists. Richard Spencer and another scheduled speaker at the Unite the Right Tally, Daniel Friberg, met up in Budapest in 2014 for a NPI conference (where Spencer ironically ran into problems with the Hungarian police for potential immigration violations, according to Hungarian news site Index.)

****

The sight of swastikas at the Unite the Right rally, as well as chants of “blood and soil” and “Jews won’t replace us” provokes unnerving historical precedent with nazi movements like the one  Gorka allegedly belongs to. The white nationalists and neo-nazis at Saturday’s events no doubt represent a small group of fringe Americans- but that makes the numerous ties to Trump’s administration, and especially the architects and defenders of his immigration policy, even more difficult to overlook.

 


Sources and Further Reading
The RAISE Act, US Congress, August 2017
Stephen Miller addresses the press about the RAISE Act, Youtube (video), Aug. 2017
Trump condemns Charlottesville violence but doesn’t single out white nationalists, Washington Post, Aug. 12, 2017 (with video)
Trump denounces KKK, neo-Nazis as ‘repugnant’ as he seeks to quell criticism of his response to Charlottesville, Washington Post, Aug. 14, 2017 (with video)
Stephen Miller Defends President Trump’s Travel Ban, Fox News, Jan. 2017 (video)
Immigration ban architect Stephen Miller foreshadowed his policy on journey from Duke to the West Wing, Duke Chronicle, Jan. 2017.
Meet the White Nationalist Trying To Ride The Trump Train to Lasting Power, Mother Jones, Oct. 2016
Kris Kobach rejects criticism for speaking at a ‘white nationalist’ conference, Kansas City Star, Nov. 2015
World gets glimpse of deportation plan Kris Kobach took to meeting with Trump, LA Times, Nov. 2016
Kobach Email Confirms Aim of Voter Fraud Commission is to Gut Vital Voting Rights Law, Slate, July 2017
Introducing Kansas to the Great European Migration Crises, Gates of Vienna, March 2017
Sebastian Gorka (biography), Institute of World Politics
Dr. Sebastian Gorka: ‘U.S. Is a Judeo-Christian Nation But That’s not a Contract for National Suicide!’ Breitbart, Nov. 2016 (with video)
EXCLUSIVE: Senior Trump Aide Forged Key Ties To Anti-Semitic Groups In Hungary, The Forward, Feb. 2017
EXCLUSIVE: Nazi-Allied Group Claims Top Trump Aide Sebastian Gorka As Sworn Member, The Forward, March 2017.
Ineligibility based on Human Rights Violation, State Department
The alien police took custody of the Organizer of the Race Protection Conference, Index.hu, April 2014.
Header Image via Anthony Crider on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2xaBhOu (CC by 2.0)

100 days in, has Trump kept his promises on migration?

By Christina Lee & Christian Jorgensen

Way back in November 2016, US President Donald Trump released a clear and enumerated list of goals to be achieved during his first 100 days in office. A number of these pertained to migration and asylum, putting down onto paper concrete promises that backed up the immigration-heavy rhetoric of his campaign.

Now officially 100 days in to Trump’s presidency, it’s clear that this list was more than mere campaign promises: quite a few of them have been attempted by the Trump administration, in exactly the wording promised. (You can read the entire list here.) Below, we break down the progress the Trump administration has made toward keeping his promises on migration and refugee policy.


√× Cancel all funding to sanctuary cities

“Sanctuary cities” is a broad term used by both pro and anti-immigrant movements to describe cities who do not prioritize local enforcement of federal immigration laws. While what this actually entails can vary widely, there are a number of cities that identify as “sanctuary cities,” and unrelated and separate to this fact, many big cities receive millions of dollars in grants and funds from the federal government. President Trump campaigned on a promise to withhold federal funds from these “sanctuary cities” if his administration does not feel they fall in line with federal immigration policies.  Given that “sanctuary city” is not an official designation but rather a vague declaration of intent that means different things to different cities, it was bound to be difficult to use this as a basis for withholding federal funding – but the President did try.

