As I write, the world is in an uproar because people with permanent resident status in the United States (i.e., holders of “green cards”) are being prevented from re-entering the country as a result of a recent executive order. (I’ve been offline for the past day or so, and am still trying to find out exactly what’s going on and why.)
If things are exactly as the hysterical reporting would indicate (which does happen once in a while), then this is a very clumsy move, and a political auto-goal. I am all for a moratorium on Muslim immigration to the West, and for far stricter immigration policy in general, and have said so often. But doing it so precipitously and ham-handedly is a serious blunder. In particular, absent evidence of malevolent activity or intent, green-card holders have a reasonable expectation to be treated, in terms of entry and exit, exactly as U.S. citizens are. If there’s a problem, the least we should do is let them come home and deal with it here.
Here’s Charles Cooke making the case:
Green card holders are not citizens — depending on the card and how it was obtained, that honor comes three or five years later. But they’re not bog-standard visa-holders either. Unlike, say, H1B-carriers, permanent residents are expected to live in America by default, and are in fact penalized if they don’t. By law and by expectation, this country is their home; their base; the ground in which their roots are planted. Because of this, permanent residents are able to purchase, own, and carry firearms; they are required to register with the selective service; and they are treated for tax and welfare purposes as are U.S. citizens. They can’t vote or serve on a jury, but, other than, they effectively enjoy all the liberties that natural born Americans enjoy. When they re-enter the country, the agent says “Welcome Home,” which is a big change from their visa days. They are not Americans, and they mustn’t pretend to be. But they are as close as one can get without being one.
And that’s fine. As a permanent resident myself, I don’t expect to be handed a passport or treated like a citizen (for what it’s worth, I like Josh Marshall’s conception of “thick citizenship”). But I do expect to be treated differently than a guy who just got off a plane for the first time — and not least because the process of obtaining a green card is tough. It took me a year from application to acceptance, and the vast majority of that time was taken up by the FBI. In addition to furnishing the government with my residential history, my employment history, and my criminal record (which is clean), I had to provide details of any clubs or societies to which I have ever belonged, to promise I wasn’t a terrorist or a Nazi or a communist, and to submit my fingerprints and a government-taken photograph on top. Which is to say: I had to go through the wringer before my card was issued. Because I was spotlessly clean my application wasn’t too involved, but I have friends whose days have been taken up by details of their parking tickets or their boyhood indiscretions or their penchant for getting fired. This is a tough nut to crack.
Some have suggested that blocking green-card holders is a misinterpretation of the executive order. I’ve just read it, and I don’t think so. (The full text is here.) The relevant section, I think, is 2(c):
(c) To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period described in subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).
I don’t see anything anywhere in the rest of the text that exempts anyone on the basis of permanent-resident status.
As glad as I am that Hillary Clinton did not win this election, and that Donald Trump is serious about securing the nation’s borders and enforcing immigration law in ways that prioritize the interests of U.S. citizens over foreigners, preventing re-entry by permanent residents seems like a very serious error to me, and I hope this detail of the E.O. is corrected as soon as possible. It’s already too late to repair the political damage it’s going to cause, though. What a stupid mistake.
Am I wrong about this? If so, please tell me why. Comments are welcome.