Tag: Opinion

Can March for Science participants advocate without losing the public’s trust?

As the March for Science nears, questions about whether scientists can and should advocate for public policy become more important. On one hand, scientists have relevant expertise to contribute to conversations about public policy. And in the abstract, the American public supports the idea that scientists should be involved in political debate. On the other hand, scientists who advocate may risk losing the trust of the public. Maintaining that trust is imperative for scientists, both to be able to communicate public risks appropriately and to preserve public funding for research. The Conversation

Little existing research had tested how audiences react when confronted with concrete examples of scientific advocacy. Led by my colleague John Kotcher, my colleagues and I at the George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication devised an experiment to test these questions in the summer of 2014. Our results suggest there is at least some tolerance for advocacy by scientists among the American public.

Testing a scientist’s perceived credibility

We asked over 1,200 American adults to read the biography and a single Facebook post of a (fictional) climate scientist named Dr. Dave Wilson. In this post, Dr. Wilson promotes his recent interview regarding his work on climate change. We varied the message of this statement to include a range of advocacy messages – from no advocacy (discussing recent evidence about climate change) to clear advocacy for specific policies to address climate change.

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We found that perceptions of Dr. Wilson’s credibility – and of the scientific community more broadly – did not noticeably decline when he engaged in most types of advocacy.

When Dr. Wilson championed taking action on climate change, without specifying what action, he was considered equally credible as when he described new evidence on climate change or discussed the risks and benefits of a range of policies. In fact, perceptions of Dr. Wilson’s credibility were maintained even when he argued in favor of reducing carbon emissions at coal-fired power plants.

Only when Dr. Wilson advocated for building more nuclear power plants did his credibility suffer.

Advocacy received differently than partisanship

A nonpartisan message may be well-received.
AnubisAbyss, CC BY-NC-ND

Our study suggests that the American public may not see scientists who advocate for general action on scientific issues as lacking in credibility, nor will they punish the scientific community for one scientist’s advocacy. Yet this study represented only one case of scientific advocacy; other forms of advocacy may not be as accepted by the public. For example, more caution is required when scientists promote specific (unpopular) policies.

Most notably, our study did not test overtly partisan statements from Dr. Wilson. Our research participants saw it that way too; they rated all of Dr. Wilson’s statements as more scientific than political.

The March for Science, however, risks being seen as motivated by partisan beliefs. In that case, scientists may not escape being criticized for their actions. This is especially true if the march is seen as a protest against President Trump or Republicans. In our study, conservatives saw Dr. Wilson as less credible whether he engaged in advocacy or not. If conservatives see the march as a protest against their values, they may dismiss the message of the march – and the messengers – without considering its merits.

This risk is exacerbated when media coverage of the March for Science is considered. In our study, people saw Dr. Wilson promoting his interview in his Facebook post, but were not exposed to the actual interview in which Dr. Wilson made his case for a given policy. Nor were his actions disruptive; a single post on social media is relatively easy to skip or ignore, and Dr. Wilson could frame his interview in the way he liked.

The March for Science will be the opposite. If successful, the march will garner attention from news outlets, who may reframe the purpose of the march.

Balancing the advocacy message

So what can be done to limit accusations of partisan bias surrounding the march?

Researchers can aim for an inclusive message, avoiding the appearance of being just another interest group.
Adam Salsman, CC BY-NC-ND

One way marchers can minimize this possibility is by crafting an inclusive message that resonates with many people, stressing the ways science improves our society and protects future generations. However, the march’s similarity to other explicitly anti-Trump marches may make it hard to avoid a partisan connotation.

Moreover, in our research Dr. Wilson was portrayed as an older white male, matching cultural stereotypes about scientists; he may have had more freedom to engage in advocacy than would female or nonwhite scientists. An inclusive and diverse March for Science may challenge these traditional portrayals of scientists. While many (the authors included) would see that as a desirable objective in itself, it may complicate successful advocacy.

A goal of the March for Science is to demonstrate that science is a nonpartisan issue. It represents a unique opportunity for scientists to highlight the ways in which science improves our society. Scientists participating in the march should emphasize shared values with those who might otherwise disagree – such as the desire to create a better world for our children and grandchildren.

