Sunday, March 12, 2017

Extreme Vetting For Immigrants. Apparently None For Trump Appointees

Trump issued an executive order for extreme vetting. But at the same time, it appears that Trump cabinet and staff appointments get minimum vetting - think of Manafort and Flynn as the most obvious examples.

But there is a significant difference between these two types of vetting.

Immigrant and refugee vetting

This link takes you to a detailed State Department chart of the admissions process for refugees.

Immigrants and refugees already go through an extremely vigorous vetting process that takes 12-18 months.  CNN reports that no 'major fatal terrorist attacks' have been carried out by refugees since the Refugee Act was passed in 1980.  It then lists terrorist attacks by Muslims in the US and looks at their status.  The Atlantic, using the same study as CNN, reports:
"But after sifting through databases, media reports, court documents, and other sources, Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, has arrived at a striking finding: Nationals of the seven countries singled out by Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015.
The Pew Research Center reports
"About 3 million refugees have been resettled in the U.S. since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, which created the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program and the current national standard for the screening and admission of refugees into the country."
[Note:  in that same time period 1,526,864 people died in auto crashes in the US.  Numbers are based on a Wikipedia list through 2015 and the National Safety Council Report for 2016.  While these numbers are not rounded off and look very precise, one source suggested the 2016 number was an estimate.  I include this note to put the refugee threat in perspective.  If Trump were really concerned about saving American lives, he might be far more effective by focusing on traffic safety.]

The key points I want to make about delays in accepting refugees are that:
  1. The US already does an excellent job
  2. While trying to identify the one or two possible needles in the pool of refugees, many, many lives have been badly disrupted, to find, what seems to be a mythical bad apple.  I'm not denying that there are terrorists who would try to get into the US.  I'm just saying that the process we already have is working.  If it can be improved, Trump's edicts are unlikely to prevent any terrorists from entering the country.
  3. This is all just political rhetoric, whether Trump knows the actual statistics or not, to pander to his base and raise fear of refugees.  All of which increases the likelihood that immigrant lives will be made harder. 

Vetting Cabinet Appointments and Trump Staff

The number of positions a new administration has to fill may seem like a lot, it's a small number compared to the refugees.  And vetting them affects only people who have agreed to be considered for a position.  Extreme vetting of cabinet appointees and White House staff, doesn't disrupt the lives of tens of thousands of others, the way Trump's actions on immigrants does.

The news we've had about Trump's appointee backgrounds and conflicts is very troubling and when Trump talks about vetting of refugees and immigrants, I cannot help but think about Trump's vetting process for his own team.

It appears that the Trump team did little or no serious vetting of the people he's chosen.  What sort of background check was there for Bannon or Flynn?  And if there were any serious checks, it seems the Trump folks just disregarded any of the red flags.  Flynn, for instance, was an agent for the Turkish government and got paid half a million dollars.

In Flynn's case, Pence and Trump are saying, now, they had no idea Flynn was working for the Turkish government.  The Chicago Tribune writes:
"Among those told of Flynn's lobbying work during the transition was Don McGahn, a campaign lawyer who has gone on to become White House counsel, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversations between Flynn's representatives and the transition team.
A White House official said McGahn and others were not aware of the details of Flynn's work. It's not clear why the Trump advisers did not seek additional information once Flynn's lawyers raised the potential filing.
According to the person with knowledge of the discussions, Flynn's representatives had a second conversation with Trump lawyers after the inauguration and made clear the national security adviser would indeed be registering with the Justice Department. The White House official said the counsel's office had no recollection of that second discussion."
It's hard to figure out when they knew what.  Rachel Maddow goes back and forth with clips of Pence and Trump denying knowledge and then shows they had to know, because others say they told them. You can watch Rachel Maddow go through the evidence,

As I write these posts, I'm fully aware that for many logic, numbers, and reason play only a small part of their decision making processes.  But the way I think and my skills, such that they are, fall in this area, so it's where I have to focus.

And there are many who are confused by the conflicting claims, so I hope these are useful to them.  Either so they can make better decisions and/or have better data when discussing these issues with people who decide without any data at all.

It's my experience that when you counter someone's argument well, there's a good chance they will not acknowledge that to your face.  But the accumulation of evidence of time, does matter.

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