On Friday afternoon (1/27/17), President Trump approved an executive order that suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also barred green card holders from those countries from re-entering the United States. The order was titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”
Over the past couple of days outrage has been the predominant response. From travel-disruptive protests at airports, supported by Former-President Obama, to impassioned monologues from news anchors (and I’m sure on your Facebook newsfeed as well), there isn’t much to say about the situation that hasn’t been empathetically stated many times already. So I won’t discuss the morality of the issue today, but instead will examine the Executive Order itself. What are the order’s actual implications? Who is affected? How can Trump use the order to continue to shape his vision for America in the future? Let’s begin with a few excerpts from the document. Numbers in parenthesis indicate a note written by yours truly.
“Numerous foreign-born individuals (1) have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after receiving visitor, student, or employment visas, or who entered through the United States refugee resettlement program. Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism. (2)”
- Seventeen, to be precise–six Iranians, six Sudanese, two Somalis, two Iraqis, and one Yemeni. Zero Libyans and zero Syrians have been convicted. Since 9/11, only 23 percent of Muslim-Americans involved with violent extremist plots had family backgrounds in these seven countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somali, Sudan, Syria, Yemen).
- A list, released by Senator Jeff Sessions in 2016 details 580 terror-related convictions since 9/11. However, analysis by Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute reveals that “241 of the convictions (42 percent) were not for terrorism offenses. Senator Sessions puffed his numbers by including “terrorism-related convictions,” a nebulous category that includes investigations that begin due to a terrorism tip but then end in non-terrorism convictions. Second, only 40 of the 580 convictions (6.9 percent) were for foreigners planning a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Seeking to join a foreign terrorist group overseas, material support for a foreign terrorist, and seeking to commit an act of terror on foreign soil account for 180 of the 580 convictions (31 percent). Third, 92 of the 580 convictions (16 percent) were for U.S. born citizens. No change in immigration law, visa limitations, or more rigorous security checks would have stopped them.”
- The most striking thing Nowrasteh found was this: Nationals of the seven countries singled out by Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015.
- The vetting process for refugees is already extremely strict–a 20 step process which involves registering with the United Nations, three fingerprint screenings, an interview with a Homeland Security officer, a cultural orientation class. It may take up to two years.
“In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. (1) The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”
- In an ironic twist, one of Jefferson’s grievances with the King George III, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, was that “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.” In other words, our founding fathers wanted less strict immigration laws.
“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 (1), 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, (2) and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days (3) from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).”
- So these seven countries were actually not chosen at random but date back to Obama policy. (I know right! What even is that?) They had been identified as countries of concern, and in December 2015, President Obama had placed limited restrictions on certain travelers who had visited Iraq, Iran, Sudan, or Syria after March 2011. Two months later, he added Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan to this list. These restrictions limited visa-waiver travel by people who had visited one of these seven countries after March 2011. People who previously would have been able to enter the US without a visa were now required to apply for one if they had traveled to one of the afore mentioned seven countries.
- “Detrimental to the interests of the United States” is a deliberately vague phrase that can and most likely will be used as justification when Trump adds countries to this list, as the order allows room for below.
- This does not include US citizens, born or naturalized and lawful permanent-residents, but does include green-card holders. However, the order is being contested in court, and has allowed people detained at US airports or in transit to go free. The order is still very unclear. The verdict seems to be on a case-by-case basis for now.
“After the 60-day period described in subsection (d) of this section expires, the Secretary of Homeland Security (1), in consultation with the Secretary of State (2), shall submit to the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals (3) (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas) from countries that do not provide the information requested pursuant to subsection (d) of this section until compliance occurs.”
- John F. Kelly, who learned of Trump’s executive order by watching TV. Good.
- Nominee Rex Tillerson… whose confirmation hearings have just advanced to the Senate.
- The order has room to grow.
“Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, 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 (1). Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization.”
- This specifically means Christians, in these predominantly Muslim countries. Pope Francis said in October 2016, “It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help.”
“Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States (1) and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP (2) to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.”
- Here’s that same language I was talking about before, already used twice in the same order. I have a feeling that we might be seeing a lot of this phrase.
- This is indefinite. On purpose.
“Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of more than 50,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017 would be detrimental to the interests of the United States (1), and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I determine that additional admissions would be in the national interest.”
- Again. Trump can use this phrase to push whatever he wants now. Here he cuts the number of refugees admitted in the fiscal year from 110,000 to 50,000.
“Sec. 6. Rescission of Exercise of Authority Relating to the Terrorism Grounds of Inadmissibility. The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Attorney General (1), consider rescinding the exercises of authority in section 212 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182, relating to the terrorism grounds of inadmissibility, as well as any related implementing memoranda.”
- More to come on the whole Attorney General scandal. Needless to say, it stinks of all kinds of corruption and coercion.
“Sec. 8. Visa Interview Security. (a) The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program (1) and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions.”
- This will make it much harder for people to even visit the United States as tourists. There really isn’t a visa renewal process currently. If you want a new visa you have to go through all the paperwork again and go to the consulate again, etc. The Visa Interview Wavier Program allows certain repeat travelers to bypass the interview stage of the process–people like the Elderly (over 80), or Kids (under 7).
While there will certainly be more to say on the executive order, this analysis should have familiarized you with its most important points and implications. Hope it helped!
Cover image credit: ABC News