In January, Trump signed an Executive Order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States“, which calls on the government to “Ensure that jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law.”  The executive order contains other provisions, but this clearly matches his promise.

The executive order was followed up in April by a letter sent by the Justice Department to nine so-called sanctuary cities, in which the cities were told that they must demonstrate their compliance with federal immigration law or lose certain federal grants.

Two of letter recipients- San Francisco and Santa Clara- immediately took legal action to challenge the and prevent the law’s enforcement, seeking a declaratory judgement that the order violates the Tenth amendment of the Constitution, which retains all powers not delegated to the federal government by the constitution to the individual states. The argument here is essentially that the federal government has the prerogative to enforce federal immigration laws, but it may not force state governments to use their resources to do so. They also challenge the order for being vague and groundless (as we mentioned, lacking a standard) and for violating due process by removing funds without an opportunity to challenge. Strangely, the Trump administration’s argument seems to be that the order is actually toothless, given that it can only apply to a very small number of millions of dollars worth of federal grants.

Even so, the court agreed with the cities. In the order granting an injunction against enforcement of the order, the ninth district wrote:

The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds. Further, the Tenth Amendment requires that conditions on federal funds be unambiguous and timely made; that they bear some relation to the funds at issue; and that the total financial incentive not be coercive. Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves.

These issues with the Executive Order are not limited to San Francisco and are likely to cause some major problems for Trump’s sanctuary city order generally. So the verdict on this promise must be: Tried and blocked.


“Begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back.”

This goal has only been partially achieved, but then, he did only say “begin.” Within Trump’s first 100 days ICE data shared with national news agencies has shown that 54,564 individuals have been deported as part of the “Operation Cross Check” roundup. However, it should be noted that only 30,664 are individuals with a criminal record.  This number obviously does not include the many individuals currently going through deportation proceedings so it could be that the number is nearing 2 million.

So although ICE is apparently targeting non-criminal persons with irregular status for deportation and not only people with criminal records, this promise can be marked as: in progress.


×√“Suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.”

This promise appears to predict the so-called “Muslim Ban,” which was passed but has been blocked by a federal appeals court in Hawaii. As we pointed out back in January, this was always going to be a very difficult promise to keep, given the multiple complications involved in enshrining religious discrimination into immigration law. The Trump administration ended up opting for a ban based on countries (which we predicted was more likely) and faced the problem we thought he might: by only banning a handful of majority-Muslim countries, his ban appeared arbitrary and not serving a compelling national security interest. If he had selected the top countries who had produced terrorism he would have included some non-Muslim majority countries (like Belgium) or important US allies like Saudi Arabia. By avoiding both these pitfalls, he reinforced the conclusion that the ban was necessary for political and discriminatory reasons, rather than for security the of American citizens. Thus it failed to pass muster and was blocked by several judges, with a renewed and reworded version being blocked indefinitely by the federal district court of Hawaii.

So the Muslim ban is another promise that was: tried and blocked.


×√ End Illegal Immigration Act Fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall; establishes a 2-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a 5-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations; also reforms visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.

This act, as worded, has not been passed, but several of the provisions within have been discussed. As we wrote about in April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has introduced new procedures and guidance to make re-entry more difficult and to make enforcement of immigration rules stricter across the country. The main provision discussed being the wall along the U.S.’ southern border with Mexico that Trump touted as a top priority during the 2016 campaign. According to top Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

The main provision discussed above is, of course, the wall along the U.S.’ southern border with Mexico, which Trump touted as a top priority during the 2016 campaign. In January, Trump signed an executive order (“Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements“) calling for the “immediate construction” of a wall along the border with Mexico.

According to top Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) the wall will cost up to $15 billion dollars, however, Congress has currently not agreed on any budgetary amount that they are willing to spend, and Mexico is apparently unwilling to fulfill Trump’s promise that they would pay for it. In a televised address to the nation in January, Mexican President Nieto denied that Mexico would fund the proposed wall, saying “I’ve said time and again; Mexico won’t pay for any wall.”

