Shortly after taking office President Trump signed an executive order that – effective immediately – barred entrance anyone from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States. The order blanketed the vast majority of people from the 7 countries, including green card holders, permanent residents, students, and foreign experts but gives priority to Christian immigrants. This ban temporarily suspends the the UN Refugee Admissions Program for 4 months while President Trump establishes a new system to vet Muslim immigrants. Lawyers from the ACLU and other organizations have taken the executive order to court and won a temporary injunction that prevents the immediate deportation of any traveler held in US airports by the ban.
Though temporary, the ban carries myriad and massive immediate effects. The UN estimates that around 800 refugees were barred from entering the US just this week and 20,000 refugees could end up turned away by the ban over the next 4 months. All of the refugees accepted for resettlement had been through a rigorous screening process with a myriad of phases and steps. A number of foreign experts and students were also barred entry from attending conferences, including a world-renowned cardiologist and a director nominated for an Academy Award. The ban’s effects on American education and academia pushed thousands of academics into protesting the ban.
Other protesters have taken to airports across the country to voice opposition to Trump’s immigration ban. Leaders from various countries have also spoken out against the ban. Iranian leadership responded by banning US citizens from entry into Iran. Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau tweeted an indirect jab at Trump, highlighting Canada’s open approach and pushing #WelcomeToCanada to trend for a while in America’s Northern neighbor. A torrent of world leaders have called asking for explanation about the form and function of the ban and foreign ministers from both Germany and France as well the Prime Minister of Turkey have all condemned it.
Parts of the Republican Party joined in the opposition too, including Senators and longtime foreign policy hawks McCain and Graham, who worried the ban “may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our [US] security.” In the same joint statement the two voiced concerns that the chaos at airports across the country and confusion from immigrants and airport staff alike showed the order was not well-considered or implemented. Other foreign policy experts such as Alex Nowrasteh at the CATO Institute found “little national security benefit” to Trump’s ban. Alex Nowrasteh writes that “[f]oreigners from those seven nations have killed zero Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015.” Trump’s business interests rankle the order as well, since none of the Muslim countries Trump has active business dealings with were included in the ban, leaving out countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Trump’s executive order has garnered some support as well. Republican Speaker of the House agreed with the order along with British politician and key proponent of the Brexit Boris Johnson and President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman. Far-right voices and platforms have expressed support, with Breitbart.com running several articles actively attacking both the opposition to the executive order and the countries that it has banned immigration from. Many of Trumps supporters expressed explicit dislike for American Muslims so it is possible at least a strong portion of Americans could support the measure. Still, statisticians at FiveThirtyEight suggest it is too early to tell how Americans at large will respond to Trump’s executive order.
Despite noise entering in from all corners, the biggest voice in the debate over the Trump’s Muslim ban is the courts. Trump’s executive order may not be legal. The ACLU is representing some of the people detained at airports by the ban and have already gotten the courts to stop the removal of travelers and immigrants currently held in airports. The ACLU looks to challenge the constitutionality of the ban based on how it makes exceptions for Christians and therefore discriminates against Muslims. Though the ACLU feel confident that the executive order is unconstitutional some experts such as Neil Rappaport have found parts of the US legal code that may uphold the ban. David Bier of CATO holds the bill illegal too, pointing to a 1965 law that prevents the President from banning immigration from whole countries. Ultimately the US court system will decide the fate of the Muslim ban and many refugees, citizens and travelers who wait to see how it might change their lives.