If the event remains a March for Science, rather than a march against a party or group, the chances increase that it will effectively focus attention on the importance of scientific research.

Emily Vraga, Assistant Professor in Political Communication, George Mason University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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How our morals might politically polarize just about anything

When news breaks about wrongdoings of our favorite politician, the other side inevitably argues that we have a scandal on our hands. We like to think that our superior grasp of logic is what enables us to reason through and reject the other side’s concerns. The Conversation

But, a series of three studies I recently published suggest such decisions are not just the result of reasoning. Rather, feeling moral aversion toward political opponents compels us toward positions that help our team “win.” This is true even if it means adopting positions with which we’d otherwise disagree.

Here’s the effect in a nutshell: Imagine that you walked into an ice cream shop on Election Day. You discover that the shop is filled with supporters of the presidential candidate you oppose, and you find supporters of that candidate morally abhorrent. When you get to the front of the line, the worker tells you all of the other customers just ordered red velvet – normally your favorite flavor.

My studies demonstrated that when asked to order, you are likely to feel an urge to stray from your favorite flavor toward one you like less, politically polarizing an otherwise innocuous decision.

Whatever they think, think the opposite

Can you read this?
Emily Costello/flickr, CC BY-SA

To understand what’s meant by “urge” here, it helps to understand the Stroop effect. In this classic experiment, people see a single word and are asked to name the color in which the word is printed. When the color and the word match – for example, “red” printed in red – the task is easy. When the color and the word are incongruent – for example, “red” printed in blue – the task is harder. People feel an impulse, or “urge,” to accidentally read the word. This urge interferes with the task of naming the color, and what should be a simple task becomes oddly difficult.

A theory of morality put forth by Jonathan Haidt suggests that morals “blind” people to alternative viewpoints such that even considering the other side’s opinions is taboo. With that theory in mind, I thought that moral aversion might be a social cause of unproductive urges similar to urges experienced in the Stroop task. That is, just as people in the Stroop task feel the impulse to incorrectly read the word, I thought that strong moral beliefs might cause people to feel impulses to make decisions that maximize their distance from people they believe have different morals.

How the test worked

Here’s how I tested it:

I first had people do several Stroop trials to make them aware of what that urge to make an error feels like.

Next, I asked people six fairly trivial consumer choice questions, such as preference for car color (forest green vs. silver) or vacuum brand (Hoover vs. Dirt Devil).

Here’s the twist: After answering each question, participants were told how a majority of other participants answered the same question. The identity of this majority group was random. It could be either a group that everyone belonged to (for example, Americans) or a more politically charged group (for example, Trump supporters, Clinton supporters or white supremacists).

Finally, I showed participants the set of questions a second time, and asked them to simply state their previous answer a second time. I also asked participants to rate their urge to change their answer – similar to the urge to make an error in the Stroop test.

This should have been straightforward.

Participants were not asked to evaluate the majority answer or reconsider their opinion in any way. Still, just like the interference felt in the Stroop task, knowing the majority response caused people to feel an urge to give the wrong answer.

When participants belonged to the majority group, they reported heightened urges to make an error when they had previously disagreed with the majority. Despite just being asked to repeat what they said a moment ago on a fairly trivial opinion question, they felt a conformist urge.

Similarly, when participants had strong moral distaste for the majority group, they reported heightened urges to make an error when they agreed with the group. In other words, participants’ initial responses were now morally “tainted,” and, even for these rather inconsequential questions, they felt an urge to abandon that response and distance themselves from their opponents. This urge made the trivial task of stating their opinion again slightly more difficult.

‘Hive mind’ and passive effects

As America is more ideologically divided now than any other point in history, these results illuminate two things about the psychology behind political polarization.

First, people might think they are able to use their reasoning to decide whether, say, a minimum wage increase will have positive or negative consequences. However, moral impulses have likely already nudged people toward disagreeing with their opponents before any deliberative thinking on the issue has begun.