In April President Trump, in order to keep his promise of reforming visa rules, signed an executive order, called the “Buy American, Hire American” law, that works to reform the HB1 visa program. An HB1 is a visa program that allows companies to hire workers from other countries with certain specialties usually focused in the areas of science and technology. Although the executive order has not currently changed the HB1 visa, what it has done is called for various federal agencies to start creating reforms to the HB1 process. President Trump believes this will lead to firms being forced to “Hire American” though of course it is yet to be seen if this will be the case.

So for this promise, Trump’s progress must be judged as: partially in progress, partially not attempted.


X Restoring National Security Act. Rebuilds our military ….. establishes new screening procedures for immigration to ensure those who are admitted to our country support our people and our values.

This was from the outset a vague promise that didn’t have much hope of being passed. After all, it would require America to have a defined set of values outside of the Constitution, the main thrust of which is to allow for different values. We have not yet heard any news of new guidelines to customs and border control to quiz people on values and support of American people, so this must be considered: not attempted.


Conclusions: Despite attempts, Trump is far from his immigration goals, and getting further

A majority of people who voted for Trump (64%) identified immigration as the most important issue in the 2016 election and were likely gratified to see Trump making immigration reform a centerpiece of his campaign. As his success rate here shows, however, Trump may have overpromised on what he could achieve in a number of areas. It’s unclear whether Trump regarded these promises as achievable, but the presence in his cabinet of hardline anti-immigrant activists suggests that advisors may have pushed him to embrace unrealistic goals that were on their wishlist for years, but had little chance of success.

When it comes to immigration, the question for people supporting the President has to be: is it enough to try and fail or are the results what really matter?

Sources and Further Reading
Donald Trump’s Promises for the First 100 Days, NPR, November 2016.
Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, White House, Jan. 2017
Sanctuary Jurisdiction Cases, USDC for Northern District of California (PDFs of order available to download.)
Justice Department Warns Sanctuary Cities, NPR, April 2017.
ICE data shows half of immigrant arrested in raids had traffic convictions or no record, Washington Post, April 2017.
Will Trump go forward with a “Muslim Ban” and if so, how? Migration Voter, Jan. 2017.
Hawaii Court Order blocking Muslim Ban, Vox (PDF) Mar. 2017
Is the ‘Trump Era’ of Immigration Enforcement starting to take shape? Migration Voter, April 2017
Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, White House, Jan. 2017
McConnell: Here’s how much the border wall will probably cost, Business Insider (video), Jan. 2017.
Mexico: We will not pay for the border wall. BBC (video), Jan. 2017.
Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, White House, April 2017.
Here’s an H1-B Visa, and Here Is How Trump Wants to Change It, Fortune, April 2017.
Border Wall Cost
Background on ICE statistics (More)
2016 US Presidential Election Exit Polls via the New York Times.
COVER IMAGE via Gage Skidmore ON FLICKR, http://bit.ly/2pmmXl5 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Is the “Trump era” of immigration policy starting to take shape?

Someone who voted for US President Donald Trump on the basis of his promises to get tough on immigrants and refugees could be forgiven for being a bit disappointed some 80 days into his administration. Mexico does not seem any closer to paying for a wall, the “Muslim ban” failed to pass legal muster (as MigrationVoter predicted), and Trump seems to have abandoned, at least for the moment, promises to crack down on funding for sanctuary cities and overturn DACA. (This last one is a real tough one to swallow for anti-immigration advocates. As Mark Krikorian of Center for Immigration Studies writes on his blog, he expected to be disappointed, but not “for Trump to break an explicit promise regarding his headline issue on the administration’s first business day in office.”)

Past disappointments aside, yesterday gave some signs to advocates against immigration that Trump has not abandoned all of his anti-immigrant promises.

First, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, himself a well-known advocate of restrictive immigration policies during his senate years, delivered a speech to border enforcement in Arizona intended to outline coming changes to the immigration and border enforcement system.

For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned: This is a new era. This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws and the catch and release practices of old are over.

Sessions announced two types of changes: 1) new recommendations to federal prosecutors mandating prioritization of certain types of crimes, 2) reforms to immigration courts.

