On Friday, January 27, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order that has temporarily halted entry into the United States for citizens of seven countries for 90 days, banned all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days, banned Syrian Refugees for an unspecified amount of time, and requires additional screening of anyone who is deemed suspicious. Despite the seven countries banned (Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, and Sudan) being majority-Muslim, Trump and his cabinet have insisted that the executive order is not a “Muslim Ban.”
An executive order is an act from the president that bypasses the U.S. Congress, and gives instructions to the executive branch. Theoretically, executive orders act as a clarification of or addition to previous laws. Historical executive orders include President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which set slaves free during the Civil War, President Eisenhower’s executive order sending troops to escort students of color through protests at an Arkansas high school, and President Obama’s executive order halting deportation of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
Congress has no power to veto an executive order, but has ways of working around it’s implementation (for example, passing a bill that defunds the order). Senator Chuck Schumer has stated that democrats are working on legislation to nullify the ban. It is possible for an executive order to be overturned by the judicial branch if it is found to be unconstitutional. In the days after the executive order was enacted, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) won in four different district lawsuits protecting the rights of individuals affected by the executive order who are already in the country from deportation.
The executive order, which was signed without consulting the secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the Department of Defense (DOD), initially caused confusion that resulting in many travelers to be held in airports.
The DHS originally interpreted the ban to apply strictly to non-green card holding individuals. Trump’s administration – specifically Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and Senior Adviser Stephen Miller – reportedly intervened, stating that the executive order applied to anyone coming into the United States from the seven specified countries, even if they had previously been cleared. They further stated that green-card holders would not get automatic entry, but instead be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. However, on Sunday, January 29, Trump’s administration appeared to have reversed the decision, stating that green card holders would be allowed entry into the country. A federal judge additionally ruled that travelers who had already landed and those with valid visas should not be deported under the executive action.
Travelers have reportedly been held in airports, with reports surfacing of detainees being denied legal access in Dulles International Airport, and people being pressured to sign documents giving up their legal status in the United States. Over 100,000 visas have also been revoked under the executive order.
Many critics of the executive order have pointed out that none of the citizens from the seven countries banned that President Trump has banned entry from has carried out fatal terrorist attacks on U.S. soil in more than twenty years.
Several countries that analysts argue pose a greater threat to the United States were not included in the ban. Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, who were excluded from the executive action, have been the home nations of the individuals responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, which President Trump specifically references in section one of the executive order. The executive order states that reforms to security made after the 9/11 “did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States.”
Some speculate that leaving out these three countries was a strategic choice. The New York Times found that President Trump has current, previous or potential business ties with these countries, including numerous Trump corporations and a golf resort in the United Arab Emirates.
Several domestic consequences have come out of the executive order. Protests have erupted across the country, with the most publicized ones occurring at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, and Washington Dulles International Airport. Trump’s disapproval rate has also rose to 51% in the eight days since his Inauguration, a number that typically takes a president years to reach, if at all. Conservatives are split on the ban, with many coming out against the action taken by President Trump.
International repercussions have also occurred in response to the executive order. Many world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have expressed dismay and concern over the ban. Other countries have been harsher in their responses: Iran will no longer issue visas to U.S. citizens, or use the U.S. dollar in official reporting, and Iraq has threatened a ban on travelers from the United States.
Worldwide companies have also responded to the ban, with Starbucks promising to hire 10,000 refugees, Airbnb offering free temporary housing to refugees not allowed in the United States, and Google creating a 4 million dollar crisis fund for refugees. Apple is both honoring employee donations to refugee groups, and considering legal action against the executive order.