Luke Schroeder, columnist
When President Trump introduced his now infamous “travel ban,” he acted under the authority of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, a law that has been on the books since 1965.
This act delivers broad power to the executive branch to set and implement immigration limitations. To best understand the act, read an excerpt of it for yourself: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”
Recent presidents haven’t exactly used the powers of this act sparingly – President Clinton used it 12 times and President Obama used it 19 times, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While President Trump’s use of this power is not unprecedented, the scope of the order was sizable – it temporarily suspended immigration from seven countries: Syria, Libya, Sudan, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Iraq. Later iterations of the order added restrictions to travel from Venezuela and North Korea, among others.
Immediately after the original order was announced, backlash erupted – the talking point developed that this order was nothing more than a “Muslim ban.” After all, many argued, the focus of the order was placed on Muslim-majority nations.
I must preface with this: Banning anyone from entering the United States solely based on their religion is unconstitutional, not to mention immoral. It is absolutely appropriate to stand against any order that is meant to impose this type of policy. However, this simply isn’t what the president’s executive order did – it was not a Muslim ban, and it isn’t illegal.
Trump’s order did not include the most populous Muslim countries in the world: Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh. If Trump’s order was actually meant to be a “Muslim ban,” it didn’t even meet this alleged purpose – it excluded over half of the Muslims in the world.
Please, read the order for yourself. You will find that it mentions the words “Muslim” and “Islam” on a grand total of zero occasions.
So, was Trump’s executive order a “Muslim ban?” The answer is a resounding no. But, was the order questionably structured and sloppily executed? Absolutely.
The order’s intent, according to its text, was to “protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.” The order continued: “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”.
This wording placed the order well within the bounds of executive power. However, the order’s effects did not match up with the president’s reasoning of issuing the order in the first place.
Notably missing from the order was a ban on travel from Saudi Arabia, the source of 19 out of the 21 9/11 hijackers. Other hijackers originated from Egypt, another nation not included in the order. Other nations not included, Pakistan and Afghanistan, are often cited as hotbeds of extremism.
It’s no secret that Trump’s orders were challenged in federal court, mostly using Trump’s own statements against him. After the original order was restrained by a federal judge, the White House issued a revised order, which was then halted by another federal judge. Then the Supreme Court stepped in and reversed that ruling. In both lower court cases, judges argued Trump’s past statements (including an instance where he wrongly referred to the order as a “Muslim ban”) alluded to intent. The whole ordeal, understandably, is extremely confusing, and wasn’t made better by the disorganization of the White House.
Now however, the 120 day “ban” has expired. In that order’s place, the president has signed a new order meant to institute, as promised during the campaign, “extreme vetting” on individuals traveling from certain (yet to be named) nations. It’s almost certain this order will be challenged in court as well.
At the end of the day, Trump’s original executive order was an attempt to act on campaign rhetoric. It was sloppily worded, poorly executed and sabotaged by Trump’s own statements. While I am a firm believer in maintaining our nation’s national security, there are better ways to accomplish this goal.
The United States should, within reason, assist those around the globe who are facing detrimental conditions. However, the first priority of the United States must always be its own national security. Temporary executive orders won’t serve as a long-term solution – it is my hope that this administration (and future administrations) will develop sound, comprehensive immigration strategies that will improve our vetting, ensure the safety of our citizens and grant assistance to those who desperately need it.