Editorial: Trump’s ban poorly vetted

The Detroit News

Somewhere in President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on immigrants from seven Muslim countries there may be a nugget of rational policy. Maybe. But even so, it is so buried now under the outrage caused by the autocratic way in which he rolled it out that it will never be found.

Trump might have implemented the ban on travelers from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen without stirring so much resentment.

But he called this storm down on himself with a poorly vetted idea badly executed.

For starters, he issued the executive order with immediate effect without preparing those who would have to execute it. That led to confusion and needless detainments at airports across the country as Homeland Security tried to figure out who was banned and who wasn’t.

There was no need for such hasty implementation. The White House has not identified an immediate threat that would demand warp speed.

Homeland Security’s first impression was that green card and valid visa holders would not be affected. But that was overruled by the White House, leading to the detention of those who should have had the legal right to leave and re-enter the country. A federal court intervened to order their release.

Green card holders are already thoroughly vetted, and in this case those stopped at the airports included people who had worked for the U.S. in places like Iraq.

There was also a lack of explanation from Trump on why he was instituting the ban, and what the administration would be doing during that period.

It might have gone over better had Trump communicated the why and how of the ban, instead of just tossing it out there for interpretation by others.

The administration is correct in noting that the seven countries were already under extra immigration requirements put in place two years ago by President Barack Obama because they are hotbeds of terrorism.

Why not note that up front, and explain why additional measures are needed?

As it is, Trump is finding little support for this policy outside his ardent circle of loyalists. Even Republicans in Congress are questioning both its wisdom and its effectiveness. The business leaders whose opinions he seems to so value are also critical.

It feels as if Trump was simply checking off another campaign promise, without regard to the consequences.

Such sweeping policy change should not be done on the fly. It merits debate and input from a variety of sources to get it right.

Trump would likely find support for putting in place requirements to more thoroughly check immigrants from places with high levels of terrorist activity. But as he learned this weekend, it is a delicate matter better addressed with a surgical knife than a meat cleaver.

And in any case, the idea of remaking America through executive orders is no more acceptable under Trump than it was when Obama was doing it. Republicans howled then; they should howl now.

Trump must learn that governing in these divisive times requires commitment to communication and deliberation. Just because he promised his base something in October doesn’t mean he should cram it down the nation’s throat in January.