How the Trump Administration Harms People I Know

A few news cycles ago, everyone was discussing the Trump administration's cruel policy of separating migrant children from their parents (and then losing track of them, which cannot be anyone's ideal of efficient government).  This is a serious issue which deserved significant press coverage.  And a major campaign promise by Trump, to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US, has resulted in a controversial executive order that was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional (even though I'm sure many of the Justices would have struck down a similarly tainted domestic policy had the government not said it was related to "national security".)

However, in this post I want to talk about some more minor ways in which Trump's anti-immigration policies have hurt people I care about.  None of these people have suffered anything as extreme as the asylum-seeking families detained at the border.  But I think it is still important to talk about the lesser ways in which anti-immigrant policies hurt people, especially when I can speak from the experience of people I know personally.

There is a tendency for controversial, hot-button issues to soak up all the public attention.  Because of this, the public debate surrounding immigration usually focusses on illegal immigrants.  But the people I am going to talk about are legal immigrants, whom the government welcomed in, and is now treating badly.

(I will therefore not be discussing specifically the Iranian physicists negatively affected by the so-called "Muslim ban", even though I do know some individuals who have likely been negatively affected.  In my experience, none of the Iranians living in the US support the Iranian regime.)

As a fairly privileged upper-middle class person, it's fairly rare for political issues to affect me directly, except insofar as they contribute to my tax bill, and to the government grant monies that have sometimes paid my salary.  I have strong opinions about many of the issues involved, but as far as my life was concerned, the Obama administration was not much different from the Bush administration, except that it changed which news stories I read about on the internet.  So when people I actually know have their lives derailed by politics, I start paying attention!

The information below was obtained by conversations with the victims of these policies.  I assume their information is largely accurate, but I have not tried to check it with independent research.

I. Graduating Students

As you might expect, Stanford University accepts many bright graduate students.  This year, several of the High Energy students have defended their Ph.D.'s and graduated.  They had applied for prestigious postdoc positions starting this Fall, and were accepted.  These are some of the brightest students in the whole world, and they want to contribute their intellectual talent to our nation.

Unfortunately, because some of them are foreigners, from scary countries like China and Canada, rather than US citizens, they are required to get work visas.  In previous administrations, that involved some annoying requirements, such as a rule that you had to go back to your home country and apply from there.  The Trump administration, however, currently has a backlog of around 6 months processing all visas in this category.  Hence they have been unable to start their new jobs yet, even though the academic year started months ago.  During this time, they are:

- forbidden from gaining any income in the United States,
- unable to leave the country or return home, for fear of not being readmitted to the USA, and making their application less likely to be accepted.  (Despite the fact that they are here legally due to their previous visa.)
- advised against moving to their new location for fear of being held to be "working" for their new employer
- advised against doing research (which for us theorists is literally just "thinking/talking about physics") for the same reasons.

Graduate students are not very likely to be sitting on an enormous stash of savings, so this is obviously a serious issue for these students.  Imagine if the government told you that you are forbidden to work, and on top of that threatened you with dire consequences if you wanted to move back in with your parents, or move to any other country that did allow you to work for them.  I reckon you would be pretty upset.

So why didn't they just apply for their visa 6 months in advance?  Well, because any application submitted more than 3 months in advance is automatically rejected as being filed to early.  So yes, the Trump Administration is, by underhanded delay tactics, imposing a Catch-22 that makes it literally impossible for these students to start their new job at the beginning of the new academic year.

Since there are statutory quotas for the total number of people admitted, I'm not sure this foot-dragging will even have the effect of lowering the number of foreign workers in the USA.  It is just being jerks for no good reason, to the international people that we were going to hire anyway.

II. A Recent Faculty Hire

What about people higher up the academic ladder?  I was just hearing last night from a condensed matter theorist around my age, who was recently hired for a tenure-track position at a top UC school in his field.  (While there is some subjective element to this judgement, and he is a friend of mine, on almost any view we are talking about one of the top 10 most promising people in his subfield in the whole world.  That's how good you have to be to be hired at a place like that.)

While he is allowed to work, the backlog for him getting a Green Card (permanent residency) is currently 20 years!  Bear in mind, his employment already puts him in the highest priority category you can possibly get by virtue of employment.  (He could only do better if he was marrying a US Citizen or was a religious worker.)

Why so long?  Well, in its infinite wisdom, the government has decided there should be an equal number of spots for immigrants from every country, irrespective of the population of the country.  As if they were voting on Senators.  So people from India or China have difficulties, whereas somebody from a small Pacific island nation somewhere has no problems.  This is obviously stupid, but past administrations have remedied this by reassigning unused spots from countries like Liechtenstein to the nationalities with higher demand, while still staying under the total national quota.  Well, they aren't doing that any more.

So this guy, one of the most talented physicists in the world, with a permanent academic appointment, needs to wait two decades (or more likely, until a Democrat retakes the White House) just to be able to be a permanent resident.  In the meantime:

- he is ineligible for many grants
- he cannot return to India to visit his family, without having to go through an extensive, 3 month background check on return (and possibly being denied re-entry).
- his brother wanted to visit him but was denied a tourist visa (due to his age bracket and being from India; however his parents were able to visit him).

III. What God Says

The Bible teaches that we are to treat foreigners fairly and not to oppress or harass them.  This is a major theme in Old Testament, starting with the Torah:

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.  (Ex 23:9, cf. 22:21)

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.  The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.  Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.  I am the Lord your God.  (Lev 19:33-34)

The Law required foreigners to be given full access to justice:

Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.  (Deut 24:17-18)

The Levites shall recite to all the people of Israel in a loud voice...

“Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.”

Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”  (Deut 27:14,19)

This included provision for refugees escaping from oppression in other countries:

If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master.  Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them.  (Deut 23:15-16)

and for both private and public welfare systems for those who fell down on their luck:

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.  (Lev 19:9-10, cf. 23:22)

When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.  When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time.  Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.  When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again.  Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt.  That is why I command you to do this.  (Deut 24:19-22)

At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns,so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.  (Deut 14:28-29, cf. 26:12)

as well as a commandment making it illegal to discriminate against immigrants:

You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.  (Lev 24:22)

 For the generations to come, whenever a foreigner or anyone else living among you presents a food offering as an aroma pleasing to the Lord, they must do exactly as you do.  The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.  You and the foreigner shall be the same before the Lord: The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you.  (Num 14:6)

although this general principle presumably did not take precedence over other Torah commandments which explicitly treated foreigners differently in specific respects, e.g. the rule against charging interest in Deut 23:19-20 applied only to fellow Jews, not to foreigners.

Of course, the message of welcoming strangers continues with the Prophets and the New Testament, but this is enough to make my point.

IV My Own Opinion

Now I am well aware that the United States of America is not a theocracy like ancient Israel, and that there are plenty of laws in the Torah which it would be inappropriate to enforce (or even follow) in modern day conditions.  But as a Christian, I believe that there are ethical principles to be found in the Bible which I ought to pay attention to.  Charity towards foreigners is one such ethical principle, and it is flouted by so-called Christian "conservatives" who idolatrously say "America First!" instead of putting God first.

Not that I accept for a minute that the immigrants I know are bad for America.  Our scientific preeminence requires us to recruit top talent from around the entire world, to stay on top.  I oppose trying to reserve academic positions for Americans for the same reason I'm not a fan of affirmative action, because I believe that it's best for jobs to be filled by a merit based system without regard to extraneous factors.  If that means that we get a lot of Indian and Chinese people, good for them!  A bunch of geniuses are coming from all over the world wanting to work for us, and somehow that's a bad thing?  It's not like you can just hire some random guy who lost his auto manufacturing or coal mining job.

There is also an enormous humanitarian good to be gained by allowing more people into developed First World countries.  However, I do not believe that the US should have completely open borders.  First, because I think there are valid national security reasons to keep terrorists and other undesirable criminals out.  Secondly, because there may be a maximum rate of immigrants that we can accept without overburdening our society or culture.

Still, there has never been a wealthier society than ours, capable of meeting more people's needs.  Nor has there been any society with a stronger track record of assimilating immigrants successfully.  And pretty much all economists on either side of the political aisle agree that protectionism in trade is bad for both countries.  It's almost a mathematical theorem.

But even if you believe differently than me about these broader issues, it's not like the policy makes sense for any of the academic people I mentioned above.   If the government had legitimate national security concerns about any of them (which would be frankly absurd, given the people in question), they shouldn't have let them into the country in the first place.  There's no way that it's in our national interest to let people into the country, lavish our educational resources on them, and (eventually) decide they can stay, but jerk them around the whole time, and make the process a bureaucratic nightmare.

About Aron Wall

I am a Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. Before that, I read Great Books at St. John's College (Santa Fe), got my physics Ph.D. from U Maryland, and did my postdocs at UC Santa Barbara, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Stanford. The views expressed on this blog are my own, and should not be attributed to any of these fine institutions.
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28 Responses to How the Trump Administration Harms People I Know

  1. Mactoul says:

    I entirely agree that the immigration process in America and in general West is a mess. I myself was impacted, in the postdoc quest back in 1998, by America temporally sanctioning my country and stopping all scientific visas.

    This mess necessarily generates a lot of innocent victims. But you need to look at the greater picture. You don't believe in open borders but a lot of people do.

    Also, I don't see why America must have scientific preeminence. America did very well for 200 years without it. Also, isn't it good for India and China if their talented people work in their own countries? There are plenty of upcoming institutions in India that are starved for world-class talent.

    I wish you would revise the language about "Muslim ban". It is inaccurate. There was no ban on Muslims; only a ban on immigration from certain Muslim majority countries. It did not affect most populous Muslim nations of Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Egypt. These four countries have approx 700 million Muslims. Add 200 million Muslims from India, also unaffected by the ban.

  2. TY says:


    Your statement below is so true and I add a comment on protectionism.

    “Still, there has never been a wealthier society than ours, capable of meeting more people's needs. Nor has there been any society with a stronger track record of assimilating immigrants successfully. And pretty much all economists on either side of the political aisle agree that protectionism in trade is bad for both countries. It's almost a mathematical theorem.”

    And how unfortunate that politicians forget that protectionism robs a nation. The ideological divide between free trade and protectionism is an old debate that goes back to the 16th century. The English economist, David Ricardo (1772-1823), was the first to show rigorously, by simple arithmetic, that if nations are allowed to trade freely (with no restrictions), the welfare of all goes up. His Law of Comparative Cost (Law of Comparative advantage) was instrumental in the demise of Mercantilism and the eventual repeal of England’s protectionist Corn Laws in 1846. Once relative costs of production varu across countries, trade will always lead to an increase in welfare (proxied by the amount of the good produced and consumed). This is a very powerful prediction!

