Facts are stub­born things

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - COMMENTARY - Dana Mil­bank is a colum­nist for The Washington Post. Email him at danamil­bank@wash­post.com.

WASHINGTON — Those de­fend­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s na­tivist ini­tia­tives would like to as­sure you the poli­cies are not based in big­otry.

Un­for­tu­nately for them, they keep bump­ing up against the facts.

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral Noel Fran­cisco, de­fend­ing Trump’s travel ban at the Supreme Court last week, asked the jus­tices to ig­nore Trump’s anti-Mus­lim state­ments dur­ing the cam­paign be­cause “the pres­i­dent has made crys­tal clear on Sept. 25 that he had no in­ten­tion of im­pos­ing the Mus­lim ban.”

Alas, Trump made no such re­marks on Sept. 25, 2017. In an ex­tremely rare ges­ture, Fran­cisco sent a let­ter to the jus­tices Tues­day cor­rect­ing the record. He meant to say Jan. 25, 2017. “It’s not a Mus­lim ban,” Trump told ABC News that day, “but it’s coun­tries that have tre­men­dous ter­ror … peo­ple are go­ing to come in and cause us tre­men­dous prob­lems.”

Still not crys­tal clear — and Fran­cisco’s correction cre­ated new prob­lems.

Four months af­ter Trump was sup­pos­edly clear in dis­avow­ing the Mus­lim ban, his web­site was still tout­ing a pol­icy “PRE­VENT­ING MUS­LIM IM­MI­GRA­TION.” The page fi­nally was deleted that May, on the same day a judge on the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the 4th Cir­cuit, dur­ing the travel-ban ar­gu­ment, asked about the web page.

Six months af­ter that, in Novem­ber 2017, Trump retweeted three white-su­prem­a­cist pro­pa­ganda videos pur­port­ing to show Mus­lims beat­ing chil­dren and smash­ing Chris­tian iconog­ra­phy. White House spokesman Raj Shah de­fended Trump’s cir­cu­la­tion of the videos by ex­plic­itly link­ing them to Trump’s travel ban. Shah said that “the pres­i­dent has ad­dressed these is­sues with the travel or­der.”

And on Mon­day of this week, Fran­cisco as­sured the high court that Trump had changed his ways, Trump an­nounced that he had no re­grets for propos­ing to ban Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the coun­try. “There’s noth­ing to apol­o­gize for,” he said at a news con­fer­ence. “We have to have strong im­mi­gra­tion laws to pro­tect our coun­try.” That’s con­sis­tent with his pre­vi­ous com­plaints about the Jus­tice Depart­ment “stupidly” wa­ter­ing down his ini­tial travel ban to be “po­lit­i­cally cor­rect.”

The le­gal test in such cases is whether a “rea­son­able ob­server” would think the pol­icy is grounded in bias. How could a rea­son­able ob­server con­clude oth­er­wise?

Fran­cisco is not the only one to dis­cover re­cently that facts are stub­born things. There’s also the awk­ward case of Dan Stein, long­time pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form, which has played a key role in de­vel­op­ing and de­fend­ing Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion crack­down.

Two weeks ago, when I wrote about Trump de­scrib­ing im­mi­grants “breed­ing” in sanc­tu­ary cities and noted that Trump reg­u­larly uses the lan­guage of white su­prem­a­cists, I in­cluded an old, oft-re­peated quote from Stein say­ing im­mi­grants use “com­pet­i­tive breed­ing” to di­lute the white ma­jor­ity.

Stein fired off a let­ter to the edi­tor: “I have never, ever made any such state­ment. In fact, there is no en­tire quote avail­able from me that con­tains that sen­ti­ment. Don’t be­lieve me? Find it.”

I found it. Ac­tu­ally, the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter, which brands FAIR a hate group, found it. “It’s al­most like they’re get­ting into com­pet­i­tive breed­ing,” Stein told the Al­bany Times Union in 1991. “You have to take into ac­count the var­i­ous fer­til­ity rates in de­sign­ing lim­its on im­mi­gra­tion.”

Con­fronted by The Washington Post’s let­ters edi­tor, Jamie Ri­ley, Stein ac­knowl­edged he had known about the “en­tire” quote all along. He then ar­gued that the re­porter “got it wrong” all those years ago — even though Stein has since voiced sim­i­lar thoughts.

Stein has said lib­er­als used im­mi­gra­tion “to re­tal­i­ate against An­glo-Saxon dom­i­nance.” In an in­ter­view with Tucker Carl­son in the Wall Street Jour­nal in 1997, he said many im­mi­grants “hate Amer­ica,” and he de­fended the no­tion that in­tel­li­gent peo­ple should re­pro­duce more: “Should we be sub­si­diz­ing peo­ple with low IQs to have as many chil­dren as pos­si­ble?”

In that same in­ter­view, he said: “Cer­tainly we would en­cour­age peo­ple in other coun­tries to have small fam­i­lies. Oth­er­wise they’ll all be com­ing here, be­cause there’s no room at the Vat­i­can.”

Ac­cord­ing to the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter, FAIR’s founder, John Tan­ton, said in 1993 that “for Euro­peanAmer­i­can so­ci­ety and cul­ture to persist re­quires a Euro­pean-Amer­i­can ma­jor­ity, and a clear one at that.”

This group now has an out­sized in­flu­ence on Trump im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy. As Vice re­ported last year, FAIR’s for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor be­came om­buds­man of the U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices, and var­i­ous other of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Jeff Sessions and Kellyanne Con­way, have ties to the group.

Stein would like us to think the im­mi­gra­tion pro­pos­als he and his ad­min­is­tra­tion al­lies pro­mote are based on so­cial sci­ence, not prej­u­dice. Fran­cisco would like us to think the pres­i­dent has dis­owned his Mus­lim­bait­ing past. A rea­son­able ob­server would be skep­ti­cal.

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