By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
President Donald Trump’s political firestorm over his executive order restricting travel and immigration, primarily from seven Muslim-majority countries, has a new casualty. Late Monday evening, the President fired acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates for instructing Justice Department attorneys not to defend the executive order in court.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer charged that Yates “betrayed” the administration and was “weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.” Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, is now the acting Attorney General until Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions can be confirmed.
Trump’s executive order essentially halts immigration for the next 90 days for citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The order also says refugees fleeing war-torn Syria will be banned indefinitely, and all refugees will be prevented from entering the U.S. for four months.
The White House said the order was an effort to combat Islamic extremist terrorism.
Since then, numerous groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have filed federal lawsuits challenging the executive order. They claim the order is unconstitutional and against America’s long-held principles of justice and sanctuary for refugees fleeing oppression.
US Said to Lack Proper Immigrant Vetting Procedures
Many Americans believe the U.S. needs to take a comprehensive and strategic approach to combating Islamic extremism. The U.S. has been criticized for failing to understand and being slow to react to the emergence of ISIS and other terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump vigorously called for the need to re-evaluate and properly vet refugees and other immigrants attempting to enter the United States.
Current vetting procedures can take months before the U.S. government reaches a decision on whether or not to allow an applicant into the U.S. But current procedures have failed to properly address the plight of refugees and other individuals throughout the Middle East who have actively supported the United States in the war on terror. These people can be potential allies and a true force for Islamic moderation in their country of origin.
Trump Releases Poorly Written Executive Order
Unfortunately, in his haste to live up to a campaign promise, Trump rushed out an executive order that left many unanswered questions. Because the order targeted citizens of seven majority Muslim countries, it gave the impression of discriminating against an entire class of people because of their religion. At the same time, it really did nothing to combat the true enemies of the U.S.
Because of the sloppy way this executive order was written and released, the administration has had to issue numerous clarifications.
Perhaps the strangest aspect of Trump’s executive order is that the two cabinet secretaries with the most experience on terrorism were not consulted. It has been a long-standing practice that the President calls upon the appropriate cabinet secretaries for advice when he is about to release an executive order.
According to Anthony Cordesman, military analyst of the Center for Strategic and Internationals Studies, the draft was rushed out to the public. There was no coordination with Secretary of Defense General James Mattis or Secretary of Homeland Security General John F. Kelly. It’s little wonder that Yates effectively resigned her post as acting attorney general.
Mattis and Kelly are new to their civilian posts, but they are highly experienced in the Middle East. They understand that the battle against Islamic extremism cannot be won on the borders of the United States or Europe. They know the battle can be won only in partnership with Muslim states and by keeping the support of the vast majority of the world’s Muslims.
All too often, America’s Middle East strategy operates in a vacuum without consulting or coordinating with our Arab allies. They are the ones we need if we are to stop Islamic terror and to contain Iran’s regional ambitions.
What Is U.S. Strategy for Syrian Refugees?
It is unclear what direction future interactions with the Middle East will take, especially with regard to Syrian refugees and the new immigration regulations. The Obama administration never had a completely acceptable strategy for dealing with Syrian refugees, even after millions had fled the fighting and poured into Europe or neighboring Middle East countries.
By conducting a Middle East strategy without regard to the situation in that region the Trump administration is on the same slippery slope. To truly succeed in defeating terrorism, U.S. tactics must change, and we will need to develop more allies in the Middle East.