    The furious assault on free trade is back again under Trump. And for a whole host of reasons, including technological change, (a) the adherents of protectionism are wrong and (b) the U.S can never go back to the days (prior to WW II) when manufacturing employment was over 30 percent of total non-farm employment. Today, the figure is under 10 percent. But they do have a point in that the sectors adversely affected by free trade or globalisation have been left behind or have not participated in the total increase in national wealth. And this is what the protectionist have exploited for their own ends – rather successfully so far.

    It is not a failure of economic theory because the Theory of Comparative Advantage is not concerned about economic growth in the long run. It is a comparative static analysis of two equilibrium states without regard to the dynamics.

    Rather, it is a failure of income distribution to deal with the dynamics. Because of the ideological divide, politicians fail to agree on the appropriate laws and implement polices to assist displaced workers. It is also a question of trade-offs: Add up the many billions the U.S has spent on foreign wars, the many billions spent on elections biennially. The ACA (a.k.a, Obama Care) is a form of distribution, but we have seen the determined efforts of the GOP to repeal the ACA while 30 million Americans are uninsured, Amtrak needs attention, public schools need better resources, and so forth.

  3. Lee Cheshire says:

    As a retired military officer who and a graduate of Air War College, I have to strongly disagree with the basic premise, I.e. this Trump Administration’s immigration policies, as these policies were in two previous administrations, and with the overall implications that we are not a sovereign nation similar to an established family. Compassion is surly needed when dealing with illegal immigrants, a completely different category from legal immigrants (who show our country (family) respect. It is dissrespectful if someone moved into your home without asking permission and expected/demanded substenance and service. The Lord’s rule always comes with justice and peace. A nation is based on the rule of Law set up for the benefit and protection of all, and needs to complement compassion. Please don’t believe the “lies” in the colleges and media who show their duplicity clearly these days.

  4. TY says:

    As the Christmas season draws near, can you tell me if Mary, Joseph, and the Christ Child should have been
    1) Turned away at the Egyptian border
    2) Allowed into Egypt and given asylum
    3) Allowed into Egypt, and have the Christ Child separated from his (earthly) parents.
    By the way, I'm not condoning illegal/unauthorised entry into any country.
    Love to hear your views.

  5. Scott Church says:

    @Lee Cheshire,

    With all due respect for your military service (thank you!), your statements about the Trump Administration’s immigration policies are incorrect. To be sure, the U.S. has always had laws governing immigration and has generally adhered to international asylum law as well. But there is not, and never has been, anything whatsoever in those laws that require us to treat immigrants the way Trump has, much less justify the hate, dehumanization, and cruelty he and his base have subjected them to. Especially the treatment of legal immigrants Aron describes here.

  6. Mactoul says:

    Scott Church,
    The hysteria you evince is entirely uncalled for---what hate, dehumanization and cruelty? I along with my peer--Indian aspirants to American graduate schools have always known that the American immigration was a chancy affair. You could have a confirmed admission to a top university along with scholarship and proof of income but could be denied visa on the merest whim of the consulate officer who interviewed you for the visa.
    The cruelty I guess is denying the working rights to the wives of the H1-B visa holders. But again it was always known that wives have no such rights. The government gives and the government takes away. Anyway, isn't it better for the wives to stay home and mind the children?

  7. Scott Church says:

    @Mactoul, I agree that perhaps the words "hate" and "cruelty" are a litle strong for the things you and Aron described. But at the very least, they're callous, uncaring, and IMHO, uncalled for.

    Beyond that, however, the way Trump and his base have treated immigrants and refugees, as well as women and minorities over the last two years, is, by any reasonable definition whatsoever, hateful, dehumanizing, and cruel. Further elucidation and some examples, are in the essay I linked above from my own website, and the sources cited therein. That's only the tip of the iceberg though... Much more could be provided.

    Calling such things out isn't "hysterical..." It's being salt and light to a world in need. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said,

    "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."

    If we allow immigrants and refugees to be treated like this, we allow Jesus to be as well. For inasmuch as we've done it to the least of these, His brothers and sisters, we've done it to Him (Matt. 25:34-45).

  8. TY says:

    If anyone is following the news, it would be hard for you to say with a clear conscience that this present Administration is immigration friendly. Mr. Trump has run a campaign on this platform in the 2016 Presidential election and in the mid-term because it plays to and exploits his base. He cloaks himself in the flag of nationalism, which is a code word, and his base understands it. He does not owe it to the general public or the world to define the exact meaning.

    When, in June he said with a straight face that "sixty-three thousand Americans since 9/11 have been killed by illegal aliens. This isn't a problem that's going away, it's getting bigger," Sixty-three thousand and that number they say is very low because things aren't reported. 63,000, and you don't hear about that”, he cared not about the facts. His whole intent was to stir up hate and that is just as evil as the violent and bloody actions. Where did he get that bizarre number from? He was repeating a claim made by Congressman, Steve King of Iowa. For those who are still apologetic of Trump’s behaviour I urge you to do some research on Steve King after you have read my piece.

    Now, Trump is not absolutely anti-immigration. The country or continent of origin does matter to him and he like people to know it. In January this year he came under withering criticism for declaring his preference for Norway rather than the unspecified “shithole” countries for immigrants. And Jeff Sessions, then U.S. Attorney General amplified not too long after. “What good does it do to bring in somebody who's illiterate in their own country, has no skills and is going to struggle in our county and not be successful? That is not what a good nation should do, and we need to get away from it.”

