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The Cost of a Ban on Muslim Immigration Moral & Money

Ali Imdad's impression of what a Muslim ID would look like.

As some Americans are discussing a ban on Muslims entering the United States, it is important to look at how this would be implemented and how much it would cost.

Some opponents of the Muslim ban believe it could never be implemented because it violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments. In fact, at least under current Supreme Court case law, the ban would be Constitutional as long as it was enacted by Congress. The controlling cases on race and religion backed exclusions grow out of the Chinese Exclusion and Deportation cases decided by the Supreme Court in the late 19th Century. In these cases, the Court said that neither the First Amendment nor the Fourteenth Amendment protect non-citizens coming into the United States if Congress has decided to ban them.

Even if it is legal to ban Muslim immigrants and visitors, there are many questions about the practicality of doing so. Only one of the ten countries in the world with the largest Muslim populations indicates a person’s religion on his or her passport. So, there is no easy way to identify a person’s religion based simply on documentation. One political leader has suggested that people coming to the United States be asked if they are Muslims. This would wind up excluding a lot of honest people who refuse to lie about their religion. However, it is likely that it would not exclude terrorists whose training would include lying about their religious beliefs.

Another proposal has been to ban visitors from countries which have had incidents linked to terrorist groups that claim to be Islamist. This would lead to a prohibition on all people entering the United States from places like Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, and Canada, all of which have had terrorist attacks in the last decade. While this proposal would eliminate the messy process of questioning visitors about their religion, it would also exclude visitors from nearly half of the world.

Yet another proposal is to ban immigration from Muslim majority countries. This ignores the fact that India, in which only one-in-seven people is Muslim, has the third largest Muslim population in the world. With 138 million Muslims, India ranks behind only Indonesia and Pakistan in the size of its Muslim community.

The ignorance of those proposing the various Muslim bans is most on display in their discussion of the bans as blocking “Muslim immigrants.” There are close to 190 million entries from abroad every year. Of these, only 1 million are people immigrating to this country. Most of the rest are of international tourists, businesspeople, students, scholars, athletes and performers. We should be verifying who these visitors are and identifying threats to our security. Spending our limited resources on trying to determine their religion will just distract from tested policies for keeping us safe.

David Leopold, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told NBC News that in order to identify and ban Muslims, the Customs and Border Patrol would have to set up  a "a massive interrogation machine…At least with criminal history, there are databases," Leopold told NBC, but vetting visitors’ religious beliefs "is completely subjective." He added that investigating a single visitor’s religion might take months.

The former counterterror chief for Customs, Joseph King, told NBC that screening for religion would require "hiring 100,000 agents” to conduct screenings. Such a massive increase would cost an estimated 20-40 billion dollars, as much as tripling the size of the nation’s immigration spending.

The ban would also shut down the expedited visitor programs that have allowed the U.S. to build strong trade relations with Canada and Western Europe. That would cost cities like New York, Orlando, and San Francisco tens of billions of dollars in tourism, and hundreds of billions in trade and investment.

While a ban on Muslims might barely pass the legality test, it would cost many billions of dollars to impelemt and, more importantly, it would destroy our country’s reputation as a haven for religious freedom. No one today is proud of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a once popular law, and no one will be proud of the Muslim ban a decade from now. -Pat Young

Pat Young, Esq. is a lawyer at CARECEN on Long Island.


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