Seven Countries

On Friday, President Trump signed an Executive Order targeting immigrants and refugees from 7 majority Muslim countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. The order has been met with strong protests, questions about it’s legality, and numerous horror stories about children detained in isolation and Iraqi interpreters – who risked their lives and the lives of their families in service to our country – being barred entry.

I’ve been trying to figure out where that list of seven countries comes from. As it turns out, this is not a particularly easy task.

The Executive Order does not refer to the countries directly. Rather, it reads:

I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States,

INA refers to the Immigration and Nationality Act which was originally created in 1952, though it has been amended several times since then. As the INA website explains:

Although it stands alone as a body of law, the Act is also contained in the United States Code (U.S.C.). The code is a collection of all the laws of the United States…When browsing the INA or other statutes you will often see reference to the U.S. Code citation…Although it is correct to refer to a specific section by either its INA citation or its U.S. code, the INA citation is more commonly used.

So, when the Executive Order refers to “217(a)(12) of the INA” and “8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12),” those are two citations for the same thing, both included for completeness.

Now, Section 217 of the INA deals with “Visa Waiver Program for Certain Visitors” and 217(a) reads:

(a) ESTABLISHMENT OF PROGRAM.-The Attorney General and the Secretary of State are authorized to establish a program (hereinafter in this section referred to as the “program”) under which the requirement of paragraph (7)(B)(i)(II) of section 212(a) may be waived by the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of State, and in accordance with this section, in the case of an alien who meets the following requirements:

Bullet points (1) – (11) then list the requirements for “aliens” receiving a waiver.

Now, I’m no legal scholar, but there is no bullet point 12.

The text for the INA is hosted by the Department for Homeland Security, and the text for the related United States Code, 8 U.S.C. 1187, is hosted by the U.S. Government Publishing Office. Neither website includes a point 12. So I could tell you about 217(a)(11) of the INA and 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(11), but I can’t tell you about the law referenced in President Trump’s Executive Order: section 217(a)(12) of the INA or 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12).

So where does that list of 7 countries come from?

I assumed I must be going about this all wrong, and that someone else had figured it all out already.

I looked at the New York Times helpful annotation of the Executive Order. Following the paragraph referencing section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), the New York Times annotates:

The countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

But where does that list of 7 countries come from?

President Trump has argued that his order is not substantially different from measures taken by President Obama (Fact Check: False). The list of countries may have come from President Obama, however, as CNN indicates:

In December 2015, President Obama signed into law a measure placing limited restrictions on certain travelers who had visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011. Two months later, the Obama administration added Libya, Somalia, and Yemen to the list, in what it called an effort to address “the growing threat from foreign terrorist fighters.”

This implies that the list of affected countries can be found in two press releases from the Department of Homeland Security, the first from January 21, 2016 reads:

The United States today began implementing changes under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (the Act). U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) welcomes more than a million passengers arriving to the United States every day and is committed to facilitating legitimate travel while maintaining the highest standards of security and border protection. Under the Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

  • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
  • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

The second release from February 18, 2016 then adds Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as “countries of concern.”

Now, Politifact has a great comparison between President Obama’s and President Trump’s policies…but I’m still unclear on how the 2016 list of countries ended up in President Trump’s Executive Order. And what is the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 anyway?

I’m glad you asked.

The official Congressional website indicates the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 as coming from H.R.158: An act to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide enhanced security measures for the visa waiver program, and for other purposes.

This act was approved by the house and voted into law as part of an appropriations act (HR 2029).

Now, this bill includes:

(SEC. 3) Section 217(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1187(a)), as amended by this Act, is further amended by adding at the end the following: (12) NOT PRESENT IN IRAQ, SYRIA, OR ANY OTHER COUNTRY OR AREA OF CONCERN.

…in a country that is designated by the Secretary of State under section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (50 U.S.C. 2405) (as continued in effect under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.)), section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2780), section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2371), or any other provision of law, as a country, the government of which has repeatedly provided support of acts of international terrorism;

None of that is particularly helpful, though again the related Homeland Security press release identifies the affected countries as Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria, with Libya, Somalia, and Yemen added a month later.

Now, while I still don’t understand why there isn’t a section 217(a)(12) of the INA, it’s important to note that this list of countries was affected by a visa waiver program. As the DHS release clarifies:

These individuals will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at our embassies or consulates. For those who need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. embassies and consulates stand ready to process applications on an expedited basis.

And it goes on – as HR 158 does – to clarify that the change will not effect foreign nationals who were in the named countries “in order to perform military service in the armed forces of a program country.”