    By their standards, America would not have allowed waves of hungry, penniless, elderly, uneducated immigrants from Germany, Italy, Ireland, Poland, and other countries across continental Europe in America. But they were all seeking a better life. Where would America be today without them, just as where would America be without low paying immigrant workers in the service and construction industries. And why stop with them? Where would America be without the African slaves.

    By the way, I am not suggesting that these Europeans were welcomed with open arms and garlanded on arrival, and if you have the time do some research, you’d find some equally hateful and demeaning things the so-called nationals had said and written about them.

    Yesterday it was Europe, today it’s the “shitholes”, and tomorrow, who knows. But leaders, especially those of the wealthiest nations, have a responsibly, and the least they can do is to not stir up hatred.

    The person who said these famous words (Matthew 25:34-45), "Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me" could have been turned away at the Egyptian border.

  9. Mactoul says:

    Merit-based immigration is the norm in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and many other countries. Your point about previous waves of immigration from poorer European countries ignores the fact that America needed peopling then but not so much now. They were let in not entirely for their own sake but for the sake of America. Surely the host nation is justified in selecting the people it wants to let in or not?

    It was reported that the people in the migrant caravan lately in news were marching with waving the flag of their countries --countries they were allegedly fleeing from? Do you appreciate significance of this flag-waving?
    And yesterday, it is reported that as the caravan reached American border, the so-called refugees tried to storm the border and hurled rocks etc on the American border security? Why? Is this a typical refugee behavior?

  10. Scott Church says:


    The only discussions of "flag waving" migrants in the media are at Far-Right propaganda outlets like Breitbart and Fox News, and these appear to have originated knee-jerk from a random tweet of Trump's--who, let's be honest, ain't exactly a rocket scientist known for his fact-checking and critical thinking skills. ;-) Legitimate news and commentary outlets have made almost no mention of it, and for good reason--because it's a non-issue.

    Scanning numerous photos and videos from mainstream media outlets, there appears to be at most two or three people waving Honduran flags... out of more than 5000 people. And from the looks of it, they're doing so to identify the nation of origin of the crowd they're caravaning with to border authorities. Even if they are waving those flags proudly, that hardly shows that they harbor any animosity toward their destination--only that they're proud of their heritage.

    For instance, Trump has repeatedly tried to deny the Constitutional rights of anyone who disagrees with him and openly incite violence against them. Suppose that American governmental checks and balances broke down, and he was to acquire the unbridled totalitarian power he truly wants. If that were to happen, my family and I would be in real danger and would likely have to flee to Canada for safety. If so, I would still proudly wave an American flag--in honor of what my nation truly stands for, and what it would again become when democracy was restored. It certainly wouldn't because I hated Canada and wasn't grateful for the sanctuary they offered me while my home country was in the grips of fascism!

    It makes no sense to assume that those marching to the United States from the horror of Honduran drug lords and violent gangs are any different. Unless, of course, one has an us-or-them view of the world, and believes they cannot love their own race, heritage, and nation without hating the rest of the world...

    Which is probably why only Trump and his base are upset about migrants waving Honduran flags.

  11. Scott Church says:

    As for "[storming] the border and [hurling] rocks," those incidents appear to have been frustrated responses by some to the glacially slow rate at which asylum requests are being processed--which is likely due at least in part to the fact that Trump and his base don't want them processed. If I were desperate for my family to have a chance at a better life, and an elected American thug had just sent troops to deny them one and attack them with tear gas, I might be inclined to throw rocks too. In any event, it isn't reasonable to think that a handful of rock-throwers are a representative sample on which to base sweeping conclusions about five thousand poor, desperate refugees... the least of these, His brothers and sisters (Matt. 25:34-45).

    For a more reasonable and humane view of the migrant caravan, see this piece from the UK Guardian.

  12. TY says:

    First, let me thank Aron for allowing this civil discussion to go on in his highly respected website
    I think it is fair to say that we agree on these basic premises:
    1. Immigration is as old as civilisation; refugee problem, likewise. The tribe of Jacob fled to Egypt and the fertile Nile to escape famine and drought.
    2. As long as severe income disparities persist, the immigration issue will not go away (a phenomenon that is no different within national borders).
    3. The world is effectively a global, interdependent village/ union/ community (there is only one planet earth in this galaxy).
    4. The community is held together by certain core values, such as human dignity, freedom, respect for human rights, the rule of law, etc.
    5. As such each member must give up some individual rights for the greater good and in order to reap the benefits of community.
    6. Social co-operation maximises individual and aggregate welfare; isolationism does the opposite.
    7. Political leaders who sow hatred and incite violence are just as evil as the perpetrators.

    In September this year the European Union invoked Article 7 of the Chater against Hungary for failing to uphold fundamental EU values of "human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities” ‒ this after Hungary refused to take in refugees under the EU resettlement quota scheme. Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary, in the name of nationalism, made some very radical statements that make moderates of Trump and the people who help craft his tough immigration policies. Hungary, as a non-EU member, is “justified in selecting the people it wants to let in” but cannot and should not be allowed to exercise that absolute right against the community’s values, and refuse to obey its laws, while enjoying the benefits of economic and political union.
    So with America, a great country and one that has prided herself as the world’s policeman and a champion of human dignity. By virtue of her special position, America is integral to the world community but, like lesser countries in terms of wealth and power, must also give up certain absolute rights for the global good. Immigration and allowing refugees into the country are one of them; denouncing anti-immigrant sentiments is one of them, and not inciting hate is one of them.