New Recommendations to Federal Prosecutors

The new recommendations will require federal prosecutors to consider filing additional criminal charges against undocumented immigrants they capture, including: transportation or harboring of immigrants, fraud and aggravated identity theft (if they uncover forged identity documents) assault on a federal officer, and felony re-entry.

⇒ So what does this really mean? Sessions is essentially instructing federal prosecutors to stack charges against undocumented immigrants as high as possible. If any felony charges stick, that person will be labeled a criminal illegal alien, which as we know, is the group this administration has promised to target for deportation. By pushing for more felony convictions, they widen the number of people who can be considered “criminal aliens” and can make it more difficult or impossible for these people to ever return to the US.

Since these are recommendations, it is obviously at the discretion of prosecutors to push for multiple counts against undocumented migrants in their jurisdiction (and each count takes time and evidence to back up and litigate.) So to ensure that no prosecutors are tempted to ignore these guidelines out of disinterest or convenience, the DOJ has thrown in an additional component: all 94 district attorney’s offices (not just those from border areas) must now appoint a Border Security Coordinator – to headline the efforts against undocumented immigrants. If this is someone’s entire job, they are certainly more likely to prioritize the DOJ’s recommendations and try to convict undocumented immigrants of as any crimes as possible.

Changes to Immigration Court

Sessions announced a new streamlined procedure to appoint more federal judges to immigration benches, with the goal of hiring 50 this year and 75 next year to help reduce the backlog of immigration cases. In addition, all immigrants apprehended at the border will now automatically be sent to detention centers, where judges will directly come to them to decide their fates. For this, he promises to hire 25 new judges. (Note: This backs up an earlier memorandum from Department of Homeland Security calling for detention for all apprehended immigrants and more judges and officers, but it still isn’t clear whether this changes Trump’s federal hiring freeze for other kinds of supporting employees judges may need.)

⇒ So what does this really mean? People on both sides of the immigration debate agree that there is a need for a higher number of qualified immigration judges to ensure that people in immigration detention and awaiting decisions on asylum claims can have their claims adjudicated more efficiently. A “streamlined” procedure for hiring raises eyebrows, in that some may question whether it will be possible to get the best-qualified candidates to judge incredibly complex immigration cases in an abbreviated procedure. Given that under the existing system judges have faced criticism in the past, who knows whether or not this will be a downgrade. We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

The potentially more interesting aspect is the 25 new detention center judges. Unlike criminal charges, immigration offenses do not typically entitle the accused to a lawyer. Having adjudication take place directly at the detention center decreases the likelihood of an individual being aware of their rights, such as the possibility of seeking asylum or applying for temporary protection or a special visa (like Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.)

It also raises concerns about the circumstances of detention. Automatic detention for everyone would presumably include children, and there is some question to the legality of this under international law (see, for instance, here and here.)

Newcomers to DHS from the Anti-Immigrant Community

Aside from Sessions’ very clear statements yesterday in Arizona, we received another hint this week at the Trump administration’s intentions to get tough on immigration. The Department of Homeland Security hired two high-profile advisors linked to the group FAIR and think tank Center for Immigration Studies. Both organizations were founded by the far-right anti-immigration activist John Tanton, and support policies like an end to birthright citizenship and heavily reduced legal immigration, as well as much stricter enforcement of existing laws.

According to the DHS spokesman, as reported by CNN Jon Feere, formerly of CIS, has been hired as an advisor to the director of ICE. Over at Customs and Border Protection, Julie Kirchner, the former executive director of FAIR, has been hired as an advisor to the commissioner. We’ll take a deeper look at the implications of these choices later in the week, but for now its worth noting that Trump’s once stalled plans on immigration seem to be moving along once more, and their direction is quite clear.

