OUR VIEW: Immigration issue requires our caution

It was only going to be a matter of time before some action by President Donald Trump would result in an unusually strong national reaction.

His executive order concerning immigration, signed Friday, has done that and more.

Protests – at this point all peaceful – have popped at various U.S. airports. The 24-hour news cycle is abuzz with comment and conjecture.

The order suspends immigration for citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries for the next three months.

We approach some local aspects of the order in this issue.

People who supported Trump’s candidacy are more inclined to support the executive order; those who did not, less likely so.

We have been in the forefront of local voices urging restraint in early criticism of the nation’s new president, and can hardly be accused of knee-jerking in that regard. Portions of the order are quite valid, and contain policies that while certainly controversial, are not unreasonable. But the rapid composition of the order, the fact that it was enacted while people were in mid-flight or had already arrived, is both reckless and feckless.

Particularly disturbing are references in support of the action, which are not based in fact.

The result is an erosion of credibility inflicted by President Trump himself, and that erosion affects not only the commander-in-chief personally but all of us as Americans.

It is not the order itself, but the guerilla nature of its timing, of the implementation, that can legitimately be questioned. There can be little doubt – and the president would likely agree with us here – that various departments of the federal government whose job is to carry out the order were not consulted. This has added to the confusion.

The presidency cannot and should not be a cult of personality. Principles must prevail, and among those principals is respect for the sweeping and volatile nature of change in relations between our nation and the world’s other citizens.

If a credible and immediate threat existed, we could understand the rash nature of the order’s implementation and timing. But we know of no such threat, and that cited by President Trump to justify the order is thoroughly general in nature. We also have concerns because key people in the president’s own administration have had their hands in this, while qualified people the president himself has brought in to help run the country were not part of the discussion.

Some aspects of the order’s results are being walked back already, including provisions for Iraqi citizens who risked their lives aiding U.S. service members as guides and interpreters. But the time for examining such aspects of the order was before its implementation, with proper safeguards put in place then, rather than after.

How we as a nation wish to be perceived in regard to our welcoming of refugees – or failure to welcome them – is a separate matter. We have little doubt that many supporting the Trump candidacy might place security over humanitarianism. But that is less of an issue for the moment.

The Trump order, however, is broad enough and its execution timing questionable enough that we must ask our federal elected officials to tread carefully before giving knee-jerk carte blanche to the president. Sen. Bill Cassidy has expressed support of the administration’s decision to refine the order, tactfully stating “I look forward to it being further refined.”

Rep. Steve Scalise, the Majority Whip, has stated “It’s very prudent to say, ‘let’s be careful about who comes into our country to make sure that they’re not terrorists.’”

It’s a safe, though hardly courageous remark.

We don’t expect our representatives to throw a Republican president under the bus. But we ask them – and all of our readers – to carefully review these rapidly changing developments as opinions are formed, bearing in mind our nation’s core principles. Security is important. So is our ability to hold our heads high as a beacon of succor and support for the downtrodden.

Perhaps the world response to the president’s order will be a warning to this administration not to be the proverbial bull in the world’s china shop, and that good, protective policies can be made without compromising either of those goals. ∙