On January 27, 2016 US Senator Elizabeth Warren Tweeted, “Let’s be clear: A Muslim ban by any other name is still a Muslim ban.” There is the hashtag #MuslimBan. Memes on Facebook “ACLU blocks unconstitutional Muslim ban.” Protesters at Kennedy Airport with signs reading, “Christians against Muslim Ban. Linkage to the Holocaust! CNN banner “Executive Disorder.” Huffington Post – “Blueprint for mass deportation.”
There are 52 countries in the world that are at least 50% Muslim. President Trump’s Executive Order PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES suspends the “Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern” for seven countries - not the 52 Muslim countries. The words Muslim or Islam do not appear within the Executive Order.
There are seven countries of particular concern - Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. The population of these seven countries is 205 million - 16% of the 1.2 billion people in the 52 Muslim countries. The motivation for selecting these seven countries are security concerns, not the fact that they happen to be predominantly Muslim.
President Trump did not choose the seven countries – President Obama did. President Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 on December 18, 2015. Senator Warren voted in favor in the Senate. The Act included the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 that, in addition to other security measures, ordered the Department of Homeland Security to determine which countries should be treated differently.
In February 2016, DHS released a statement adding “Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as three countries of concern” to the existing list of “Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria as countries subject to restrictions for Visa Waiver Program travel for certain individuals.”
There was no outcry of a Muslim ban when Senator Warren voted in favor of the bill, or when President Obama signed the Act into law, or when the Obama Administration’s DHS Secretary, Jeh Johnson issued the list of countries of special concern. Why now, when President Trump issues temporary halts to the programs and concerns identified in the law President Obama signed for a review period is there a storm of outrage – because it is political.
President Trump appears to have acted within his authority to issue the Executive Order. A full reading of it and associated laws and regulations reveals it to be lawful and constitutional when compared with actions taken by other presidents, but legal challenges are likely from the ACLU and others so the courts will ultimately decide.
The actions President Trump has taken are consistent with his campaign pronouncements and likely are consistent with the desires of those who cast votes for him in the election. As they read that he has ordered a REVIEW of visa and refugee policy, and a temporary halt to approvals in countries President Obama designated of specific concern, they will think the actions seem reasonable.
When those who oppose President Trump elevate every issue and action to hyper levels of concern they reveal the true nature of the concerns are not security or morality, but political. This can over time wear thin and potentially be counterproductive to their efforts.
The Trump Administration did err in its implementation of this Executive Order. A lesson should be learned to vet these actions more thoroughly. In the meantime, the Executive Order gives Secretaries discretion in its implementation. They should exercise that discretion to lay moot the suits brought and to alleviate the burden on people with a Green Card or those who spent months or years getting approved to enter the country as refugees only to be stopped at the last moment.