Sources and Further Reading
Injunction against Travel Ban- Granted (Hawaii et al v. Trump) US District Court of Hawaii, March 2017
Foreign Minister said Mexico not paying for wall- Mark Rubio on ABC NEWS, April 2017
Sanctuary City list on hold – Washington Times, April 2017
Declined Detainer Outcome Report- Suspended, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Will Trump go forward with a Muslim Ban, and if so, how?” MV, Jan 2017
Is Trump going to cancel DACA or not? Mark Krikorian, CIS, Jan 2017
Sessions on immigration– OntheIssues.org
Full remarks of Attorney General Sessions, US Dept. of Justice, April 2017
DHS Memo on Implementing Border and Enforcement Policies, DHS, Feb. 2017
Presidential Memorandum Regarding Hiring Freeze, White House, Jan. 2017
Hard-line anti-illegal immigration advocates hired at 2 federal agencies, CNN, April 2017
(Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2oXE0e8, (CC by SA 2.0)

Where do the Dutch parties stand on refugees?

One of the unusual features of the Dutch electoral system is the large number of parties and multiple possibilities for coalitions. When it comes to refugee politics, a very hot issue in the upcoming race, the parties are all over the map and range from very strict on refugees- saying the Netherlands should not take a single one- to very welcoming, saying refugees should be welcomed without a limit and entitled to the same rights as Dutch citizens. To make it a little easier to navigate we’ve divided the top parties by their stances, using their own positions from their own platforms. Remember: multiple of these parties will have to find enough common ground to govern together, so we are likely to see big compromises.

PVV- Zero refugees, close the borders, exit the European Union and ban Islam

The Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV, is the far right party of Geert Wilders and takes the strongest stance against refugees and people seeking asylum, particularly if they are Muslim. Their platform is that the Netherlands should accept zero refugees, close all asylum centers, withdraw residence permits that have already been granted, and use the money that is currently given to people in the asylum process to support the “ordinary Dutchman.” In addition, immigration from Muslim countries will be banned, and people who hold dual citizenship and have a criminal record will be de-nationalized. Finally, a vote on leaving the European Union will be posed by referendum (the so-called “Nexit”), and the Koran would be banned (this would likely also require a referendum to change the constitution to allow for discrimination against religious groups.)

VVD- Netherlands is obligated to accept refugees, not economic migrants

The Die Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD) is the party of current PM Mark Rutte. Although they arrive at the conclusion in a different way, their position on refugees is nearly as hardline as PVV’s. While refugees are entitled to a safe haven, that should be granted in their own region and not in Europe. In the current situation, they say it is no longer possible to distinguish between refugees and economic migrants, so efforts should be given to stabilizing the region refugees originate from and preventing them from endangering themselves and making problems in the Netherlands. The majority who come to the Netherlands cannot possibly be refugees, VVD argues, as they traveled all the way there, passing through safe regions, so they should not be given false hope and resettled in municipalities. Those who do make it should be processed as quickly as possible and deported as quickly as possible. Anyone who remains must integrate as quickly as possible and pay their own way through language courses, and is entitled to the minimum of public assistance- container houses, healthcare, and food. People who fail to integrate should lose residence rights.

CDA- Refugees must be set up to be able to return

The Christen-Democratisch Appèl or CDA is the once dominant Christian union party that has a center-right viewpoint. On the issue of refugees and asylum, they partially echo the VVD in granting that refugees are entitled to protection, but this protection can be better granted in their own region. This way, they are also better enabled to return when a conflict has ceased. Thus, they support the creation of regional “safe havens” and financial support for governments hosting refugees. Refugees already in Europe should be distributed according to a quota system, with countries who don’t participate losing EU funds. Refugees already within the Netherlands should receive training so that they can be well-prepared to return to their countries as soon as possible- and those countries who will not accept their citizens back should be ineligible for trade or development cooperation. Anyone who will eventually receive Dutch citizenship must give up their previous citizenship, take an integration test and learn Dutch.

SGP – Allow refugees, but combat abuse of the asylum system

The Staatkundig Gereformeerde Parti or SGP is the Dutch Calvinist party, a socially conservative center- right party that received some international attention when it was sued for refusing to allow women into its ranks.  The SGP believes that the Netherlands should continue to accept refugees, especially those who have been persecuted because of their faith, but that as a small and densely populated country, the number of disadvantaged/ economic migrants must be limited and there should be stricter requirements for family reunification. Only those who agree, in writing, that they want to contribute to Dutch society should receive funds for integration courses, and public funding for refugees should be limited to the basics.