Second, the effects observed here are likely a passive process. Participants did not want to feel urges to make an error in the Stroop task, and they likely did not want to feel urges to contradict their own opinions in my studies. The urges just happen as a result of a morality-driven psychology.

These results suggest that efforts to bring those on the fringe closer to the middle will likely fall on deaf ears. A more optimistic interpretation is that polarization might have its roots in unintentional partisan urges. While there is no shortage of moral issues that lead to polarization, polarization does not necessarily result from the malice of those involved.

Randy Stein, Assistant Professor of Marketing, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The MSM is no longer media, it’s propaganda

By Robert J. Garrison

During the 2016 Presidential election, the media’s bias was on full display for everyone to see. They didn’t even bother to hide it and they seemed to have felt comfortable enough to display it at every turn. Since Trump’s surprising victory, the MSM has been totally out of control and unhinged. Their hatred has been in maximum overdrive. Their confirm bias is now itching closer to outright propaganda.

This slide into propaganda was apparent this week on MSNBC’s Morning Joe’s when co-host Mika Brzezinski said the following:

Well, I think that the dangerous, you know, edges here are that he is trying to undermine the media and trying to make up his own facts. And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that, that is our job.

We are witnessing a full-blown panic by the media because they and the party they promote are on the verge of becoming totally irrelevant.

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Yet every time the President and his supporters highlight this outright bias or have the nerve to call them on their slanted coverage, he and his supporters are attacked and compared to evil dictators and brown shirts:

SCARBOROUGH: “It’s the — it’s the ground noise that he is throwing out there also, whether he is questioning, Mark, the legitimacy of federal judges to do what they have done since Marbury v. Madison. It’s when he says the media is the, quote –“

BRZEZINSKI: “Enemy.”

SCARBOROUGH: “– ‘enemy of the people’, where he sounds like Mussolini or Lenin which obviously causes concern that phrase right there makes him sound more like a dictator in training, when he sends Stephen Miller out and says, basically the president has absolute power, he shall not be questioned.”

The commentary that Mr. Scarborough spouted was a little misleading to those that might not know what Stephen Miller was referring to. What Stephen Miller was referring to was the 9th Circuit’s  decision to strike down the executive order on suspending immigration from seven countries.

In fact, here is the full quote of StephenMiller’s response to the 9th Circuit court’s decision when asked by a reporter:

Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned…

To be fair and honest, the U.S. Constitution makes it clear that the President has the power to do what he sees fit to protect this country in regards to immigration.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate immigration. In 1952, Congress passed a law empowering the president to deny entry into the U.S. to “any class of aliens” considered to be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

Now I don’t want to just call out MSNBC on misleading people or rigging the system, because all the cable news networks do it. CNN has been caught multiple times misleading their viewers and rigging the system.

Just look at CNN’s coverage of the debate between the democrats vying to be the next DNC chair:

 

Did you notice that the audience applauded for everyone except Representative Keith Ellison?!?! Could you hear the crickets?

Lastly, I want to implore my readers to not just dismiss this blatant bias by the media just because it’s something that you already know. Having that kind of attitude doesn’t change things. What would help is to hold their feet to the fire constantly!

Write blogs and letters (guest blog for The Systems Scientist). Write Facebook posts, tweet, or comment on their timeline. Call them out on their bias.

The bottom line is we need to fight them every second of the day otherwise they will just continue to lie to us in an attempt to control our lives and the lives of our children.

The MSM is no longer media, it’s propaganda. And it must stop here and NOW!

 

Robert J. Garrison is a political and religious writer for The Systems Scientist. You can connect with him directly in the comments section, follow him on Twitter or on Facebook, or catch up on his articles in the Archives.

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Should scientists engage in activism?

Have you heard that scientists are planning a march on Washington? The move is not being billed as a protest, but rather as a “celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community,” although it comes as a direct response to recent policy changes and statements by the Trump administration.

Not everyone thinks the nonprotest protest is a good thing. It’s “a terrible idea,” wrote Robert Young, a geologist at Western Carolina University, in The New York Times. The march, Young said, will just reinforce a belief among some conservatives that “scientists are an interest group,” and polarize the issue, making researchers’ jobs more difficult. Others find that argument less than convincing, pointing out that science and politics have always been intertwined.