    Whether drug traffickers, criminals, and terrorists are mingled with the refugee caravan is a separate issue of security and law enforcement. But as a principle, America cannot benefit from her international role, reap the tangible and intangible rewards of world trade, and yet adopt tougher immigration policies. Same for Italy. It cannot divert the leaky refuge boats to the shores of Germany and France, while still benefitting from the E.U. market.

    As for the argument that America is no longer in great need of immigrants to “people” the land, the reality is the opposite. You selected the wrong counties, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Right now, there is serious concern in Canada that the country’s is woefully underpopulated and, with its low fertility rate, future growth is at risk. Same for the United States where fertility rates are low and have been falling steadily for many decades. The demographic trends have severe negative implications for potential economic growth in these economies and for their aging populations. It’s a question of how many to bring in without creating social instability. These are important considerations, involving social integration, and the economic costs, but this is not the forum to discuss them.

    As I said before, even if Trump does nothing to help refugees of ease immigration policies, the least he can do is to not sow hate and incite violence. Trump America can exercise its absolute rights as a standalone county, but there are costs that reasonable Americans will not tolerate.

  13. Mactoul says:

    It is good for you to clearly define your position. It is very helpful. However, I must say that you over-state the idea of world community. The world at large simply does not share the Western ideas of human dignity, freedom, respect for human rights, the rule of law, etc. Many very large countries such as China or India, to say nothing of Pakistan or Indonesia would strongly disagree with Western interpretation of human dignity or religious freedom, to say nothing of more controversial matters of current Western enthusiasm.

    To the extent, the world community exists, it is defined by various international agreements, for instance 1951 Refugee convention that defines the rights and duties of asylum-seekers and their treatment by the host countries. Article 1 of the convention defines a refugee as:
    "A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it."

    Note that a situation of endemic violence or poverty does not make one a refugee under this definition.
    There are duties attendant on asylum-seekers as well which do not include storming boundary fences of host nation and pelting the soldiery of the very nation they wish to take asylum in.

    Some comments on the your list
    1) Invasion as also as ancient as migration. Also in Bible, Hebrew invasion of Canaan and subjugation of the locals.
    3) Shows a lack of appreciation of "political nature" of man whereby mankind is organized into particular, self-ruling, morally authoritative units we call tribes or nations. Do you prefer to live under a world government that rules in accord with the values of Chinese communist party?

  14. Mactoul says:

    Scott Church,
    I am afraid your intemperate language ("elected thug") isn't helping sober discussion. What is your basis for the assertion that
    "hose incidents appear to have been frustrated responses by some to the glacially slow rate at which asylum requests are being processed".
    The slow rate (slow by which objective criterion?) does not hurt the asylum-seekers. They simply get to stay in USA pending the resolution of their request. In fact, the anti-immigration crowd wants fast processing.
    The idea that criminality of the migrants can be excused by habitual tardiness of American bureaucracy is demeaning to the migrants themselves. Aron himself has given instances where immigrants have faced severe delays and inconveniences but have not resorted to criminality.

    Storming any nation's border is a risky adventure. The migrants try it on US border precisely because they know that they would be treated humanely. They aren't likely to try such tactics on Chinese border or even Israel's.

  15. Mactoul says:

    Scott Church,
    Can you adduce any basis for this statement:
    "Trump has repeatedly tried to deny the Constitutional rights of anyone who disagrees with him and openly incite violence against them"

    Has he tried to take anybody's
    1) First Amendment rights--as far as I can see, Americans are pretty free to criticize him, even in most intemperate words.
    2) Second Amendment rights--
    3) right to property-did he steal anybody's ass (car) or vineyard?
    4) Right to life--he isn't assassinating American citizens without due process as Obama did.
    5) Right to liberty--his critics are still at large criticizing him.

  16. TY says:

    I'm having difficulty following your thinking because we are talking about immigration and refugees and you suddenly go off in a tangent about:
    "Invasion as also as ancient as migration. Also in Bible, Hebrew invasion of Canaan and subjugation of the locals."

    If you are implying that the caravan is an invasion to subdue and occupy America and the proper response is military confrontation, the same inciteful and hateful language used by Trump (that Scott Church elevated to "elected thug") and his propaganda machine, Fox News , you have no moral ground to condemn Scott for using "intemperate language" and "not helping sober discussion", and only using this forum to troll or to Fox. Outline your true position or thinking, Sir.

  17. Scott Church says:


    I appreciate your concerns about intemperate language. You are right to be concerned about that given the incendiary political and moral climate we currently live in. But that said, according to Merriam Webster, the definition of thug is "a brutal ruffian or assassin". Synonyms include "bully," "gangster," "goon," "hood," "hoodlum," and more. With that in mind, here is a very small sample of Donald Trump's behavior and character;

    1) He openly advocates violence against people who don't support him (Macquill, 2018)...

    2) He openly defends Nazis (including one who crushed an unarmed woman to death under the wheels of a Dodge Challenger), and bone-saw murderers (Gray, 2017; Watson, 2018)...

    3) He publicly belittles and abuses women, and mocks rape victims and disabled people (Barbaro & Twohey. 2016; Diaz & Merica, 2016; BBC, 2015; Snopes, 2016; Sonmez, 2018; Cosslett, 2018)...

    4) He openly brags about sexual assault, and almost certainly raped his first wife in a fit of narcissistic rage (Wikipedia, 2018; LaCapria, 2016)...

    5) Per multiple psychiatric evaluations and peer-review and some 41,000 petitioning mental health professions, he meets DSM-V diagnostic criteria for sociopathology, narcissistic personality disorder, and possibly even early-stage dementia (Kentish, 2017; Wikipedia, 2018b)...

