On Friday, Jan. 27, President Donald Trump issued an executive order calling for a stay on all incoming immigrants from seven countries in the Middle East—whether they were a permanent citizen or an individual in possession of a green card or visa from re-entering the United States.
The order was met with widespread controversy as individuals from these seven nations were held and detained at airports around the nation over the days following the order, including such individuals as Arabic interpreters for the United States government. The Trump administration has since declared that the executive order goes farther than originally intended by barring even those immigrants with green cards from the specified countries from entering ours. However, the administration has remained vigilant in supporting the executive order amid statements by federal judges that the order is unconstitutional.
It is important in this instance to understand what this executive order is and is not meant to do. First, let it be clear that this executive order is not meant to make the United States safer. Since 9/11, there have been zero lethal acts of terrorism and only three non-lethal acts committed by individuals from these seven countries, according to Politifact. Compare that to at least 94 deaths since 2001 that New America, a United States thick tank, has attributed to terrorism—most of which has been committed by naturally-born United States citizens—and it becomes easy to see that this ban has little to do with actual safety.
Second, let it also be made clear that this executive order is meant to tell Muslims in the U.S. and abroad that the country does not appreciate Muslims. While the order itself does not specifically discuss Islam, Trump’s own statements on his campaign tour about preferring Christian refugees over non-Christians and the use of the hashtag #MuslimBan on social media by many of Trump’s staffers show that indeed, this executive order is about Islam.
Not only is targeting Muslims for discrimination simply un-American, but it also counteracts any amount of safety this order claims to provide. Several foreign policy experts have stated that, by alienating Muslims, this ban could perhaps increase worldwide disdain for the United States and therefore make it easier for organizations such as ISIS to recruit members.
Third, forget any comparisons to immigration orders by former presidents. To say this order is similar to anything decreed by any president within the last 30 years is ridiculous. It is true that President Barack Obama paused all processing on refugee applications from Iraq in 2011 after a failed attempt by Iraqi nationals to aid al-Qaeda by sending them supplies from Bowling Green, Kentucky, which has never been the site of a terrorist massacre. It is also true that President George W. Bush issued a similar stay on incoming refugees from several Middle Eastern countries following the attacks on 9/11.
However, each of these decisions came as a response to specific incidents on United States soil, unlike Trump’s current ban. In addition, both Obama and Bush’s orders had specific parameters, while Trump acts more as a blanket ban and reaches far more than just the refugees affected by the Obama and Bush orders.
In addition, the statement that Trump’s order builds off of framework created by Obama is vastly misleading. Obama made no commitment to banning immigrants from these seven countries, but instead moved them off of the United States’ visa waiver program. This simply meant that immigrants having visited these seven nations would have to go through the standard vetting process prior to having their immigration status approved.
There are still many reasons to question this order—including the lack of sanctions on countries in which Trump has business investments and the venom with which Trump has spoken out against judges ruling his order unconstitutional—but ultimately, all evidence points in one direction: this order isn’t meant to last.