April 24 // April 18, 2017
When (sometimes) good points are (often) made badly.
AKA: The daily news, this one courtesy of Jeff Sessions.
Trying to unravel the thinking behind some of today’s most outrageous headlines is never quite as straightforward as we hope it will be. At Two Weeks Ago News, we’re trying to figure out Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ comment about “an island in the Pacific,” the resulting outrage we all posted and the U.S. immigration policy.
Let’s stipulate to the following, and hope that people of good will agree: Regardless of your opinion of Attorney General Sessions, it’s pretty likely he realizes Hawaii is a state. If that’s the case – and we think it is – it seems to us that his comment was based on two things: the fairly isolated location of the Hawaiian Islands and the state’s experiences with immigration.
In other words, Hawaii may not have a significant illegal immigration problem, nor one that would seem to put citizens at risk for terrorist activities. Given that, it could be that Attorney Sessions was questioning why a judge in Hawaii would feel the need to challenge and overturn the Presidential Immigration 2.0 order, which many people call “the Muslim ban.”
So let's pretend that our theory is a plausible explanation, and dig around a little for some background. (We know. This is EXACTLY what people who share outrage and memes don’t care to do. So we will.)
Q: What takes 12 hours and 17 minutes?
A: Deciding to get on the treadmill to take a 30-minute run.
B: Dropping off a form at the DMV.
C. The travel time for a non-stop flight from Indonesia to Hawaii.
D. All of the above.
The answer is D. But why Indonesia, you may ask? Well, it has the largest population of Muslims in the world (209 million), with 87% of its population following the Muslim religion. It’s also geographically the closest Muslim country to Hawaii (6,371 miles).
Indonesia hasn't escaped terrorist activity within its borders. For a list of some of the more recent attacks or attempted attacks, try this site. For the latest news – from about two weeks ago as it turns out - try this one.
But let’s leave that aside for a moment. It's not on the travel ban list but given the unrest and violence, maybe Indonesian Muslims are relocating to Hawaii. Are they? Nope. Are other Muslims moving to Hawaii? Your intrepid editor checked a few sources (and dismissed a few that were clearly agenda-driven) to determine the following:
The following statistics come from The Department of State:
Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration / Office of Admissions – Refuge Processing Center / Refugee Arrivals / by Placement State and Nationality / All Nationalities / October 1, 2016 – March 31, 2017
Who went to Hawaii?
- Number of refugee cases: 1
- Number of individuals: 3
- Country of Origin: Burma
Wait. Immigration is not the reason Hawaii had a problem with the ban. The problem with the travel ban is that it interferes in the lives of its citizens. It stops family members from visiting loved ones in Hawaii. That’s true, and that has to be an unwelcome development for the Muslims living in Hawaii. The question is: how significant will this be? According to Pew Research, Muslims make up about 1% of the U.S. population overall and less than 1% in Hawaii. But no one really knows since the census doesn’t include a question about religion.
Still, for every law-abiding person living in the Middle East – no doubt the majority of them – it’s unfortunate that those with families in Hawaii are unable to travel and spend time with them. Well, they can’t if they’re citizens of Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen, and were planning to visit Hawaii in the next six months. Well, for the next four or five months, at this point. But still - that's a problem.
Wait. The lives of everyday Hawaiians aren’t the problem with the ban. The problem with the travel ban is tourism. The ban has an enormous impact on tourists who can’t visit Hawaii now. People from Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen won’t be able to vacation in Hawaii. Well, for the next few months, anyway.
Again, unfortunate. But you won’t be surprised to learn that TWAN spent a little time on the Hawaii Board of Tourism site. The tourism / visitor breakdown looks like this: about 67% from the mainland U.S., 17% from Japan, 6% from Canada, 5% from other parts of Asia and 2% from Europe. If our math is correct, that leaves 3% of the visitors coming from the REST OF THE WORLD. The Tourist Bureau also indicated that less than 1% of their visitors come from the Middle East.
We found tons of charts and numbers and stats, including the fact that almost 9 million people visited Hawaii in 2016. They track visitors from the following specific (and "other") markets:
US West, US East, Japan, Canada, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, "other Asia," New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, "other Latin America."
Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority with this note added: “January through June 2016 international visitor arrival statistics for Japan, Other Asia, Oceania, Europe and Latin America MMA countries were revised with updated information received from the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO).”
Here are two other markets and the number of visitors they represent:
Visitors 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Jan 2017 Jan 2016 Feb 2017 Feb 2016
Middle East 3,565 3,182 5,784 6,804 5,451 278 348 155 403
Africa 1,345 1,111 1,877 2,090 1,725 89 141 38 119
Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority with statistics based on survey data.
Why the numbers are based on a survey and haven’t been revised with updated information received from the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) we can’t explain.
But the Middle East and African numbers look a little depressing, right? Clearly, the numbers are going in the wrong direction (have been since 2015). It's probably fair to say that this new ban isn’t helping Hawaii attract visitors from the Middle East and Africa. Somebody must be working on this. Someone like the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), for example. We checked on what the HTA had to say about the impact of the ban on who they’re targeting for travel on their site: “HTA focuses on attracting visitors from major market areas (see below) that provide the greatest potential for travel to Hawaii:”
- North America
- Oceania (Australia and New Zealand)
- Europe (primarily on attracting visitors from Germany and the United Kingdom.)
Let’s sum up. The state of Hawaii has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Government because the travel ban order will harm its Muslim population, its tourism and foreign students. We’ve learned that the Muslim population is tiny, with no specific information about how that small population is connected to family in Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Yemen. Muslim immigration to Hawaii is non-existent (although that Burmese family may be Muslim); and tourism from the Middle East is not a factor. (We haven’t investigated much about the impact on students attending schools in Hawaii.)
But we’re starting to think that based on the objections Hawaii raised in their lawsuit, the ban on travel from six Muslim countries to Hawaii over the next few months is – what’s the word we’re looking for? - irrelevant.
Feel free to direct your outrage elsewhere. Somewhere, one day soon, Jeff Sessions will be speaking out again.