CU- Certain groups of asylum seekers are at a higher risk

The ChristenUnie or CU is a socially conservative Christian party, which nevertheless is somewhat liberal on issues such as the environment and immigration. Their position on refugees is that the Netherlands should continue to accept refugees while supporting assistance for them in their origin region and supporting a more equal distribution of refugees throughout Europe. Refugees should be distributed throughout the Netherlands, but in good communication with local municipalities and lots of opportunities for integration and volunteer activities in the home. The asylum process should be sped up so people know what their prospects for staying are as soon as possible and can start to integrate. They are especially concerned about the safety of LGBT and Christian refugees in asylum homes and favor more support for these groups. They also want more attention and special assistance for victims of trafficking, FGM and child marriage, and support a more liberal policy for child refugees. They also advocate basic support (food, shelter) for rejected asylum seekers.

PvDA – We accept refugees but our capacity isn’t limitless

The Partij van de Arbeid or PvdA is the left-leaning worker’s party that focuses on employment and social welfare. In their plan they embrace a European response to the refugee crises with a distribution system, and specifically cite the Geneva Refugee Convention as being the decider of who may stay. But the Netherland’s capacity to help is limited and the country has been put under pressure by accepting refugees- thus they take a strict stance against economic migrants, and encourage more say for municipalities in choosing how many refugees they will accept. A fair asylum policy must make special provisions for the vulnerable, especially children.

SP- Provide ample assistance here and in sending countries

The Socialistische Partij is a leftist social democrat party that takes a Euroskeptic stance on issues like the euro and freedom of movement, hoping to restrict EU policies and migration that suppresses wages. Nevertheless, in their platform they propose a European solution to asylum, namely, that reception centers are placed at international borders and then people found legally able tEo stay are distributed throughout Europe, incuding throughout the Netherlands. Like other parties, they support regional assistance to prevent people from leaving in the first place, and development cooperation in Africa but not with a “post-colonial process.” Refugees within the Netherlands should be equally distributed (“not just in poor neighborhoods”) and should receive ample assistance including mental health care. ‘No one should have to sleep on the streets”, they say, and people in asylum shelter that are at additional risk of violence should receive extra attention.

D66- Smaller numbers mean better opportunities

The Politieke Partij Democraten 66 or D66 is a progressive, pro-democracy and pro-European party founded in 1966. While “not everyone can come to the Netherlands,” they point out that the majority of Syrian refugees are sheltered by neighboring countries. They support strengthening European borders and capacities and accepting genuine refugees (but not economic migrants.) A smaller number of refugees will make opportunities for them to integrate stronger. In the meantime, they deserve assistance and the same rights to housing and healthcare as Dutch people have.

GL- Be realistic and humane towards refugees

The GroenLinks party advocated for a “confident and relaxed” Netherlands and is explicitly in favor of multiculturalism and against racism and discrimination. Their platform on asylum calls out as unrealistic proposals like closing the borders and instead proposes a workable and humane solution. While international development is in order, in the mean time international humanitarian obligations should be followed. They are in favor of European distribution but also believe the applicant’s choice should carry weight – especially in the case of minors who might want to live with relatives.Asylum seekers in the Netherlands should be able to work from day 1 and should have a decision within a reasonable amount of time. Rejected asylum seekers are also entitled to minimal assistance so they don’t end up on the streets.

With these positions in mind, we should be in a good position to speculate where parties have common grounds or irreconcilable differences once we have coalition options come election day (in less than a week!)

Interested in testing out which party suits you best? Stemmen Tracker lets you take a survey and matches your answers to a party.

(Image via Flickr, (CC BY-NC 2.0) http://bit.ly/2m7mezk)

Will Trump go forward with a “Muslim ban”, and if so, how?