    6) His policies have inflicted unprecedented violence and cruelty on refugees seeking asylum, a small sample of which was documented in my immigration essay linked above. [have you read it yet and/or vetted any of the sources cited therein?]...

    I could, of course, offer countless more examples...

    I can't speak for anyone else, but by my lights, this falls well within the definition of thug as given above. You can call that "intemperate language" if you like, and tell me that it "isn't helping sober discussion." But where I come from, we call it like it is... And if none of this constitutes thuggish behavior to you, I'd be interested to know what exactly would. And yes, as a matter of fact, sexual assault, rape, and openly inciting violence against people publicly speaking out against you at rallies most certainly is a violation of First Amendment rights per the Constitution of the United States of America.

    I realize that this discussion could turn into quicksand very quickly, so rather than belabor the point any further I'll just leave you with this. Because frankly, if none of the above raises an eyebrow with you, then your moral compass is fundamentally different than mine and I have no further words to offer that likely ever would.



    BBC. 2015. "Donald Trump under fire for mocking disabled reporter." BBC News, Nov. 25, 2015. Online at Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.

    Barbaro, M. & M. Twohey. 2016. "Shamed and Angry: Alicia Machado, a Miss Universe Mocked by Donald Trump." New York Times Online, Sept. 27, 2016. Available online at Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.

    Cosslet, R.L. 2018. "Trump mocking Christine Blasey Ford shows how women are silenced." The Guardian, Oct. 3, 2018. Online at Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.

    Diaz, D. & D. Merica. 2016. "'Miss Universe' tearfully thanks Clinton for defense against Trump's 'Miss Piggy' remarks." CNN Online, Sept. 27, 2016. Available online at Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.

    Gray, R. 2017. "Trump Defends White-Nationalist Protesters: 'Some Very Fine People on Both Sides'." The Atlantic. Aug. 15, 2017. Online at Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.

    Griffiths, B.D. 2018. "Trump mocks ‘rules’ of #MeToo during rally." Snopes, Oct. 10, 2018. Online at Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.

    Kentish, B. 2017. "Donald Trump is a psychopath, suffers psychosis and is an 'enormous present danger', says psychiatrist." UK Independent, Nov. 30, 2017. Online at Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.

    LaCapria, K. 2016. "Donald Trump Rape and Trafficking Accusations." Snopes, Oct. 19, 2016. Online at Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.

    Macquill, D. 2018. "Did Donald Trump Encourage Violence at His Rallies?" Snopes, Feb. 21, 2018. Online at Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.

    Snopes. 2016. "Donald Trump Criticized for Mocking Disabled Reporter." July 28, 2016. Online at Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.

    Sonmez, F. 2018. "Trump mocks #MeToo movement in Montana rally." Washington Post, July 5, 2018. Online at Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.

    Watson, K. 2018. "Trump defends Saudis, says 'maybe the world' should be held accountable for Khashoggi's murder." CBS News, Nov. 22, 2018. Online at Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.

    Wikipedia. 2018. "Donald Trump Access Hollywood tape." Updated Nov. 11, 2018. Online at Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.

    Wikipedia. 2018b. "Health of Donald Trump: Mental Health." Updated Nov. 26, 2018. Online at Accessed Nov. 28, 2018.

  18. Aron Wall says:

    With respect to #5, while I also have grave concerns about the psychological fitness of the President for office, you should know that these pyschologists are in fact violating an important professional standard by diagnosing an individual they have never personally examined (the "Goldwater rule").

    While I am very concerned about the societal norms that the President is violating, we need to be careful to oppose this in a way that does not itself further erode norms.

    If I may respond also to the blog post you link to, I feel it is also counterproductive to call Trump a "dictator". I think he'd like to be one, but that's quite different from him actually having the power to be one. Every time Trump expresses frustration (which is frequently), that's a sign that the checks and balances in our system of government are still working. But words have the power to call things into existence that do not yet exist, and that is why we should call him what he is---the President---and not call him what he is not.

  19. Mactoul says:

    Scott, TY,
    It is something not interesting in itself, but as this has been coming up again and again, so it is only fair to affirm that I have never watched a second of Fox in my life and nor do I intend to. I rarely watch TV and never foreign TV. I prefer to get my news from Christian-oriented sources, generally American.
    There are plenty of conservatives that were and still are highly critical of Trump and in general they provide the most balanced commentary (and the wittiest). The left-wing sites such as Guardian are apt to be hysterical and uncharitable to anybody that is not on-board with latest leftist lunacy.
    Here is one balanced piece on the border incident.

    Storming borders is what invaders do. The caravan was not an invasion till it rushed the border. What would a government do?
    As Mao is supposed to have told Nixon when the latter complained about unreasonable Chinese restrictions on emigration--how many millions do you want?
    The same can be asked to you. How many millions asylum-seekers do you want? I assure you it would be easy to find 100 million in India alone that would jump at a chance to immigrate to America.
    Mrs Clinton, just a few days back is reported to have said, in an interview with the Guardian:
    “I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message – ‘we are not going to be able to continue provide refuge and support’ – because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic.”
    Do you agree or disagree with her?

