The Dangers of Trump’s Immigration Ban
On January 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that suspended all immigration from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen, for 90 days. The order also suspended the U.S. Refugee Program for 120 days, preventing any refugees, even those that had already completed the vetting process, from entering the country. Finally, it indefinitely suspended the entry of Syrian refugees.
President Trump justified the implementation of these measures in the second section of the order, which reads, “it is the policy of the United States to protect the American people from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist acts in the United States.” The President also placed bans upon the refugee programs because he wanted to reform the selection process to figure out, “who the hell is coming into our country.”
However, numerous critics have called the President’s justifications into question. They pointed out that not a single individual from the seven nations has committed an act of terrorism in the United States. Furthermore, the nations of the 9/11 attackers were not included on the list, seemingly the logical place to begin a ban, nor were any countries where President Trump has business interests. Finally, Refugees are screened more than anybody else entering the country, undergoing a rigorous nine-step process that can take up to two years to complete. These facts bring into question the rationale and the ethics that guided the administration’s selection process.
“It is in my view a ham-fisted of trying to get at something,” said Professor Frederic Hitz, a lecturer in the Batten School of Public Policy at the University of Virginia. “Not to mention making the worst assumptions about behavior that hasn’t presented itself. It’s not the American way. Do something first before we throw you in the slammer.”
Hitz also criticized the confusing, unorthodox, and slapdash implementation of the order.
“This was done by a skeletal staff of national security council employees that didn’t do through the state department, didn’t go through the defense department didn’t have the benefit of any congressional input. That’s no way to run a government.”
There has also been significant legal criticism of several provisions of the order that are either simply strange or potentially renders the whole order unconstitutional. One such provision appears in the order’s first section.
The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those that would place violent ideologies over American law.
“There’s no reason why people visiting this country should have to be loyal to our particular laws,” said Micah Schwartzman, a professor at The University of Virginia School of Law who specializes in the religious aspects of the first amendment. “We would never think that we have to be loyal to the constitutions of countries that we are visiting… it seems like a strange requirement.”
But, the provision that has received the most criticism, on the grounds that it is unconstitutional, is found in the order’s fifth section.
The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes to the extent permitted by law.
Well, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.
Numerous legal scholars have interpreted the clause as discriminatory against Muslims because the banned nations are predominantly Muslim. Therefore, according to the text, Christian, Jewish and other religious minorities in those countries would be prioritized over Muslims.
“The worry is that you are privileging some faiths over others,” said Schwartzman, “in violation of the Establishment Clause which prohibits giving preference to people of certain faiths.”
This interpretation is supported by comments made by President Trump, who in an interview said that he would prioritize Christian refugees, and comments made by Rudi Giuliani during an interview with Fox News, suggesting that in fact the executive order was drafted in such a way to be a legal way to ban Muslims.
“When [Trump] first announced it he said Muslim ban,” said Giuliani, “he called me up and said, ‘put together a commission and show me how to do it legally.’”
Other arguments have been about the unconstitutionality of the order, far too many to include in this article. However, Professor Schwartzman, along with Nelson Tebbe, a visiting law professor at Cornell and Richard Schragger, a law professor also at the University of Virginia, has written a thorough rebuke of the order.
And legal action has already been taken. Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union have filed and have been granted stays on aspects of the ban by at least four federal courts. As a result of these actions, green card holders nationwide will no longer be detained and deported.
Members of the international community have already criticized the order as well. In a recent poll, 22% of Germans believed that the United States is a reliable ally, tumbling from 59% in November of 2016; for context, 21% of Germans believe Russia is a reliable ally. And while the executive order is not solely responsible for this large drop, it certainly played a large role.
Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, called upon President Trump to reverse the executive order, questioning the effectiveness of the travel bans.
“In my opinion, this is not the way to best protect the U.S. or any other country in relation to the serious concerns about the possibilities of terrorists infiltrating,” said Guterres in a recent press conference, “And I think that these measures should be removed sooner rather than later.”
Other critics of the ban have also attacked the effectiveness of the order, arguing that the travel bans play directly into the propaganda narratives of the Islamic State.
“They are actually feeding into those terrorist mentalities,” said Suad Mohamed, a lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Virgina and a Yemeni immigrant herself, “that it is a clash of civilizations after all. That they really hate us.”
A continued implementation of the executive order would increase terrorist recruitment, which, in turn, would lead to an increase in terrorism across the world. Clearly, this unintended consequence runs in direct opposition to the order’s intentions.
But despite questions about the rationale, ethics, legality, and effectiveness of the order from both domestic critics and the international community, the American public opinion about the order is split almost evenly. According to a Gallup poll 42% approve of the order while 55% disapprove, and 3% have no opinion. Reactions to the order from both sides have been polarizing.
When reports broke that travelers from the seven countries were being detained at airports and young children were being handcuffed, thousands of people descended on the nations major airports to protest. Protestors called the ban an attack on American democracy, the beginnings of Facism, and the early stages of a coup.
Immigrants from the affected nations are afraid of the ramifications of President Trump’s executive order.
“I have seen the real United States. The hopeful one, the positive one,” said Professor Mohamed. “But for the first time after 35 years that honestly…I feel like this is not the country that I knew it to be. This is no different from any of the Arab countries that we always left.”
However, Tomi Lahren, a conservative pundit on Glenn Beck’s the Blaze Network, ripped into critics of the order during the popular “Final Thoughts” segment of her show, “Tomi”.
“Many don’t even know what the executive order entails because they’re too lazy to figure it out before they take up space at out major airports,” she bellows.
Other conservatives have attempted to defend the order by comparing it to Obama’s visa wavier program of last year, citing that the nations included in Trump’s order our the same that were excluded from Obama’s program. However, this is a false equivalence because even though Obama’s program does not use religion as metric for acquiring a visa and makes no attempt to discriminate based upon religion.
“When you take all of the evidence together and look at it in its totality, it puts the ban on immigration from these particular countries in a context,” argued Professor Scwartzman. “And that context suggest animus against particular religious groups, especially Muslims.”
Ultimately, despite the extreme public reaction to the order, it is too early to tell how the branches of government will react to President Trump’s executive order. There is still great confusion about the implementation of the order and how federal agencies will handle President Trump’s directives in the future.
Congress has yet to demonstrate how it will react.
“They have leverage to promptly to confirm all the president’s appointees,” remarked Hitz. “They don’t have to cooperate with him should they feel this behavior, this series of measures he has taken, is unlawful or unwise or just plain wrong.”
Moreover, we are unsure if the administration will continue to conduct itself in this unprofessional and potentially illegal manner — or if it will shape up in the weeks to come.
“Let’s let it cook for a little while,” cautioned Hitz.
Anthony Del Rosso is a first-year who voted twice in the election.