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National Review Writer Says Restrictions On Refugees Are Moderate

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We go now to David French. He is a staff writer for the National Review, the conservative journal. He is an attorney. He also served as a lawyer in Iraq in the Army Reserves. And he's with us now via Skype. David French, thanks so much for joining us.

DAVID FRENCH: Well, thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.

MARTIN: Yesterday you wrote a piece about the executive order, which you said separates fact from hysteria. And you said the hysterical rhetoric about President Trump's executive order on refugees is out of control. Just give us a sense of what you meant by that.

FRENCH: Yeah. You know, you began to see, starting on Friday night and early Saturday morning, you know, comments like, the Statue of Liberty is weeping from Senator Schumer and from Nancy Pelosi, for example, images of the Statue of Liberty upside down and things that I think were out of proportion to what the executive order actually did. I think there were some good things about it, some bad things about it that are now - even now being corrected, and some of it that was just actually kind of normal.

MARTIN: You argue that these are actually fairly moderate restrictions on refugee resettlement and, in fact, that this actually brings refugee resettlement down to historical levels.

FRENCH: Right. If you look at the rate of refugee resettlement in the United States during the eight years of the Bush administration, Trump is actually bringing it to a number higher than the average of the eight years during Bush's terms. And if you compare it with the average of President Obama's years, with the exception of 2016, it's actually not far from that. So that's not a number out of line with the experience of the 15 of the last 16 years.

MARTIN: Let's talk about the way that this order was rolled out and implemented. For example, two of the men detained at JFK last night, who've since been released, were former contractors with the U.S. government in Iraq. And there are credible reports that people with green cards are being detained or being removed from planes and not being allowed to return to the United States. Do you agree with that?

FRENCH: Oh, absolutely not. I mean, you know, I said there were some parts that were good and then some parts that were bad. This was bad not only in substance but in implementation. It was incompetence. You know, a green card holder is a legal permanent resident of the United States. They've been through round after round of vetting and security checks. If you talk to anyone who's received a green card, you can't help but be impressed at the level of scrutiny that they've been through and passed. So to apply it to green card holders is madness. It's also, I think, deeply immoral to apply it to allies and friends overseas who have sacrificed, serving as interpreters, serving beside American troops as allied soldiers.

You know, there was a way to do this very simply and easily, where green card holders, those in transit and interpreters and proven allies of the U.S. are allowed to come back into the country in the normal process that would have been minimal disruption. And that's part of the just grotesquely incompetent rollout that we saw that I think was deeply damaging, not just to our relationships with our allies overseas, but also to the body politic here at home because those terrible mistakes are part of the reason why people got so angry. And I can understand and sympathize with the anger, if you're a green card holder trying to come back into this country and you're blocked. That was inexcusable.

MARTIN: That's David French. He's a staff writer for the National Review. We're talking about his piece, "Trump's Executive Order On Refugees - Separating Fact From Hysteria." He was kind enough to join us via Skype. David French, thanks so much for speaking with us.

FRENCH: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.