President Trump is never more excited by policy than when it gives him license to bully someone. His travel ban, an executive order prohibiting travel from seven (then, after a March revision, six) predominantly Muslim countries, appears intended to assuage white supporters who harbor twisted ideas of both their racial identity and what terrorists look like. The ban not only vividly brands Muslims as extremists, but also ignores terrorist acts committed by white Americans. And the Supreme Court just gave Trump an assist.
The nine justices announced on Monday that the Court would hear arguments on the ban in October. They also stayed the lower court judgments currently blocking the ban, which means part of it will be put into effect by Thursday. There is absolutely no justification for this, governmental or moral. Besides, Trump’s original order specified a 90-day restriction on travelers from those nations and a 120-day ban on refugees who weren’t from Syria. More than 150 days into his presidency, he and the White House have had the time they needed to craft new policy to address foreign terrorism. Still, it isn't nearly the ban Trump signed in January. The measure to be reinstated later this week states that "Foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States," barred originally, will now meet the standard of entry.
The people who had surgeries and other urgent matters scheduled in the United States and who were blocked by Trump's original order may be pleased by this development, if they are still alive. Nothing should hold up students and family members who have the proper visas, but "should" doesn't mean much given the chaos unleashed back in January by Trump's ban and the lack of federal preparation for it. But since the Trump administration will define "bona fide relationship" as they see fit, it’s unclear just how many travelers and refugees from the nations in question — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — will actually be affected.
Then there’s the key question: Why is the Supreme Court allowing any such ban to proceed at all? Although the order has been beaten to a pulp in the lower courts due to its discriminatory nature and clear violation of the free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment, this doesn’t appear to concern either the White House or the Court.
“It’s one of those split-the-baby decisions that only supports the basic problematic premise," Vince Warren, the executive director of the nonprofit Center for Constitutional Rights, told MTV News. "The Court’s decision assumes that there are categories of Muslims who are inherently dangerous, whether or not they’ve done something wrong. It’s a problem for the Constitution, and it’s a problem for our values.”
The justices utterly failed to consider the cultural carnage that an entire summer of this ban will wreak upon America, and they cannot justify the reinstatement as a way to clarify the legal questions at hand. They have failed to acknowledge that if Trump and the White House truly wanted to stop terrorism in the United States, they wouldn’t be worried about banning Muslims solely from countries where the president has no business interests.
“I would say that the Trump administration has raised to a high art the creation of an external bogeyman threat, in the form of foreign Muslims,” Warren said. “That only raises the question of how the administration deals with credible threats of violence within the country, the majority of which are committed by non-Muslims.”
This ban wasn’t just about the criminalization of Muslims home and abroad, but also a laissez-faire approach to domestic terrorism. Thanks to the Supreme Court, we can now anticipate more of both.
America's terrorism problem remains almost wholly an internal one, and it has a white face. From 2008 to 2016, twice as many terrorist incidents in America were committed by far-right extremists as were committed by Islamist ones. From a Sikh temple in Wisconsin to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado to a black church in Charleston, Americans saw the problem of white extremism grow exponentially during the Obama era. And as last year's massacre at the Orlando nightclub Pulse showed, just because a terrorist has an Arab name doesn't mean he isn't American.
Former Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano detailed the increasing threat of domestic terror way back in 2009. The title of the report her department authored — "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment" — begged Republicans to pay attention to the problem, but they instead blasted her for daring to define "terrorist" as possibly being anyone who wasn't brown and from a faraway place. Former House Speaker John Boehner actually criticized her for "describ[ing] American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation." Really, that's who Timothy McVeigh was?
"Not only does [the ban] offer legal support to the prejudice against certain religions, but it further distracts the Trump administration — especially the Justice Department — from addressing the ongoing plague of domestic terror committed by white supremacists," author and Georgetown sociology professor Michael Eric Dyson told MTV News.
Yet despite the GOP’s past refusals to acknowledge their complicity, the election of Trump — who himself served as the public face of the birther crusade — gave white racists and their sympathizers permission to not only freely express themselves, but also to not be villainized for doing so. The head of the American Nazi Party foresaw Trump as an ally, and David Duke was a loud cheerleader of his campaign. Since Trump was elected, there have been several domestic terrorist attacks, but you’d never know it from watching his Twitter feed.
Two Good Samaritans were stabbed to death by a white supremacist berating and threatening young women of color aboard a Portland public-transit train, which @realDonaldTrump met with radio silence (although whoever handles the @POTUS account chimed in three days after the attack with a brief condemnation). Neither feed has acknowledged the recent murders of Muslim teen Nabra Hassanen, young Native American father Jimmy Kramer, or 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III, a black man killed three days before his college graduation by a white Maryland student with ties to online racism.
Once inaugurated, Trump wasted little time proving his white racist supporters were right to trust that he would not only excuse their violence, but validate it. Just last week, his Department of Homeland Security announced that grants from the nearly year-old Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program would no longer go to any groups combating domestic terrorism or the racist ideology that often inspires it. Ten of the twenty-six Trump CVE grants will go to police departments and other law enforcement agencies, yet in the wake of a string of verdicts exonerating cops for killing Philando Castile, Sylville Smith, and Samuel DuBose, contact with police is ever more fraught for black people.
Undocumented immigrants have a similar fear of cops. Reports of sexual assault among Latino residents in Los Angeles and elsewhere are dropping precipitously not because fewer people are being raped, but because people fear deportation, either of themselves or someone they know, if they make any contact whatsoever with authorities.
Meanwhile, Politico reported that a group called Life After Hate — which focuses on deradicalizing neo-Nazis and ending white extremism — had expected to receive $400,000 during the final days of the Obama administration but will now get nothing. Another group, aimed at countering online jihadist recruiting, based at the University of North Carolina, lost out on $900,000. And they need the money: According to Life After Hate founder Christian Piccolini, the organization has seen a twenty-fold increase in requests for help since Election Day “from people looking to disengage or bystanders/family members looking for help from someone they know."
The Supreme Court decision to revive the travel ban, even in a truncated form, proves that the ban was never about law enforcement. Instead, as Dyson said, it has given credence to the idea that banning Muslims will stop terrorism and “ignores how police forces across the country are destabilizing and terrorizing black and brown communities with state-sanctioned violence.”
The travel ban isn’t just about Trump’s ineffective policy — it's also about his White House’s regressive vision of an America where racial terrorism is once again considered permissible. The Supreme Court could’ve stopped that while still agreeing to hear Trump’s argument in the fall. Now the president will get to make that same argument all summer long, even as those black, brown, and Muslim bogeymen he warned us about fall victim to the real monsters.