As the founders of the blog Retraction Watch and the Center for Scientific Integrity, we often see researchers reluctant to push for or embrace change – whether it’s to the conventional way of dealing with misconduct in journals (which for years was basically to not do so) or addressing problems of reproducibility of their experiments. To the timorous, airing dirty laundry, and letting the public in on the reality of science, could endanger public trust – and funding.

So this isn’t the first time scientists and engineers have voiced similar concerns. Take the example of Marc Edwards and his colleagues at Virginia Tech: Too many people watching the Flint water crisis, they were heroes. After being asked to visit by concerned residents, they found, and announced, that people in the beleaguered city were being exposed to excessive amounts of lead through their tap water. They also launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for water filters for city residents and created a website to push their findings about the hazards of the city’s water supply and shame governments at all levels to act.

If not for their tireless efforts, thousands of children may have been exposed to dangerous amounts of lead for far longer than they already were. Even the Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged that it waited too long to sound the alarm. But that’s not exactly how the editor of a leading engineering journal sees things.

In October, a remarkable editorial appeared in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The essay, by the University of California, Berkeley engineering professor and Water Center Director David Sedlak, ES&T’s editor-in-chief, expressed concern that some of his colleagues in the field had crossed the “imaginary line” between scientist and advocate.

“Speaking out against a corrupt or incompetent system may be the product of a culture where idealism, personal responsibility, and Hollywood’s dramatic sensibilities conspire to create a narrative about the noble individual fighting injustice,” Sedlak wrote.

By becoming “allies of a particular cause, no matter how just, we jeopardize the social contract that underpins the tradition of financial support for basic research.” In other words, don’t cross Congress – which many scientists already view as hostile to their profession – and risk retaliation in the form of budget cuts. That’s no small pie, either. Through its oversight of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Energy and other agencies and programs, Congress holds the strings to a research purse worth nearly US$70 billion a year.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/lUDdX/3/

Let’s take a moment to absorb all that. Some (unnamed but easily identified) scientists, lulled by the media, have cast themselves as superheroes in a struggle against villains born of their own conceit. Their arrogance and vanity threaten to awaken the master, who will punish us all for the sins of a few. We rarely get the opportunity to watch a chilling effect in action, but you can almost see the breath of researchers caught up in a debate over the proper role of scientists in the crisis.

It’s not just engineers who fear speaking out. “We have too often been reluctant to voice our protest, for fear of incurring the [National Institute of Mental Health’s] displeasure (and losing whatever opportunities we still have for funding),” wrote neuroscientist John Markowitz in The New York Times last fall. In a refreshing piece, Markowitz was arguing that “there’s such a thing as too much neuroscience.” As cofounders of Retraction Watch, a blog that focuses on some of science’s nasty episodes, we are occasionally admonished that pointing out cases of fraud – even when we also praise good behavior – will give anti-science forces ammunition.

In some ways, we should be glad scientists are acknowledging these concerns, instead of pretending they’re never swayed by the almighty dollar. But anyone who clings to the notion that science exists in a pure vacuum, untainted by politics, economics or social justice needs also to understand that science is a human endeavor and scientists have the same eyes and ears for injustice and outrage as the rest of us. Although the conduct of science demands honesty and rigor, nowhere is it written that researchers must remain silent when governments or other powerful players either misuse science or suppress findings in the service of harmful policies.

And before Edwards and his efforts on behalf of the Flint community, some scientists have spoken out. Clair Patterson, a physical chemist, put himself on a decades-long collision course with industry when he took on lead poisoning. John Snow earned the ire of Londoners when he removed the pump handle on a cholera-infested well, and wasn’t vindicated until after his death. It took Peter Buxtun several years to stop the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment; he eventually had to leak documents to reporter Jean Heller in 1972.

