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.


  1. Whitewall says

    Legal Insurrection had a good summary up last night and Diplomad has similar now. Breitbart and the Wapo have this interesting photo angle in the Oval Office. Note the presidential portrait in the background:

    Posted January 29, 2017 at 8:04 am | Permalink
  2. coyote says

    I am ignorant of the complete picture here; however from what I read in several other alt-right blogs (conservative treehouse being perhaps the most complete explanation I could find): the key is in the countries which are “called out”- and the law cited is one the Obama administration put in place! Notice Trump does not even list them- just uses the O’s existing law to implement! I am sure you are aware that taqqiyya (sp) allows deceit on the part of islamics to conduct their war against us: being a green card holder means nothing for a jihadi. The last eight years (or longer) of waving potential terrorists through the process of getting a green card means we need to take a looong second look at folks from those countries.

    Posted January 29, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says


    Yes, the list of countries was put in place by the Obama administration. (Part of the hysterical response I mentioned, by the way, has been to suggest that Mr. Trump made the list, and avoided naming countries with which he has business ties.)

    My only objection to the E.O. is that the list of exemptions to the travel ban doesn’t include U.S. permanent residents.

    From the item at Conservative Treehouse:

    While there is much pontification and opinion about a judicial ruling by New York Judge Ann Donnelly, the decision is actually quite narrow. The judge’s involvement is specifically and narrowly only targeted to current permitted visa holders who were in the limbo zone between travel (during XO) and the denial of entry upon landing.

    Despite the insufferable airport protests being promoted on U.S. MSM, there are less than 200 people nationwide who were in the limbo zone. The ruling stops DHS from forcibly turning around a group of currently valid visa holders arriving from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Nothing more.

    Worth a visit for the picture.

    Posted January 29, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink
  4. Wilson says

    No doubt under Obama a lot of people were allowed residency who shouldn’t have been. Mass expulsion would be appropriate, but the high-energy Trump administration can find a better solution, though they can’t be flying back and forth to training camps in the meantime

    Posted January 29, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  5. I was once a “greener” before my green-card status was superseded by naturalized citizenship. And though this occurred more than 60 years ago, I still recall the most important aspect of being a green-card-status permanent resident of the United States — its status is conditional (i.e., not guaranteed) for a minimum of five years, until it may be superseded by naturalization. During this period of conditional status, you must demonstrate a willingness to be a law-abiding citizen (i.e., by keeping your nose clean) and you may not leave the country for an unspecified period of time (at the risk of losing your green-card status).

    Posted January 29, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  6. Tina says

    Thanks for your perspective, TheBigHenry. It is valuable. Wilson, I am in agreement with you. It was only in November 2016 that the DHS IG reported that since 2013 there are at least 200,000 missing Green Cards the Agency can’t account for, 19000 “duplicates”, 2400 wrongfully issued green cards to people only approved for 2 year residency, and more than 800 new citizens created who weren’t eligible.

    Mr Cooke’s description of getting a Green Card sounds awfully like what I went through to get a passport. I’m a natural born citizen of the USA, but in order to travel overseas (technically, in order to get into other countries, not to get out of “mine own”), I had to furnish “the government with my residential history, my employment history, and my criminal record (which is clean)” It has been awhile but I seem to remember questions about “any clubs or societies” and the need to “promise I wasn’t a terrorist or a Nazi or a communist”. I then had “to submit my fingerprints and a [government-legal] photograph on top.” The process cost a lot, and I had to pay a big premium for “expedited” service to assure I would get it within 3 months instead of 6 months or more.

    Posted January 29, 2017 at 3:47 pm | Permalink
  7. JK says

    [S]eems like a very serious error to me, and I hope this detail of the E.O. is corrected as soon as possible.

    Yup. That’s about how I’d sum it up.

    Caveat – I’d like to have a better grip on how exactly “the implementation guidance” was let before I’d finally conclude though. Still … where this particularly is concerned, bad time to be pulling off a rookie mistake.

    Posted January 29, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink
  8. JK says

    Via an LB post.

    Trump also seems to have triggered some unnecessary chaos at the airports and borders around the globe by signing the order without a lot of adequate advance notice to the public or to the people charged with administering the order. That’s characteristic of his early administration’s public-relations amateur hour, and an unnecessary, unforced error.


    Posted January 29, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Permalink
  9. Whitewall says

    All these hasty protests around the country seem to have the flavor of the “Occupy” groups back in 2009 and 2010. Mobile, funded and aided by anti American interests. Wait until about Tuesday or so when Trump announces, by Twitter I’ll bet, the Supreme Court nominee. Then it’s off to DC, ward robe change and pick up the next batch of premade signs.

    Posted January 29, 2017 at 5:23 pm | Permalink
  10. “…, and an unnecessary, unforced error.”

    I don’t agree that it was an error, either unforced or otherwise. Everyone who may have been affected by Trump’s EO should have been aware of their own risk of being detained upon arrival in the United States, including the green-card holders. As I mentioned above, green-card holders do not have carte blanche to visit other countries, especially not for an unspecified duration. American authorities have always had the power to detain green-card holders upon their return to America from a foreign country, at the discretion of the authorities.

    It may have been a publicity miscue on Trump’s part, but let’s face it, no matter what he does or doesn’t do, it will spark a riot of demonstrations from the Left. I, for one, do not give a shit if it does.


    Posted January 29, 2017 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

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