I just signed a petition, Academics Against Immigration Executive Order to oppose the Trump administration’s recent executive order. You can find the full text here along with the names of those who have signed up. (Graduate students are in the “Other Signatories” category and may take a while to update.) I like this petition because it clearly lists the names of people so as to avoid claims of duplication and/or bogus signatures for anonymous petitions. There are lots of academic superstars on the list, including (I’m proud to say) my current statistics professor Michael I. Jordan and my statistics professor William Fithian from last semester.

The petition lists three compelling reasons to oppose the order, but let me just chime in with some extra thoughts.

I understand the need to keep our country safe. But in order to do so, there has to be a correct tradeoff in terms of security versus profiling (for lack of a better word) and in terms of costs versus benefits.

On the spectrum of security, to one end are those who deny the existence of radical Islam and the impact of religion on terrorism. On the other end are those who would happily ban an entire religion and place the blame and burden on millions of law-abiding people fleeing oppression. This order is far too close to the second end.

In terms of costs and benefits, I find an analogy to policing useful. Mayors and police chiefs shouldn’t be assigning their police officers uniformly throughout cities. The police should be targeted in certain hotspots of crime as indicated by past trends. That’s the most logical and cost-effective way to crack down on crime.

Likewise, if were are serious about stopping radical Islamic terrorism, putting a blanket ban on Muslims is like the “uniform policing strategy” and will also cause additional problems since Muslims would (understandably!) feel unfairly targeted. For instance, Iran is already promising “proportional responses”. I also have to mention that the odds of being killed by a refugee terrorist are so low that the amount of anxiety towards them does not justify the cost.

By the way, I’m still waiting for when Saudi Arabia — the source of 15 out of 19 terrorists responsible for 9/11 — gets on the executive order list. I guess President Trump has business dealings there? (Needless to say, that’s why conflict of interest laws exist.)

I encourage American academics to take a look at this order and (hopefully) sign the petition. I also urge our Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, to talk to Trump and get him to rescind and substantially revise the order. While I didn’t state this publicly to anyone, I have more respect for Mattis than any one else in the Trump cabinet, and hopefully that will remain the case.