So those Iraqi interpreters?

Yeah, we should let them in.


Introducing The Transpartisan Review

In case you missed it in all the commotion of the past month, I want to encourage you to check out an important project launched on Inauguration Day 2017 by a handful of members and friends of NCDD – The Transpartisan Review.  I had the pleasure to join the team behind this new publication a few months ago, lending my skills as designer and editor, and I’d like to share a bit more about it.

Originally introduced to the NCDD community last fall at our NCDD 2016 conferenceThe Transpartisan Review is a new digital journal dedicated to sharing thoughts and insights from the growing transpartisan community.

In its inaugural issue, The Transpartisan Review explores the “transpartisan moment” we find ourselves in after the latest presidential election. Executive editors Lawrence Chickering and James Turner posit that we have reached a turning point in the history of our democracy – a transitional phase – which is offering us an opportunity to replace the “partisanship” splitting our country with a new form of political engagement incorporating the best features of left and right.

Alongside this assessment of the current political climate, this first issue of The Transpartisan Review shares several articles on a variety of topics, including contributions from distinguished NCDD members Joan Blades, Mark Gerzon, and Michael Briand (who also served as managing editor). It examines perspectives from the political side of NCDD’s #BridgingOurDivides campaign with articles contemplating how to be a better neighbor, an alternative approach to foreign policy, and even a different way to look at terrorism – all from a perspective that seeks to go beyond the traditional left-right divide.

Not only are they effective conversation starters, but these features represent the beginning of a dialogue the editors of the journal hope to encourage with and between its readership as we all gather to discuss the impact the new administration will have on the United States and the rest of the world.

You can read the entire issue online or download it for free at the journal’s website,, and while you’re there, you can also check out Chickering and Turner’s Transpartisan Notes, a series of short-form articles on current issues viewed through a transpartisan lens.

You can look forward to more critical contributions to the work of bridging our nation’s divides in future issues of The Transpartisan Review and from this great team of NCDDers and transpartisan leaders.

taking satisfaction from politics in the face of injustice

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick.

From Jack Gilbert, “A Brief for the Defense.”

On Saturday, I ate my 50th birthday dinner with my beloved wife and younger daughter in a restaurant in Cambridge, MA. While we waited for the check, we heard about the protest at Logan Airport and decided to go. I then watched two of my favorite people stand against injustice in the company of a large and passionate band of our fellow citizens.

To say that I enjoyed my birthday evening seems wrong. It sounds a bit like saying, “The US Coast Guard turned the refugee-laden ship St Louis away from Miami in May 1939, and 254 of the passengers were soon murdered in the Holocaust, but I enjoyed standing on the dock with a ‘Let them in!’ sign.”

But there is another way of looking at these situations. Politics is often about cruelty and injustice. Sometimes the people who respond with optional political actions–like carrying signs in Logan’s Terminal E–are not directly at risk. We may nevertheless take satisfaction from our political action if we contribute, in some ultimate way, to a better world.

For one thing, we should draw satisfaction because that motivates more activity. If politics is mere sacrifice, everyone except the most direct victims (the ones with their backs to the wall) will drop out sooner or later. I think it’s wise for activists to advertise the emotional benefits of action.

More than that, we should take satisfaction from politics, even if others are suffering while we are safe, because consequential public action is part of a dignified life–an aspect of dignity too often denied to us by bureaucracies and markets. Hannah Arendt thought that the American Framers originally revolted in defense of their own private liberties, but they discovered, as they made the new republic together, that “no one could be called happy without his share in public happiness, that no one could be called free without his experience in public freedom, and that no one could be called either happy or free without participating, and having a share, in public business” (On Revolution,  p. 247). Lin-Manuel Miranda captures that feeling at the very end of Hamilton, when his hero sings, “I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me. America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me. You let me make a difference.”

We shouldn’t wish for injustices so that we can make a difference. (Young-man Hamilton does–singing “God, I wish there was a war! / Then we could prove that we’re worth more /
Than anyone bargained for…”–but he outgrows that sentiment.) When, however, we are confronted with injustices that we did not choose, we may take some joy from rising up together with those we love:

For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood
Upon our side, we who were strong in love!
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.
Now was it that both found, the meek and lofty
Did both find, helpers to their heart’s desire,
And stuff at hand, plastic as they could wish;
Were called upon to exercise their skill,
Not in Utopia, subterranean fields,
Or some secreted island, Heaven knows where!
But in the very world, which is the world
Of all of us,–the place where in the end
We find our happiness, or not at all!

