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Xenophobic Migration Bans Won't Prevent Terrorism In America

In fact, it's highly likely that Trump's policy will do much more harm than good.

31/01/2017 1:35 PM AEDT | Updated 31/01/2017 1:36 PM AEDT
Brian Snyder / Reuters
"The banning of migration and travel from certain predominantly Islamic nations will support extremist propaganda that the West is persecuting Muslims."

US President Donald Trump isn't going to be swayed by protests against his anti-migration policies. Last weekend's emotive responses to Trump's divisive migration executive orders will only serve to shore up his support base and resolve.

Trump's post-truth public relations machine is ingenious in the way it taps into the economically disenfranchised and politically dissatisfied American voters. This team will ensure that celebrities spruiking disgust from podiums, and protesters waving placards, will be presented as evidence that the 'bleeding hearts' have no interest in making America great.

Trump is empowered by the idea that his support base doesn't recognise the political influence of elites. He might not be wrong: Hillary Clinton's posse of A-List celebrities failed to get her elected.

The US has always been of two minds about its borders and immigration: one side's culturally linked to a tradition of immigration and the other's focused on strong borders as part of a political culture of isolationism. Trump didn't create this polarised division. He just sold the idea that immigration was to blame for America's woes.

America is a nation built on migration. This connection had in the past created a disposition to welcome newcomers. In more recent times the welcoming of immigrants to America has been predicated on the individual's successful transition through the citizenship process. Without citizenship, a migrant remains legally and culturally 'alien'.

Trump's assumption that banning migration or travel to America from certain countries will prevent terrorism is deeply flawed. While a record number of border walls are being constructed across the globe for those who are trusted, the crossing of international borders is becoming easier.

For those American Muslims who are already feeling disenfranchised and disconnected Trump's migration policies could make them vulnerable to extremist ideas.

For everyone else movement is being restricted. But this selective permeability is challenged by the reality that assumptions about the risk from the citizens of specific countries are flawed. Automatic assumptions about the risk posed by travellers with European passports, for example, are challenged by events such as the recent Paris and Brussels attacks.

The banning of migration and travel from certain predominantly Islamic nations will support extremist propaganda that the West is persecuting Muslims. For the average Muslim American, it'll reinforce the idea that their faith is overwhelmingly viewed through a security lens.

When it comes to terrorism the journey to radicalisation is a personal one. But there's some common threads: isolation, disenfranchisement, disengagement from society and mental health, are strong contributing factors.

For those American Muslims who are already feeling disenfranchised and disconnected Trump's migration policies could make them vulnerable to extremist ideas.

For the average Muslim American, it'll reinforce the idea that their faith is overwhelmingly viewed through a security lens.

Trumps latest migration policy won't prevent terrorism on America's shores. In fact, it's highly likely that his policy will do much more harm than good when it comes to violent extremism.

Over the weekend Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was able to secure Trump's continued support for his government's strategy to resettle asylum seekers currently in detention in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. This is a crucial move to resolve one of the most contentious components of Australia's migration system.

Despite Turnbull's difficult position, Australia isn't without options for responding to Trump's policies. We're recognised as a country that's tough on migration and border security. With such a reputation Australia is a perfect partner for a Trump government seeking to get tough on border security.

Australian policy makers could provide Americans with an alternative to ineffective, broad-brushed, xenophobic migration bans.

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