News & Politics

Trump's Immigration Test Won't Work, But Points in Right Direction

It can be truthfully said of Donald Trump that he occasionally happens upon a decent premise. Whether he can craft a rational argument or practical policy from that premise remains an open question. But at least his instincts point vaguely in the right direction.

Take his latest immigration proposal as an example. Trump wants to implement “extreme vetting” of immigrants based on an ideological test. From Politico:

[The test] would question potential immigrants on positions such as religious freedom, gender equality and gay rights. The test, in addition to combing social media and interviewing friends and families, would be used to determine whether potential immigrants support American values.

“Mr. Trump’s speech will explain that while we can’t choose our friends, we must always recognize our enemies,” Trump campaign senior policy adviser Stephen Miller said Sunday.

Trump has the right idea when he recognizes the value of ideology in determining friend from foe. That’s a quality sorely lacking in the current administration, and wholly absent in Hillary Clinton. However, this particular implementation of the premise will not work.

You can’t test for ideology with a questionnaire. People will just lie. It’s like vetting bar patrons by asking if they’re 21. No one is going to say “no” and sulk away thirsty, and no one is going to check the “jihadist” box on an immigration questionnaire.

Ideology should be a critical factor in immigration policy. The way to control for it is two-fold. First, provide the conditions within the country that attract the right kind of immigrant. People used to come here, leaving everything they knew and risking everything they had, for the chance to forge a better life through self-determination. The necessary condition which enables that pursuit is liberty. Make America free again, eliminate the welfare state, and people will come here for the right reasons. Second, regard new and potential immigrants with heavy scrutiny until they demonstrate allegiance through a record of action. Don’t let in known bad guys, and kick out anyone who goes bad without delay.

Of course, these are broad prescriptions which would require far more comprehensive implementation. Such is the nature of the problem. You’re not going to fix immigration issues with a multiple choice quiz or similarly simple solution. Immigration occurs at the intersection of every other public policy, and must be addressed accordingly.