– Wordsworth, “The French Revolution

See also: unhappiness and injustice are different problems ; you have a right and a responsibility to attend to your own happinessnotes on Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution; and Mill’s question: If you achieved justice, would you be happy?

Piano Paesaggistico Regionale del Friuli Venezia Giulia [Friuli Venezia Giulia Regional Landscape Planning]

Il Piano Paesaggistico è uno strumento di pianificazione finalizzato alla salvaguardia e gestione del territorio nella sua globalità. Il suo ruolo è quello di integrare la tutela e la valorizzazione del paesaggio all’interno dei processi di trasformazione del territorio, con una funzione strategica, definendo delle linee guida per il suo...


There have been a number of rallies, protests, and marches lately, which has gotten me thinking about Charles’ Tilly’s delightful acronym WUNC: worthiness, unity, numbers, and commitment. As Tilly writes:

The term WUNC sounds odd, but it represents something quite familiar. WUNC displays can take the form of statements, slogans, or labels that imply worthiness, unity, numbers, and commitment.

The combination of tactics used and WUNC displays, Tilly argues, is what gives a campaign its distinctiveness.

Consider the Pussyhats of the women’s march: the sea of pink emphasized the march’s impressive numbers and indicated participant’s unity. Importantly, this type of display operates on both an external and internal level. That is, observers note participant’s numbers and unity; while participants get energized by the event’s numbers and unity.

This internal effect is particularly important because rallies often serve primarily as a mechanism to energy loyal participants, rather than as tactic to achieve a direct outcome.

When I was headed to yesterday’s protest against President Trump’s anti-immigrant legislation, I was thinking about this piece in particular. Would there be some visible element that would make a person’s participation in the rally clear? Probably not with such short notice.

There was a group on my train with their protest signs out. Another passenger stopped and started asking them questions; where was the rally today? What time did it start? What exactly did the targeted executive orders do?

On my way home following the rally, I got a lot of reactions to my own protest sign. Had I been protesting at the airport? How was the crowd at Copley? One woman just honked enthusiastically as I walked by.

There are so many things going on right now; so many ways that the pluralism of our society is under attack, it seems nearly impossible to come up with a single symbol that could encompass all we stand for and all we believe.

But maybe we don’t have to. A WUNC display doesn’t need to be as tidy as matching hats or colorful pins. Perhaps a miscellaneous smattering of signage is enough. Perhaps these varied messages – some funny, some sad, some angry, some simple, each subject to the peculiarities of its maker – perhaps each of the signs are indeed united under a single banner: resist.


Occupy Flagstaff House (#occupyflagstaffhouse)

Occupy Flagstaff House was a protest against government corruption and failure to provide basic social services. Led by a small group of middle-class professionals, the protest began as an online hashtag #occupyflagstaffhouse but soon migrated to the streets where people marched on Flagstaff House, the office and residence of then...

The councils of children and adolescents in Brazil

Definition The councils are collegiate bodies created by law and are composed of representatives of the State and civil society with the purpose of producing deliberations on the various areas of public policy. The Child and Adolescent Rights Councils were provided for by the Child and Adolescent Statute (Federal Law...

The National Policy of Social Participation

1st version 05/16 by Priscila Zanandrez Martins, UFMG, Brazil. Problems and Purpose The National System of Social Participation is organized, so, in a set of institutional measures and strengthening of the tools and existing participation mechanisms and their interface with the new forms and languages, especially virtual, in a flexible...

registration open for Frontiers of Democracy

Tickets are now available for Frontiers of Democracy, June 22-24. Frontiers is an annual conference hosted by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, with partners. This year’s theme is defending the frontiers of democracy against undemocratic, xenophobic, and illiberal trends around the world. Some of the time will be spent working with this framework, and others that take different approaches:

Purchase now to hold your place. Regular tickets cost $240, and there are discounts for current students and Tisch College’s Community partners. Alumni of the Summer Institute of Civic Studies attend free.

As always, the format of Frontiers is highly interactive; most of the concurrent sessions are “learning exchanges” rather than presentations or panels. We welcome proposals for learning exchanges for 2017. Please use this form to submit ideas.

Frontiers is public. It follows immediately after the Summer Institute of Civic Studies, a selective 2-week seminar for scholars, practitioners, and advanced graduate students that is capped at 20 participants. Applications for the Institute are being accepted now. Email me ( your resume, a graduate transcript if applicable, and a cover letter explaining your interest.