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Image via Flickr http://bit.ly/2j5kmd7 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

US President-elect Donald Trump campaigned extensively on immigration issues, highlighting his intention to build a wall at the border of Mexico and deport large numbers of undocumented migrants throughout the campaign. In December of 2015, shortly following the Paris terror attacks, he issued a press release entitled “Donald J. Trump Statement on Preventing Muslim Immigration” in which he called “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

Despite the seemingly clear “Muslim ban” statement from 2015, with its background of the CSP’s survey, Trump’s position appears to have evolved if one looks at the positions taken on his website and by Trump campaign spokesperson Kelly Anne Conway. On December 22, 2016 Conway told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that Trump will pursue a policy of extreme vetting that will be country-based, rather than based on religion and that the policies outlined on his website back this up. “I am asking whether being a Muslim will be a trigger, that’s my question, simple,” said Cuomo, to which Conway responded, “No, no its not.”

Looking at Trump’s website for clarification, we find multiple policy proposals pertinent to immigration but few directly concerning Muslims (other than the Dec. 2015 statement). Under “Foreign Policy and Defeating ISIS,” he promises to:

“Suspend, on a temporary basis, immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.”

Under the section “Immigration,” Trump outlines numerous proposed changes to immigration policies and comes once again back to vetting, proposing that the US:

“Vet applicants to ensure they support America’s values, institutions and people, and temporarily suspend immigration from regions that export terrorism and where safe vetting cannot presently be ensured.”

So just drawing from Trump’s own published statements, we have three clear possibilities:

  1. Banning certain types of migration on the basis of religion  
  2. Banning certain types of migration on the basis of national/ regional origin
  3. Not banning migration at all but pursuing a policy of extreme vetting from certain regions or for certain religions

Let’s examine each possibility in turn.

1. Banning certain types of migration on the basis of religion

At this point, this seems the least likely possibility given Conway’s denials that being Muslim will be the trigger for exclusion and the scarcity of statements to this effect on Trump’s website (aside from the first one from over a year ago.) But if Trump wanted to ban migration to the US of any Muslim person, even temporarily, would this be possible?

The US Constitution bars discrimination on the basis of religion under the 1st and 14th amendment, and any federal laws that infringe on fundamental rights (such as those in the Bill of Rights) or suspect classifications (such as a particular religious minority group) are judged under the “strict scrutiny” test (see US v Carolene Products, footnote 4). The strict scrutiny test requires that a government law affecting fundamental rights or certain types of minorities (such as religious groups) must serve a compelling interest, be narrowly tailored to meet that interest, and be the least restrictive means of achieving that interest. In other words, a law that would potentially discriminate against a minority group must be practically the only way possible of achieving some need of dire importance to the government. In this case, Trump would likely argue that restricting immigration of Muslims is the best way of achieving the direly important security need of protecting the US from terrorism. While preventing terrorism is no doubt a crucial interest, one can easily point out the flaw in this argument- Muslim immigrants are not the only ones or primary ones who commit acts of terrorism in the US (the majority of U.S. terror acts since 2000 have been carried out by citizens or residents, with around a third being right-wing terrorism), and the vast majority of Muslims have no connection to radical terrorist groups, so the law is probably not narrowly tailored to achieving its means.

But, not so fast. These constitutional protections apply to US citizens, who almost certainly could not legally be barred from traveling and re-entering the US under any “Muslim ban.” But what about non-citizens, such as people wishing to reunite with family members, join a partner, do business, or seek asylum in the US? While the Supreme Court holds that Equal Protection applies to non-citizens, even undocumented migrants, within the US (see Plyler v. Doe at 210) people trying to enter the country are probably not granted the same protection, as multiple presidents in the past have banned groups based on national origin (Iran, Cuba to name a few.)

The real problem with such a ban would likely be the inability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify Muslims.There are some 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and they live in most of the world’s countries and belong to every race. Like with any religion, it would be impossible to pick them out solely using last names, language spoken or country of origin without catching many other people up in the dragnet- like, e.g., Arab Christians, or Sikhs who are often mistaken for Muslim- and missing many others.

