Donald Trump kept us on our toes on the day following the recent terror attack in New York by writing extremely cogently, if tersely, on Twitter about the pitfalls in American Immigration Policy. I’d braced myself for an inappropriate reaction to the attack, given his frankly outrageous tweeted response to the English terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, an ill-advised rebuke of Sadiq Khan. But, as even a stopped clock is right twice a day, Trump’s policies are not always as insipid as he is. Chuck Schumer’s lottery policy was under attack from Trump on this occasion, and rightly so; immigration ought not to be decided on a random basis. There are people that the USA should rather take in as immigrants than others, who do not subscribe to the ideologies that may result in their own radicalisation, as was the case for the suspected terrorist attacker Suyfallo Habibullaevic Saipov, referred to by the POTUS in tweets as a ‘degenerate animal’.
Having astonished this reader with his initial response to the attack, Trump span on a dime almost immediately in a barely coherent tweet-storm in which he argued that Saipov ought to be sent to Guantanamo bay, before immediately backtracking on this, as he realised that keeping Saipov in the federal system would expedite his punishment. In the president’s opinion, this punishment ought to be fatal. Trump’s advocacy of the death penalty in response to the most recent terror attack is unnecessarily polarising, not to mention extreme. He knew that Saipov was being held in New York, which made the tweets even more incoherent; New York is one of the many North East states where capital punishment has been written out of law.
‘the U.S. must begin to evaluate its immigration policy. As it stands, this policy is nowhere near discriminating enough across the board.’
However, Trump’s advocacy of the death penalty is bound to be largely inconsequential. The tide of politics ebbs and flows from one side of the aisle to the other regardless of who sits in office, and as long as a republican is in charge, they are more likely to support the death penalty, as are their many followers. Historically, the democrats have been quicker to abandon capital punishment than their GOP counterparts. There are outliers to this rule, with liberal California a notable example of states with the death penalty (in fact, death row in that state is positively heaving).
The key message here does not pertain to the specifics of this attacker. What can be drawn from the offending Twitter barrage is the overarching political impact of the President’s advocacy of incarcerating criminals and terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, and apparently killing them in cases such as this. It is still less than a year since the POTUS was a cool-headed politician who assured (falsely – it was forever out of his jurisdiction and he could never have fulfilled the promise) the American public that his administration would oversee the closure of the prison at Gitmo. Now, the president is a B-list TV celeb who advocates waterboarding and is keen to oversee a continuation of imprisonment in Guantanamo and the behaviours of its officials, which borders on criminality itself. As with most everything Trump does, this is a problem.
There are two things to keep in mind here. First of all, Trump is right on the issue of immigration at the root of this attack. The USA needs more stringent admission policies. There are plenty of foreign asylum seekers who could thrive in America, but the Democrats’ egalitarian approach to immigration is not discriminating enough and can permit entrance for people like Saipov, which is obviously unhelpful for national safety. Second, it is not within the president’s remit to influence decisions in a federal court of law unless he’s directly connected to the case. His advocacy of any punishment should have zero impact on the sentence handed down, however, defense lawyers have in the past used president’s comments on like cases to argue that they jeopardize the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
‘Reports of Syrian immigrant behaviour in Sweden and elsewhere has not been exaggerated…’
Trump is quicker to admit than just about every elected democrat that there are ideologies which conflict unambiguously with the aims of western civilised democracy and which must be stopped. The radical Jihadism of ISIS is one such ideology, and after ISIS claimed responsibility for Saipov’s actions, the US must begin to evaluate its immigration policy. As it stands, this policy is nowhere near discriminating enough across the board. Allowing immigrants to settle in foreign states is not just the moral duty of a developed economic state, but also benefits nation states culturally. The political right wing often worries very vocally about new immigrant populations. They worried about the most recent notable foreign influences on our culture here – Polish, Pakistani, Jamaican – which have been a boon for British culture, expanding the horizons of native residents and creating a diverse and multicultural society. However, it is not a secret that there are prevailing ideologies in certain sects which directly contravene the democratic ideals of prominent Western states such as the UK, the USA, France, Germany, and others.
This results in a moral conflict with tangible impacts on western society. In the aftermath of the Aleppo refugee crisis, Cameron offering places in the UK for 10,000 Syrians was paltry, especially considering the impact of the UK government’s Syrian bombing campaign which likely displaced many natives. Germany provided a counterpoint to Cameron’s stinginess, creating an immigrant capacity many times greater. However, there was a problem here with competing political values.
While Merkel laudably wanted to open her country’s doors to the desperate refugees of Syria, the haste with which this move was implemented proved unhelpful in the long run. Reports of Syrian immigrant behaviour in Sweden and elsewhere has not been exaggerated and some new Muslim communities in various European locales can be a source of trouble. The speed with which these particular people were accepted is in line with the random nature of the Green Card Lottery policy Schumer pushed through in the nineties. Although needless to say, Saipov is the exception and not the rule when it comes to the lottery’s many winners, Trump was correct to highlight this as an issue in the wake of the attack. Meanwhile, don’t worry too much about his bloodthirsty cry for Saipov’s death. This may just be a continuation of his brand as an unpredictable demagogue, but if he is being serious, then he ought not to have any serious impact on the sentencing.