Edwards and his colleagues, we would argue, are part of a long tradition of bridging the worlds of science and policy. They have been instrumental in bringing not only attention but change to the beleaguered city of Flint. And money: Thanks in part to their pressure, the Senate in September voted overwhelmingly to approve $100 million in aid for Flint, and hundreds of millions more in loans from the Environmental Protection Agency for upgrading municipal water infrastructures and studying exposure to lead.

Tuskegee syphilis study doctor injects a subject with a placebo. Centers for Disease Control

In a stinging rebuke to Sedlak, Edwards and three coauthors – Amy Pruden, Siddhartha Roy and William Rhoads – blasted the critical editorial as a “devastating, self-indictment of cowardice and perverse incentives in modern academia.”

Indeed, scientists who accept funding with the tacit agreement that they keep their mouths shut about the government are far more threatening to an independent academy than those who speak their minds.

Since Nov. 8, it has been painfully clear that science will be playing defense for a while. The United States has never seen a regime so hostile to science and the value of the scientific method. President Donald Trump has declared climate change a “hoax” cooked up by the Chinese. He has flirted seriously with debunked anti-vaccination views and declared that polls (read, data) that are negative about his ambitions are “fake news.”

Science and politics are not always compatible. And science need not always triumph over policy: After all, research shows that steroids improve athletic performance, but we have a compelling political interest to ban them. The same can be said of eugenics. Research must always be ethical, and ethics is a conversation that includes scientists and policymakers.

Still, while the two domains are separate, the divide is and should be, bridgeable. As Edwards and his colleagues write, “The personal and professional peril is great, the critics are numerous and vocal, but staying silent is to be complicit in perpetrating injustice. And no matter what may come of the rest of our lives or careers, we are certain of one thing: Flint was a community worth going out on a limb for, and by upholding a just cause, we enhanced the social contract between academics and the public.”

That could easily be said of the March for Science. Except now it’s not just a limb but the entire tree that’s in peril.

The Conversation

Ivan Oransky, Distinguished Writer In Residence, Arthur Carter Journalism Institute, New York University and Adam Marcus, Adjunct Faculty for Advanced Academic Programs, Johns Hopkins University

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Radio Jedi co-hosts Donald and Jamar invite TSS’s Matt Johnson onto the BRBD Show

By TSS Admin

brbd-v1Our very own Editor-in-chief, and research scientist, Matt Johnson will be making his radio debut as a guest on the Black Republican Black Democrat Show this Saturday, February 11th, at 6 pm on Twin Cities News Talk in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

He will join radio Jedi co-hosts Donald Allen (R) and Jamar Nelson (D) for the 6 to 7 pm central time hour. Together, they will take a closer look at the socio-economic data – crime, employment, housing, etc. – for Minneapolis, and other American cities. They will be delving into Matt’s “Number Shrewdness” to get the real scoop on the urban numbers that are not always presented in a truthful light.

What’s going on in Chicago and other cities? Why is there such disparity in economic wealth between racial groups? What might be done to address such issues? These are just a few of the questions that may be addressed during this Saturday’s show.

Where do you listen?

For our Twin Cities’ readers, just simply turn the terrestrial dial to AM 1130 or FM 103.5. For our national readers, just simply download the iHeartRadio app or you can listen LIVE via the world-wide web by going to www.TwinCitiesNewsTalk.com, which is an iHeartRadio station.

 

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Media and liberals: Changing words to change the narrative

By Robert J. Garrison 

The biggest news story the past few days has been President Trump’s signing of an executive order banning immigration from seven middle eastern countries.

I want to make the record clear this is NOT a Muslim ban, it is an immigration pause! Yet every protester and media outlet is calling it a Muslim ban. It’s a small yet significant change. It is also a popular psychological tactic. This is a psychological tactic is used by an opposing faction to gain control of the narrative. Also, this is only a temporary ban imposed for 90 days.

So many people are talking about an issue that they don’t even have a clue about. They believe the talking points of the MSM like MSNBC, CNN, or the Huffington Post. So many protesters and media outlets haven’t even read the text of the executive order.

For my readers, here is the text of the executive order.

I understand that we are busy with work, texting, posting on social media or running out to protest but let us stop and take the time to actually read the text without viewing it through the filter of news commentators and writers.

