It’s not that often that one person will say that another lacks a moral compass, or has a moral compass that points in the wrong direction, on the basis of a decision on which they agree.
However the case of Afghanistan’s competitors in the FIRST Global Challenge, an international robotics expo/competition is that rare basis for calling amoral someone with whom I agree. The Afghanistan team, apparently made up entirely of girls, had been denied visas two times already on the basis of the Trump travel ban. A third, last-minute denial would have crushed their dream to meet other roboticist and participate personally in the challenge (though there was a back-up plan where organizers would agree to operate the Afghani team’s robot while the team, like any non-participant, watched a video stream of their own creation). Trump was criticized by a broad spectrum of people familiar with the event, and after several weeks or months of that criticism met with his advisers and very quickly they settled on a course of action where the girls were denied that visa for a third and final time, but given notification that they would be admitted under parole.
Parole is a long-standing procedure that is used much less routinely these days than in times past. Essentially, it allows border control agents to admit a person without a valid visa when travelling to the US on a passport from a country that does not have a no-passport agreement with the States. It is of course still used – people forget their passports, get pickpocketed in airports, or what have you. Normally people are denied entry under those circumstances, but if you know the right people and can have the right calls made on your behalf, it is sometimes possible to be admitted anyway. This procedure can also be used in cases where a person’s status as an asylum claimant is not certain, but turning the person away might result in risk or otherwise be an undesirable course of action. As I (imperfectly) understand how the system is used, it is very rare to be given notice in advance that you will be allowed entry on parole (rather than having that status be in doubt until you are physically present at a border entry point).
But Trump was in a quandary: if he issued visas, then he would be undermining his own policy, currently waiting for review by SCOTUS. How is it possible to insist that this really is a blanket, neutral policy and yet issue these visas? It seems especially dangerous if these Afghanis were described in the way that we are more used to seeing muslims attempting to enter the US described:
Amateur electronic engineers with a collection of circuits, gears, and structural and other elements that could be assembled to serve any number of purposes sought entry to the United States today despite lacking the proper visas. Officials said that they had determined these muslims taken to soldering together unknown devices were intending to travel to Washington DC where they would gather with others with similar skills at a location within walking distance of the White House, the Supreme Court, Capital Hill, and other sensitive locations.
But despite fitting this description to a T, the girls were given advance parole. Why can I not give credit to Trump for admitting the Afghani team? It’s a simple case of right decision, desperately wrong reason. Trump wishes to escape political consequences for his policies’ affects on sympathetic subjects. But if there is truly a national security need to deny entry to all Afghanis, then Trump is putting his personal political convenience before national security.
I believe we all know that there is no such national security need, but Trump defends himself and his policies by pretending one exists. It simply is not possible that Trump actually has a working moral compass and either
- Maintains a discriminatory policy without believing that there is a valid national security reason for that policy.
- Exempts certain persons on a case-by-case basis, even when they have technical skills that are frequently painted as dangerous by the administration, while believing that there is a valid national security reason to maintain their policy.
These are mutually exclusive and fully comprehensive possibilities. Either the ban is needed or it’s not. If not, the ban is immoral. If it is, then admitting persons who constitute a national security risk is immoral.
And this is all before we get to the fact that sexism likely plays a role in the Trump administration’s assessment that the team should be given entry parole.
Donald Trump is immoral. It’s nice to have it laid out so simply for all to see.