No, Jimmy Carter Did Not Ban Muslims From the U.S.

Donald Trump supporters say his call to ban all Muslims is merely a repeat of former President Jimmy Carter’s action during the Iran hostage crisis.

A “total and complete shutdown” of American borders to Muslims. That’s what presidential candidate Donald Trump called for in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack:

“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”

Reaction to Trump’s call was predictably mixed.

“Liberals were furious,” the Federalist Papers website says, when it was pointed out that Carter “also banned immigration for certain folks during the 1980 Iran Hostage Crisis.”

Actually, I think it’s more likely those liberals were laughing that Trump conservatives were trying to justify their candidate’s action by way of a Democratic president that, by most accounts, they despise and consider a failure.

But the site then posts a video clip from ABC News of Carter speaking at a press briefing about sanctions he was imposing against Iran after Americans were taken hostage from the Iranian embassy. Those hostages, more than 60 personnel from the embassy, were held for a total of 444 days from 1979 into 1981.

Trump supporters cite two of Carter’s actions, part of a group of sanctions against Iran, as “proof” that Trump’s call to “ban all Muslims” from entering the company following the San Bernardino mass shooting and revelations that the gunmen were Muslim extremists.

But comparing Trump’s call to ban Muslims to Carter’s actions is like comparing apples and oranges.

Carter did require, as part of the sanctions against Iran, that all ordered all Iranians with student visas to report to U.S. immigration officials by Dec. 14 or else face possible deportation. It turns out, as Politifact reported, nearly 60,000 students had registered as required, about 430 had been deported and 5,000 had left voluntarily.

As part of the sanctions announced on April 7, 1980, well into the crisis, Carter “ordered administration officials to ‘invalidate all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States, effective today. We will not reissue visas, nor will we issue new visas, except for compelling and proven humanitarian reasons or where the national interest of our own country requires. This directive will be interpreted very strictly.’”

But as Politifact and others point out, there were major differences between Carter’s actions 35 years ago and Trump’s recent call on a ban of all Muslim immigrants.

For one thing, Carter was dealing with a specific political diplomatic incident, as Iran was not willing to intervene when extremists there kidnapped American citizens. The sanctions, then, were meant to punish Iran, not the extremists, because Iran refused to step in and help the U.S. in a situation that occurred on Iranian soil.

But then this points out another major difference: Carter had a specific, well-defined target for this diplomatic action: a country. Anyone else in the Middle East, no matter which other country they may have come from, would not be under the same restrictions. The sanctions were limited to Iran, the center of the problem.

Trump doesn’t want to ban citizens of a specific country; he called for a ban of members of a religion, a vastly different call and one far more difficult to actually accomplish, since religion has nothing to do with a country’s borders.

Thirty-five years ago, it was probably much more difficult than it would be today to fake from which you were trying to immigrate to the United States. Technology, one may imagine, might make that problem a bit easier today. But faking one’s religion is always possible for someone determined enough, say, a jihadist, to come to the country to cause problems.

Just as there are Muslims in the United States, which some less-informed people continually refer to as a “Christian nation” rather than a nation in which the majority of people identify as Christian — and there’s a huge difference between the two — there are Christians in Middle Eastern countries. Some practice their faith, we are told, at the risk of their lives, which is what real Christian persecution looks like.

What kind of bureaucratic machinery would have to be instituted for such a plan to even have a chance of working?

If you can get all Muslims — wherever they happen to come from — to admit that they’re Muslim, including those Muslim extremists who seek to do harm, such a plan might work. But that leaves us pondering this simple question: if you’re a Jihadist, why would you admit your plans before the fact to the very people who could keep you from coming to the country to carry them out?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.