In the 2014 film “Edge of Tomorrow,” Major William Cage, played by Tom Cruise, finds himself stuck in a repeating time loop on the battlefield. To overcome a hostile force, he must learn from his mistakes in order to avoid them and stay alive the next time he is in the same situation.
The White House might feel it has had a similar experience for the past month and a half regarding its policy on refugee admissions and its 90-day suspension of entries from six terrorist safe havens in the Middle East and Africa.
On Monday, President Trump signed a revised version of his Jan. 27 executive order, to ensure that our vetting procedures are sufficient to address evolving security concerns and protect the safety of the American public.
This revised order contains important alterations designed to overcome legal challenges to the original order.
It removes Iraq from the list of nations from which entries of foreign nationals are temporarily suspended; exempts legal permanent residents and other aliens who already have visas from the 90-day suspension; and replaces the indefinite suspension of Syrian refugee admissions with the 90-day halt, in line with the five other countries included in the order.
One of the most significant differences this time around, however, has nothing to do with what is in the text of the order, but in the public response to it.
In the wake of the order’s approval, various protests sprang up across the nation – on college campuses, in airports and elsewhere. Those opposed to the policy expressed fears that the United States was turning its back on her traditional values, and shutting its doors to outsiders.
Those fears were unfounded in January, and they are even less so today. The United States remains the most welcoming country in the world for immigrants, taking in far more every year than any other country.
In truth, there is a simple reason why the negative response to this revised order has not risen anywhere close to these DEFCON 1 levels seen a month ago – the American people broadly support common-sense security measures that balance the need to keep U.S. citizens safe with the desire to extend relief and asylum to those terrorized by the horrors of dictatorship and extremism.
To discount the fact that terrorists and foreign fighters will exploit the innocent and displaced is to ignore reality.
Just last week, Reuters reported that Iraqi officials had apprehended ISIS fighters hidden among refugees fleeing Mosul.
This week, we learned the FBI is currently investigating approximately 300 individuals admitted as refugees to the United States as part of ongoing counterterrorism operations.
At a basic level, Americans understand that terrorists – those who behead Christians and other religious minorities, including Muslims, launch attacks on civilians in markets and public arenas, and threaten our allies and partners around the world – are not content to wage war in faraway places. They will seek to exploit the refugee crisis they are responsible for creating in order to carry out their extreme agenda.
Looking ahead, the fate of the order is unclear, given the shoddy track record of some of the judges who ignored the federal law authorizing the president’s actions.
In legal terms, the president is on unshakeable ground when it comes to setting refugee policy or suspending entry from state sponsors of terrorism like Iran.
Specifically, in 8 U.S.C. § 1182 (f), the president is given the authority to suspend entry of any aliens into the country when he believes it would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
While there can, and should, be robust debate on the merits of any policy coming from Washington, there is no question that the administration has the constitutional and legal authority to establish policy in this area.
However, this has not kept over-eager jurists from attempting to shape foreign policy from the bench.
Hopefully, the federal judiciary will respect our system of checks and balances in its adjudication of the inevitable lawsuits that arise in conjunction with this policy.
Governing is hard work. Our leaders, from the White House to Congress to the courts, must balance the responsibility to keep Americans safe with our national values of compassion and willingness to help others.
Past administrations have recognized this. President Bush, and even President Obama, for most of his administration, limited annual refugee admissions to anywhere between 50,000 to 70,000, numbers very much in line with the Trump administration.
This is not to excuse errors in communication or implementation. But the administration seems to have learned from its experience in the first go-round.
Ultimately, however, forcing leaders to choose between security and compassion is a false dilemma. Both are possible, and this revised order meets that goal.
This piece originally appeared in The Hill on 3/8/16