Goodman: Trump’s travel ban betrays U.S. ideals, yet won’t keep nation safer

People protest against President Trump's ban on immigrants returning from a list of seven countries at the Palm Beach International Airport, Sunday, January 29, 2017. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
People protest against President Trump’s ban on immigrants returning from a list of seven countries at the Palm Beach International Airport, Sunday, January 29, 2017. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

We’re thrilled that more than 200 Palm Beach County citizens rushed to the airport Sunday to protest President Donald Trump’s travel ban on people from certain Muslim countries.

The overly broad and badly thought-through executive order, issued with sudden swiftness on Friday without consulting the government agencies that are supposed to interpret and enforce it, is billed as an essential tool against terrorism. In reality, it is dividing America against its allies and inflaming our radical-Islamic enemies.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat and former mayor of West Palm Beach, who joined the protest at Palm Beach International Airport, put it aptly:

“Lady Liberty is crying and ISIS is laughing,” she said.

We all want to reduce the threat of terrorism. But this temporary ban on travel from seven Muslim nations (Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Libya and Yemen) is more of an emotional response to the threat than a logical one.

Since 9/11, none of the horrific attacks we’ve seen on American soil, such as the mass killing of 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, has been committed by a migrant or a refugee, but by American citizens like Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, who was born in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

While Trump and his political adviser Stephen K. Bannon say the 120-day suspension is needed to review vetting procedures, the screening of Syrian refugees is already extensive — a process that takes 18 months to two years.

Trump’s executive order is a gift to his political base, to whom he promised muscular action against Islamic radicalism. But it is an intellectually-thin answer to a gnarly, difficult problem. Our suspicion is that it is a cynical tossing of red meat to Trump voters, rather than a serious effort to make America safer.

It is telling that Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the new secretary of defense, was not consulted during the formation of the order or given the chance to give input. Last summer, Mattis sharply criticized Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration as a move “causing us great damage right now, and it’s sending shock waves through the international system.”

It is significant that tech-industry leaders, after months of cautiously engaging with the new president, attacked the travel ban. As the Wall Street Journal reported:

Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp., Uber Technologies Inc. and other companies expressed concern about the immigration order’s effect on their employees, with some executives saying the ban violated their personal and company principles.

The ramifications of tighter immigration rules stretch from retail to finance to meat packing to construction. In Silicon Valley, which relies on skilled foreigners to fill key roles, the order resonates with prominent founders, executives and engineers, many of whom were also foreign-born.

The executive order is a betrayal of America’s traditions of openness, inclusion and opportunity for the world’s oppressed and the world’s talented. The order’s exceptions for Christian refugees veer ominously toward violating the First Amendment’s guarantee that the government will favor no religion over another.

The scores who braved the rain and an uncharacteristic Florida chill on Sunday to demand that America live up to those principles were standing in for millions of Americans who are refusing to sit by while this new administration attempts to lurch the ship of state in a dangerous, self-defeating, ultra-nationalist direction.

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Christie: Tell us: How do we stop these mass shootings?

People take cover at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport after a gunman killed 5 people and injured many more on January 6, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
People take cover at the Fort Lauderdale Airport after a gunman killed 5 people and injured many more on Jan. 6. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

What do we do now?

What do we do after another mass shooting by an alleged mentally ill individual takes the lives of so many.

Even more disturbing is how the Friday afternoon bloodbath at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport further exposes how our airport terminals are big, tempting — some say, soft — targets for armed individuals who want to terrorize or just kill other people.

In March, three coordinated suicide bombings in Brussels, Belgium – two at Brussels Airport and one at a metro station – killed 32 civilians and injured more than 300. The airport explosions were in a departure hall.

In October, three gunmen with automatic weapons and suicide bombs staged an attack at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, killing 45 people and injuring 230. Two of the attackers opened fire near a security checkpoint’s x-ray scanner, and detonated bombs when police returned fire. The third attacker set off a bomb in the parking lot across the street from the terminal.

And now, Fort Lauderdale. According to the latest reports, 26-year-old Esteban Santiago got off a Delta Airlines flight from Anchorage, Alaska, pulled his gun from his checked bag in the baggage area, loaded it in the bathroom and shot at least 13 people — killing five and sending eight people to nearby Broward Health Medical Center.

Santiago, who was discharged from the Army National Guard in August for “unsatisfactory performance,” served in Iraq for about a year starting in 2010. He was a combat engineer.

CNN reported that Santiago showed up at the Anchorage FBI office recently, and was checked into a mental facility after he said he heard voices telling him to join ISIS. And members of his family are now telling media outlets that Santiago “lost his mind in Iraq.”

Whatever his reason may be, our minds automatically go what we can do to prevent this from happening again on U.S. soil. A few ideas:

  1. Stop allowing passengers to carry guns and ammunition in their checked bags on airline flights.
  2. Beef up armed security at U.S. airports and ease restrictions on stop and frisk.
  3. Keep mentally ill people from owning and acquiring firearms in the first place.

But what freedoms would we be willing to give up as a result?

For example, American travelers are notorious for not wanting anything to slow down — read that, ruin — their vacations. We bristle, for example, every time we have to take off our shoes or belt at the airport security checkpoint.

What would you suggest? Tell us: How do we stop these mass shootings?