Border security solved
August 19, 2016
The presidential race just continues to amaze, for all the wrong reasons. Three hundred million of us, and we end up with a choice between Clinton and Trump, or a protest vote for a fringe candidate just so we can look ourselves in the mirror in the morning. But when you look at the process, what we put candidates through, for how long we put them through it, it definitely winnows the field. Anybody with something productive to do looks at this mess and decides they don't need to participate.
Trump was back on his Muslim ban this week, though in a slightly modified form. Now he wants to only ban the bad ones, coming from the bad places, with bad attitudes. At first blush, it sounds pretty good — I mean who isn't in favor of stopping terrorists with bad attitudes at the borders? But in practice, things unravel quickly. His new plan of "extreme vetting" would ask people from certain countries, wearing certain clothing, a whole lot of questions about their beliefs and intentions. While the First Amendment gives you the right to believe any crazy thing you want, it doesn't necessarily apply to people looking for a visa. So we'll figure out who the bad ones are when they take the test.
For efficiency, I guess the flight attendant could pass it out an hour before landing, like those stupid customs forms. That will stop everybody with bad intent dead in their tracks. Nothing like a form to be filled out, in triplicate, under the burning scrutiny of a flight attendant, to ferret out the trouble-makers. The questions would be things like "Are you a terrorist?" "Are you a jihadi?" "Do you believe that local zoning decisions should be made under Sharia law?" "What exactly do you intend to blow up, and when?" It will be very effective.
Last time I travelled outside the U.S., which was a while ago now (and it was just Canada, so it almost doesn't count), I remember being asked on some form whether I "had visited a farm or ranch within the last 10 days." Now that created a bit of a problem. Answering "yes" would surely mean some kind of additional screening to make sure there were no weed seeds or mystery poop stuck to my shoes. That would surely mean missing my connecting flight. Since I reside on a farm or ranch, I had not technically "visited." So using my best Clintonian logic, I checked "no" and entered Canada with god knows what kind of agricultural pathogens on my shoes. I had no intention of visiting a Canadian farm, so it was unlikely that the next outbreak of swine flu would originate from some seed my shoes left on the streets of Toronto. I don't know what kind of paperwork cattle wandering across the border into Saskatchewan are required to fill out, but I'm sure they don't eat in North Dakota and poop in Canada with impunity.
But that Clintonian hair-splitting over whether "residing" on a farm or ranch is the same as "visiting" a farm or ranch leaves a great big hole in the "extreme vetting" process. Maybe if he water-boarded visa applicants it would work. Or we could tie people up and throw them in a lake. If they sink and drown, they probably weren't a jihadi and it would have been OK to let them in. Except they are dead. If they float, they are terrorists, and would be burned at the stake. That worked well in Salem, Massachusetts when they decided to clean up their witch problem.
Anyway, what Trump needs is some kind of brain scanner at the airport that people can be pushed through so their innermost thoughts and values can be detected by a new kind of x-ray process before they are allowed to enter the U.S. If the alarm goes off, put their butts on the next plane to Gitmo. But how to tell…
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So what he needs is the "Popeil Islamatron 5000®" automatic screening device. With a simple push of a button, he could tell if somebody of suspect origin was a good one or a bad one. The machine would rank the Muslim-ness of visa applicants, from "Bacon-eating Jack Muslim," to "Crazy jihadi," and all points in between. For a small additional charge, he could buy the "Mex-o-meter," which could tell the rapists from those, we assume, are good people.
It's a perfect solution, except that it doesn't exist, and we generally have not punished people for having unpopular thoughts, opinions, or looking "wrong" (unless they happened to be Japanese during WWII). So like everything else in the Trump campaign, there are some details to be worked out. But you know it's going to be terrific.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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