I know everyone has a gut reaction to the efficacy of the immigration ban – be it ‘total rubbish’ or ‘great job securing our borders’ – but a few organisations have bothered analysing the historic actions that would have been eliminated by the travel ban.
The Cato Institute, libertarian leaning but certainly not a left-wing think tank, finds no benefit to national security. The nations included in the ban account for seventeen convictions for attempted terrorist attacks – and exactly zero deaths. Now “attempting” a terrorist attack could be anything from planning to trying to actually execute an attack. Bad, but ZERO people died. A few of the banned countries (Libya and Syria) did not account for a SINGLE attempted attack. They provide a illuminating breakdown of what appears to be selectively picked data published by Senator Jeff Sessions — Trump’s pick for Attorney General. 6.9% of the list (over 500 accounts) were foreigners planning attacks on US soil. Even if I assume Senator Sessions hasn’t selected data to make a couple of countries look particularly bad, the travel ban fails to prevent 93.1% of PLANNED attacks.
A common argument is that stopping one attempt is worth it (questionable considering the disruption caused by the travel ban – doctors are unable to enter the country to take up residency at hospitals, scientists are unable to enter the country to take research positions at universities, but value cannot be ascribed to a life so arguing is a bit of a bad job). What cannot be determined, though, is how much anger does this move engender? How many people BEGIN providing material aid to terrorist organisations because of this ban? How many people are going to end up dead because of this action?
I’ve said before – it would be one thing to decree the entire immigration process insecure and shut down ALL immigration (travel tourism too. bad for, say, people who own hotels) for a period of time while a new process is deployed. Selectively banning countries based on history of terrorist activity — which this certainly IS NOT — only causes different people to undertake terrorist activities. It’s a little like the aeroport security scanners – they’re looking for everything previous terrorists have tried. Makes people feel better (even as they complain about the inconvenience) that the government is “doing something” to keep them safe. I guess this falls into the same category, but we aren’t even selecting countries to ban on historic data. We’re selecting them on some guy’s perception of risk. Or some guy’s investment portfolio. Or some guy who threw darts at a map of the Middle East.