Any attempt to determine religion – for instance, by immigration agents asking would-be entrants what religion they are- would clearly be about as effective as previous attempts to sniff out communists (“Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the communist party?”). People could lie out of a variety of motivations, not least of which because they feel unclear about their religious identity, as many do, or because they consider religion a private matter.

Another possibility would be religious profiling- rejecting visa requests, etc, from persons who officials suspect of being Muslim, based on perhaps last names or national origin. But aside from being ineffective, as discussed directly above, any unofficial, behind the scenes profiling would not achieve the effect of pleasing Trump’s supporters, who will probably be looking for hard policies and not secret, implied religious or racial profiling (which at any rate already openly exists at borders).

So an outright Muslim ban, while perhaps not unconstitutional, would prove extremely complicated to enforce and an unlikely choice by the President-elect.

2. Banning certain types of migration based on national/ regional origin.

As discussed above, a move like this has historical precedent and is potentially achievable. But here too, there are problems.

First, as Trump has made clear that his intention is to bar Muslims or at least practitioners of “radical Islam,” there is an issue of which regions or countries could effectively be banned. At first glance, we can see that Muslims make up large segments of the population in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe, as well as Canada. Banning migrants from those countries on the basis that they might be radical Muslims would effectively ban immigration from all but Central and South America, a scenario which seems unlikely to be appealing to Trump, who started his campaign talking about the dangers posed by Mexican immigrants.

If, as in his later statements, Trump wants to ban immigrants from areas that are known for fomenting extremism, it will also be difficult to create a narrow list. As the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism has reported, circa 4,000 EU citizens have traveled to Syria or Iraq to join IS, some 30% of whom have returned to their home countries. The largest number of these are Belgian, French, German, or British, with the highest number coming from Belgium.

If Trump will indeed ban people from “regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism,” its difficult to imagine how he can avoid banning immigration from Europe, or at the very least, Belgium, France, Germany and the UK. Such a ban could potentially have a severe impact on relations with America’s close allies in the EU, or result in reciprocal bans for American travellers to Europe.

3. Not banning migration at all but pursuing a policy of extreme vetting from certain regions or for certain religions

As with the first two proposals, this one suffers from an overbroadness. Pursuing extreme vetting against regions that “export terror” will once again have to include European nations, as well as Africa, the Middle East and Asia (particularly Southeast Asia.) Once again, this will mean strict vetting for virtually the entire world, aside from Latin and Central America. As many parts of the world are already subjected to strict vetting, (especially asylum applicants) we will have to wait for further details to determine how President-elect Trump’s plan will go above and beyond this, and how it will determine whether entrants “support America’s values, institutions and people.”

CONCLUSION

A few weeks out from inauguration it still remains to be seen how active Trump will be in his first 100 days, and whether he’ll be able to move forward on keeping his immigration-related promises. However, it is clear that any plan to ban or limit Muslim migrants or migrants from “terror-exporting regions” will require much more thought if it will pass constitutional muster, be stronger than what we already have, or not turn into an all-out immigration ban. We’ll be staying tuned to see if and how Trump attempts to strike a balance.


READ MOREsources and further literature

The Official Donald J. Trump Homepage
“Trump calls for ban on Muslims, cites deeply flawed poll” -the Bridge Initiative
“Strict Scrutiny” from the Legal Information Institute at Cornell
Terrorism In America from New America thinktank (Datasets are downloadable for analysis)
Plyler v. Doe from Migration Policy Institute
Jimmy Carter’s Sanctions Against Iran (includes ban on entrants from Iran)
Racial profiling will still be allowed at airports, along border despite new policy” The Washington Post from 2014 (cites DHS and Justice Department regulations)
The Foreign Fighters Phenomenon in the EU” from International Centre for Counter-Terrorism
“Isis in the Pacific: Assessing Terrorism in Southeast Asia and the Threat to the Homeland” from the Brookings Institute
Screening Process for Refugees Entering the US (Infographic)” from the White House

This article is analysis and thus contains the author’s opinion backed up with links to reliable sources. You are welcome to challenge our perspective in the comments.