I also implore that we all take the time to actually study the topic or issue rather than allow our emotions whip us into a frenzy. For instance, this is not a permanent ban. It is a temporary one, so the new administration can review the vetting process and make tweaks to the vetting process if needed. Also, the government is not stopping everyone from coming in, they are granting waivers to those that were in transit or have already been cleared. Now that we have cut through the hysteria a little, let us look at the premise of the executive order.

So what’s the big deal with these seven countries that President Trump banned immigration for 90-120 days? Well, the commonality between the majority of these countries is that they do not have a stable centralized government.

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Well, the commonality between the majority of these countries is that they do not have a stable centralized government. These countries are known as hotbeds of terrorism and since they do not have a strong centralized government it is hard to nearly impossible to get reliable intelligence on those wishing to come into the US. Let us not forget that ISIS has stated that they will use the refugee crisis to infiltrate the West. Places like France and Germany have felt the impact of ISIS’ plan to infiltrate the refugees and President Trump is taking measures to make sure that the US doesn’t. It is not like he made that decision on a whim.

The State Department reported last summer that ISIS tried to enter the US posing as refugees. Also, ISIS bragged back in 2015 that it has successfully infiltrated 1000s of terrorist among the refugees entering Europe. Since ISIS knows that they couldn’t possibly get to the US from countries like Syria, Iraq, or Libya they need to get into Europe and try to get into the US from there. This is the heart of what the executive order is trying to prevent. Now, why only these seven countries? Why wasn’t an obvious country, Saudi Arabia added to the list?

Now, why only these seven countries? Why wasn’t an obvious country, Saudi Arabia added to the list?

Some suggest that it is because of Trumps business ties with Saudi Arabia as to why it wasn’t on the list. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus denied that accusation on Meet the Press by explaining how they came up with those seven countries:

“Just like I said very clearly, the countries that were chosen in the executive order to protect Americans from terrorists were the countries that have already been identified by Congress and the Obama administration,”

White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer on Monday also suggested that other countries could be added to the list at a later date.

Saudi Arabia should be added to the list, not only because 15 of the 9-11 hijackers were from there but because of their government sponsor of Wahhabism, which is a very extreme form of Islam. Also, Saudi Arabia sponsors 100s of madrasas (Islamic education institutions such as elementary/high schools or colleges) that teach this extreme form of Islam here in the US!

So, are Trump’s business ties the reason why Saudi Arabia wasn’t added to the list? I don’t think so and here’s why. What is more likely the reason why and fits the Trump method is leverage.

The reason that more likely fits the Trump method of doing deals, is leverage. President Trump last weekend made calls to many major world leaders, one of them being the King of Saudi Arabia, King Salman. During this call, King Salman agreed to provide safe zones in Syria and Yemen and to provide help for displaced refugees. President Trump during the election campaign has always called on the Arab world to step up and help the refugees themselves and not leaving only the West to deal with it. So, the leverage theory is more in line with what President Trump has stated before and his political tactics than the business dealing ties.

While the implementation of the executive order was not perfect nor was the list of countries, the reasoning behind the order was. The Trump administration is erring on the side of caution when it comes to the nation’s security and for that, we should be grateful.

While some might be inconvenienced because of this order isn’t that better than being inconvenienced by an attack on US soil?

Photo Credit: Wikiepedia

Robert J. Garrison is a political and religious writer for The Systems Scientist. You can connect with him directly in the comments section, follow him on Twitter or on Facebook, or catch up on his articles in the Archives.

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook as well.

Copyright ©2016 – The Systems Scientist

Donald Trump’s ban will have lasting and damaging impacts on the world’s refugees

US President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration fundamentally alters decades of bipartisan US practice. It blocks immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, and stops all refugee resettlement for at least 120 days.

Trump’s justification for the order is:

… the US must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.

The first element includes blocking any immigration from seven countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – for at least 30 days.

The first day after the order was approved dual citizens and US permanent residents – usually called green card holders – were prevented from boarding flights to the US and even detained on arrival. A temporary injunction has provided at least some protections, though it is being applied patchily and only to those people who have already entered the US.

