Justin Amash's Statement on Donald Trump's Immigration Order

There are few politicians I still respect in Congress. Two that stand out in my mind are Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Justin Amash. Rep. Amash published a well-argued statement on Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration yesterday, and I think it’s worth reproducing here. Emphasis is mine:


Like President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, President Trump’s executive order overreaches and undermines our constitutional system. It’s not lawful to ban immigrants on the basis of nationality. If the president wants to change immigration law, he must work with Congress.

The president’s denial of entry to lawful permanent residents of the United States (green card holders) is particularly troubling. Green card holders live in the United States as our neighbors and serve in our Armed Forces. They deserve better.

I agree with the president that we must do much more to properly vet refugees, but a blanket ban represents an extreme approach not consistent with our nation’s values. While the executive order allows the admittance of immigrants, nonimmigrants, and refugees “on a case-by-case basis,” arbitrariness would violate the Rule of Law.

Ultimately, the executive order appears to be more about politics than safety. If the concern is radicalism and terrorism, then what about Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others?

Finally, we can’t effectively fight homegrown Islamic radicalism by perpetuating the “us vs. them” mindset that terrorists use to recruit. We must ensure that the United States remains dedicated to the Constitution, the Rule of Law, and liberty. It can’t be stated strongly enough that capitalism creates prosperity and improves assimilation into society.


That is a stirring statement of values that makes me proud to be a supporter of Amash’s. I’m not in total agreement with him on every aspect of the statement, as I am not opposed to the notion of a blanket short-term ban on refugees from countries like Syria. Such countries are likely to send us some terrorists who pose a danger to our citizens, as well as other radical supporters of ISIS and sharia who cannot assimilate into a culture of freedom and classical liberalism. Nor am I opposed to a more general short-term ban on immigration from those countries, if done in a constitutional manner, in consultation with Congress. Perhaps my mind could be changed by arguments made in a free and open debate held in Congress, but I doubt it. Right now, like many Americans, I watch what is happening in Europe and I don’t want that to happen to my country.

That disagreement aside, freedom-loving people should be able to agree that an open debate on these matters would be preferable to a rushed diktat from the President’s pen, unreviewed by the Justice Department lawyers generally entrusted with reviewing such orders, and interpreted by partisan hacks like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller to snare green card holders in its net, over the objections of the Department of Homeland Security. That way of proceeding is chaotic by design, and erodes the respect for the administration held by sentient portions of the citizenry, as well as federal judges who will be asked to rule on such matters.


Also worth reading is Rep. Amash’s Facebook post on the legalities of the President’s order. I won’t quote the whole thing, but here is a relevant excerpt.

It’s not lawful to ban immigrants because of “nationality, place of birth, or place of residence.” This nondiscrimination provision comes from a 1965 law (8 U.S.C. 1152 Sec. 202(a)(1)(A)) that limits the 1952 law (8 U.S.C. 1182 Sec. 212(f)) that the president cites.

It’s lawful to ban nonimmigrants for almost any reason. These are people who are temporarily visiting the United States, like tourists or students.

It’s lawful to ban refugees for almost any reason. But banning all refugees from particular countries is harsh and unwise. We still should admit well-vetted persons.

Understanding these distinctions is important because supporters of President Trump’s executive order continue to wrongly insist that the order is lawful and that President Obama did almost the same thing in 2011. And opponents of President Trump’s executive order continue to wrongly insist that banning refugees violates the Constitution or the law.

I have been writing extensively on the legality of the President’s order, here and here, and I appreciate Rep. Amash weighing in on these matters in such a clear and courageous style. So much unexamined partisan nonsense — including the meme that Obama did exactly the same thing in 2011 — has clouded the issues on this topic that it’s refreshing to see someone bucking the rubber-stamping consensus emerging on the right.


In that vein, I want to extend a personal thanks to Rep. Amash for linking one of my posts on the topic on his Facebook page. I have been a fan of his for years, and indeed, my initial post on the legality of President Trump’s order referenced Rep. Amash. In that post, I said that if the order is illegal, “it should be condemned by anyone in Congress who still cares about limiting executive overreach. That group includes Senator Mike Lee, Representative Justin Amash, and — for the next four years — Democrats.” It’s a treat to see someone you admire sharing your work with others, and I thank Rep. Amash for doing so.



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