On Friday, Jan. 27, the President signed a directive that banned immigration from a subset of predominantly Muslim countries, suspended our refugee program, and required departments to provide reports of crimes committed by immigrants. I have read a lot of these directives, but this order is exceptional in an important way:
Unlike orders issued by presidents in the past, the agencies in charge of carrying it out were not allowed to review it. There is no evidence the administration consulted lawyers in the Justice department. As the Department of Homeland Security scrambled to interpret the order, its interpretation was overruled by Steve Bannon – so that it applied to lawful (greencard-holding) residents. What resulted was mass confusion among U.S. Customs and Border protection agents – the order was enforced differently at different airports, as well as the immediate deportation of legal residents, the separation of families, several lawsuits and emergency court hearings. As of the following Sunday, the White House reversed its instructions about lawful residents. More lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the order followed – and the policy is now on hold, following several legal defeats.
More alarming is what sources inside the White House have told news organizations: that the President and his advisors has serious discussions about whether to order Customs agents to ignore federal court orders that now block part of the order.
I believe the order is morally wrong (Matthew 25:45). I also believe it is bad public policy and will not make the U.S. a safer place to live. That puts me at odds with friends and family whom I respect. But you do not have to share these beliefs to admit that the actions of the President and his closest advisors were irresponsible, or that this action was an example of bad governance.
The only democratic body that can check the President in office is the U.S. Congress. They will do that only if they believe they will be rewarded for defending the non-partisan values everyone can agree on: competent governance and the rule of law.