The order also suspends all refugee admissions for a minimum of 120 days. After that the US will still admit only nationals of countries where the government has “procedures [that] are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the US”.

In a continuation of current congressional practice, the US will also prioritize refugee claims based on religious-based persecution, where the person is a member of a minority religion in their own country. And no Syrian refugees will be admitted until the US refugee admissions program aligns with the national interest.

Finally, the US will limit the number of refugees it admits in 2017 to 50,000. So, what does this all mean for refugees?

What does it mean for refugee acceptance?

The UN Refugee Convention provides refugees with a strong set of rights. However, it applies only when a refugee is within a signatory country’s territory or jurisdiction. The convention does not oblige any signatory to accept other refugees.

However, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) considers resettlement to be one of three “durable solutions” for refugees, alongside voluntary repatriation and integration in a host community. These solutions enable refugees to live their lives in dignity and peace.

The UNHCR has determined, in most cases, that the people awaiting resettlement are refugees. Resettlement is used especially in cases where a refugee’s:

… life, liberty, safety, health, or fundamental human rights are at risk in their country of refuge.

Thus resettlement can be critical to provide refugees with protection.

Resettlement also has important geostrategic implications. It helps, as several former US government officials have noted, support the stability of allies that are struggling to host large numbers of refugees.

Similarly, in a call with Trump on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly argued that:

… the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion.

The US resettlement program has long had strong bipartisan support. But it is also critical to global refugee resettlement. The US takes in by far the most resettled refugees of any country. Canada and Australia are a distant second and third.

Top ten countries for refugee resettlement in 2015.
IRIN News

The justification for the shutdown is to improve the US’s own security measures by introducing, as Trump has previously argued, “extreme vetting”.

But this already exists for resettled refugees. As part of the Refugee Admissions Program, individual refugee cases are screened through a seven-step process, including security and background checks, personal interviews with agents from the US Department of Homeland Security, and other measures. This process can take up to two years.

This system has worked; virtually no terrorist attacks on US soil have been caused by refugees. As a September 2016 report by the Cato Institute, a right-leaning think-tank, noted:

The chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion per year.

Similarly, in 2015, a State Department spokesperson said of the nearly 785,000 refugees admitted to the US since 2001:

Only about a dozen – a tiny fraction of 1% of admitted refugees – have been arrested or removed from the US due to terrorism concerns that existed prior to their resettlement in the US. None of them were Syrian.

The wider effects

Trump’s ban will also have two wider effects.

It appears not to be affecting the November agreement between Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, to resettle refugees from Nauru and Manus Island in the US in exchange for Australia accepting a group of Central American refugees. Many of those on Nauru and Manus Island come from Iran, Iraq and Somalia.

The Australian government remains keen for the deal to go ahead. But US Republican politicians have previously been critical of the deal. Republican congressman Brian Babin said earlier this month he was confident that Trump:

… will do everything in his power to put an immediate stop to this secret Australian-US refugee deal that should have simply never happened in the first place.

But in a phone call between Trump and Turnbull on Sunday, Trump appears to have given assurances the deal would still go ahead. The order gives the power to the secretary of homeland security to continue to admit refugees for resettlement on a case-by-case basis, irrespective of the wider shutdown.

Globally, the shutdown will have lasting and detrimental effects for refugees. In the Middle East, it may prove to be a boon to the Islamic State. The terrorist group has long sought to disrupt refugee movements.

The ban will also put more pressure on refugee-hosting countries. About 90% of the world’s refugees are in the developing world. The international refugee system works through burden-sharing: host countries know that at least some refugees will be resettled and that they will receive financial assistance for the refugees from the UNHCR and other organizations and governments.

Trump’s move challenges this directly, and will likely lead to further restrictions on the ability of refugees to receive basic protections.

The Conversation

Phil Orchard, Senior Lecturer in Peace and Conflict Studies and International Relations; Research Director at the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, The University of Queensland

Photo Credit: Wikiepedia

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.