  20. Mactoul says:

    1. "violence against dissenters" can be charitably interpreted as "asked people or police to remove hacklers".
    2. Nazis? In America 2018, a country whose hyper-individualism is condemned by the current Pope?
    Trouble with the leftist media is they are very boring and are unable to invent witty insults.
    3. It is reported that a majority of married white women support Trump. Why if he is so misogynistic?
    4. "sociopathology, narcissistic personality disorder,"--surely common enough in politicians.
    5. " unprecedented violence and cruelty on refugees seeking asylum,"
    You missed the saga of MS St Louis packed with German Jews that was denied permission to land in many countries including USA.

  21. Scott Church says:

    Aron, agreed on all points... As you know, I tend to be passionate and given to hyperbole when my gut is wrenched. :-)

    My larger point regarding Trump's mental fitness was less about whether mental health professionals are in a position to diagnose someone they haven't personally examined, than with showing that it's not just ad-hominem or partisanship to suggest that he isn't mentally, emotionally, or spiritually fit for office. And yes, by "dictator" I was referring more to his heart and mindset than the actual reality of his presidency (praise God for separation of powers!). But make no mistake... if separation of powers were ever removed, and his heart was allowed to bear its full fruit in our society unrestrained, he most certainly would be a dictator. I find that telling, and not something that it's wise for us to ignore.

    Ultimately, the larger picture I'm trying to paint is simply that a tree is known by its fruit (Luke 6:43-45), and the extent to which we're willing to walk beside a man like Trump and sign up for everything he stands for, is the extent to which we're willing to be partakers in that fruit. If we're to be salt and light to a world in need we must stand for something different... something other than the things you've written about in this post... something different than the things I and others here have documented above. As Elie Wiesel once said,

    "We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe."

    Yes, there is a risk in taking sides and being passionate about such things... a risk of overstating claims as I am often given to doing. But as God's people, if we don't speak out--if we don't call the Pharisees and abusers of our day "a brood of vipers" (Matt. 23:33)--who will? It's a risky business, I know. Especially for people like me who as you know all too well, can at times be firebrands. But we have to try. These times demand it.

  22. Mactoul says:

    I am mildly puzzled by your reference to "the societal norms that the President is violating". America is a country that has same-sex marriage, most liberal abortion law in the world and now transgender lunacy.
    Obama invoked divine blessing on Planned Parenthood--Hillary Clinton was witty about sodomy-murder of Col Qaddafi---"we came, we saw, he died". But when Trump, a talk show host is similarly witty, it gets to be called violation of the American norms. America isn't a normal society--it increasingly doesn't have norms.

    "if separation of powers were ever removed, and his heart was allowed to bear its full fruit in our society unrestrained, he most certainly would be a dictator."
    And about how many people it can be said that they won't be a dictator under these conditions? Can one claim oneself to be a saint if given unlimited powers (no separation of powers) ?

  23. TY says:

    1. “Storming borders is what invaders do. The caravan was not an invasion till it rushed the border.” Response: The same caravan was thousands of miles away from the U.S border when Trump and Fox News declared it an invasion in the lead up to the mid-terms. Where do you find words like “storm”?
    2. “The same can be asked to you. How many millions asylum-seekers do you want?”
    Response: How about a round figure like 6,000,000 Jews including those aboard MS St Louis. How different the world would have been today.
    3. "unprecedented violence and cruelty on refugees seeking asylum," You missed the saga of MS St Louis packed with German Jews that was denied permission to land in many countries including USA. Response: Missing the saga is irrelevant; missing the lesson of history is important (related to point #2). Since when two wrongs make a right and give Trump moral and political cover for his anti-immigration and anti-refugee polices? What is the factual information for using “unprecedented”.
    4. That Mrs. Clinton warns about the immigration problem is a bit like arguing physics or cosmology from authority, but if you are going to cite authority, a better choice would have been Angela Merkel who “walked the walk” of a leader with compassion for immigrabts and paid a price – like a famous person called Jesus of Nazareth. By the way, Hillary Clinton has Presidential aspirations, so her recent views on immigration make for good politics.

    In his Essay, "Politics and the English Language" (1946) George Orwell wrote: ‘The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”

    I'll just leave you with these points and for the same reason as Scott’s who says it better than I could “your moral compass is fundamentally different than mine and I have no further words to offer that likely ever would.”

  24. Matt says:

    I've been reading your blogs lately, and thought I commented on this, but it's not here, but will try again :)
    I don't understand why you think that immigration policy should be based on you and your intellectual friends. Can you explain that? Unfortunately, immigration policy, for decades, has allowed millions of people into the country, and we have no idea who they are or even where they come from. The result of this is it takes a long time to revisit every single person who is here, and if they are here legally.
    Your form of argument, that some policy "harms people I know", reeks of post-modern millennial gibberish. I could cite almost any policy, and state that it "harms people I know". Many people could cite tax policy, where people end up in prison because their accountant was inept, or because they had to choose between making a house payment or paying their taxes. I could cite where all sorts of examples where policies harm "people I know". This is called an Argument from Anecdote. It means nothing pertaining to law. I'd say that sucking the brains out of babies right before they are born "harms people I don't know" is a much more solid argument. How does appealing to people you "know" have anything whatsoever to do with laws, justice, security, and good or bad policies? What happens if you don't know them? Is it then ok? What happens if they aren't physicists that you consider smart? All of this just seems to be very poor argumentation.
    If you think that illegal immigrants should be able to walk into this country anytime they feel like it, or that legal immigrants should never be vetted further, then you should make the case as to why you think that. If your only reasoning is that the people you happen to know are brilliant in your opinion, then I think you have a long way to go in making your case.

  25. Aron Wall says:

    Your previous post originally did not appear due to a mistake by the spam filter. However, when I saw it, I chose not to restore it, because it was excessively insulting; in fact it contained far more insults than arguments, which is a little ironic considering that such insults are far more irrelevant to immigation policy than anecdotes are. It's easy to argue against any position you don't like, if you can just round it down to the nearest fallacy, and then attack that fallacy whether or not it's what the other person wrote. And then throw in some ad hominem to spice it up.

    This second comment is slightly better, and therefore I am not deleting it. However, if any of your further replies contain further low-content insults like "single-focused, bubble intellectual" (from your previous post) and "post-modern millennial gibberish" (from this one) then I will ban you permanently. Consider yourself warned.

    Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I'm happy to respond to your actual argument, to the extent that you have one. You accuse me of wanting to base immigration policy 100% on whether it is good for my friends without thinking about the big picture. My response is simply to deny the accusation. Nowhere in the post to which I responded, did I say that my political views are (or should be) determined primarily by which policies are good for the people I know. That may have been your takeaway from my blog post, but it didn't come from anything I wrote.

    If you had read my post carefully (which I somewhat doubt) you would have seen the sentence where I said that (apart from tax policy) "it's fairly rare for political issues to affect me directly" implying that most of my political views are not normally based on my own personal experiences. In this case, the personal experiences are gravy on the top, but they are not the primary reason why I believe that the President's immigation policies are bad for the nation. (You might have also noticed that a good chunk of my blog post contains quotations to the Bible, and also references to news articles about people I don't know.)

    What I said was that it's good to notice when political views actually do affect people one knows. This is simply because if a national policy negatively affects people I know, then the odds are quite good that it similarly negatively affects a lot of other people, that I don't know. However, if I thought there were other good effects nationwide that outweighed these bad effects, I would still support the policy. In this case, however, I don't think the good effects outweigh the bad, even when I take into account the national security interests of people I don't know (and weigh them against the economic opportunities of immigration for people I don't know).

    That's because, even in the case of a person I don't know, waiting 20 years to give somebody permanent residency after they get a permanent job, or telling them they can't work the first 2 months of their job but then giving them the visa and job eventually anyway, in no way helps national security because (in the very unlikely event that they are terrorists or criminals) the lack of this status while they are still living in the USA does not prevent them from committing crimes on US soil. Nor have these two changes in policy, so far as I know, actually involved "vetting" such people with any greater degree of rigor than in the previous administration. (If they do, I'd be happy to hear evidence for this.) Mostly they just involve lowering the number of total number of visas approved. So it just hurts them, without in any way helping us.

    I don't think there is anybody whose political opinions are entirely unaffected by their own personal experiences, nor should they be. The thing about anecdotes is at least you can be pretty sure they're genuine, unlike news and statistics that are filtered through somebody else's agenda and could conceal a lot of information.

    (As for abortion, that is a complete non sequitur, since I also believe that abortion is immoral due to it harming unborn children. But this post was not an election guide intended to cover all possible political issues, it is about one particular negative policy by the current administration.)

  26. Matt says:

    I can at least state that I'm impressed with your time management abilities lol... You are a physicist going into Cambridge, scholar, and you actually read my post pertaining to your argument pertaining to how Trump "harms" people you know?
    You: " However, when I saw it, I chose not to restore it, because it was excessively insulting; in fact it contained far more insults than arguments, which is a little ironic considering that such insults are far more irrelevant to immigation policy than anecdotes are."
    How? Exactly 0 fallacious arguments are relevant to immigration policy, or any other argument or policy. Anecdotal reasoning in no way pertains to immigration policy, nor do ad-hominens. My insult was the annoyance at the original fallacy, it was not directed toward your arguments on immigration (because in this article you had none, just anecdote). Your entire argument (in this article) could be reduced to "I know people, and they were harmed by Trump's immigration policies", which of course means absolutely nothing. El Chapo, the drug lord, was also harmed by Trump's immigration policy.
    You seemed to appeal to a sort of Special Pleading in your case, because the people you know are apparently brilliant or something, so this supposedly makes it super-bad.
    In short, I was not insulting your arguments pertaining to immigration (I found none), and I was insulting because the entire framework of your argument here was based on fallacious reasoning.
    You: "It's easy to argue against any position you don't like, if you can just round it down to the nearest fallacy..."
    -Don't use them then. They simply have no place in a rational discussion. In WW2, I could find a million anecdotal stories about how what we were doing to the Germans (ie Dresden bombings) hurt smart people, moral people, innocent people, evil people and everything in between. This had nothing whatsoever to do with what the only rational options were, and the arguments pertaining to them.
    I won't bore you with any more of my simpleton critique. Please do ban me, I'll be more than obliged. Go find that safe space where there are no insults when logical fallacies are the basis of an article. It's a happy place, and easy place.

  27. Matt says:

    After some prayer and some reflecting, and my wife telling me I get rude and even anti-biblical when arguing about issues that I feel are important to me, I apologize.
    I find your blog extraordinary in providing information on many questions I have about religion/science or God/science and want to thank you for that, but when I read this particular post, I had strong opinions and now feel I was out place. You know how politics can divide and conquer people. Not an excuse.
    Thanks very much for all the great knowledge you provide for people looking for answers on science and religion, and it is a very valuable resource. Maybe the entire content of my posts should have been "I feel like there's a lot in this article that is Argument from Anecdote", and left it at just that, and that only.
    Hope you'll accept my apology.

  28. Aron Wall says:

    Thanks for the apology, Matt, and I'm glad you liked my other articles.

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