By Graeme Scott and Nora Jartan
First it was an order, then it was a suggestion; now, it is federal policy.
Over one year after Donald Trump proposed a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”, the new US President initiated a ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations. In June of 2016, Trump revised his inflammatory proposal, specifying that he would only restrict immigration from “regions that are linked to terrorism”, and alluded to an “extreme vetting” process for Muslim immigrants and refugees, without elucidating what either of these two specifications meant. After winning the presidential election, Trump’s transition team did not explicitly state that it would ban all Muslims from entering the United States, and instead made vague allusions to a “registry” of Muslim immigrants in America.
We must suspend immigration from regions linked with terrorism until a proven vetting method is in place.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2016
Trump signs executive order
Now, as President of the United States, Donald Trump has signed an executive order banning travel visas from being given to people from the countries of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan. The draft executive order, titled, “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals,” also severely restricts the entrance of refugees, regardless of their country of origin, from entering the United States for a period of 120 days. According to the executive order, the restrictions will remain in place until a new vetting procedure is enacted. This does not constitute a ban on all Muslims, but has nevertheless been met with condemnation.
TV-Ad for Trump campaign. Source: www.donaldjtrump.com
After Trump made his initial campaign pledge to ban Muslims from entering the United States, a backlash in the Middle East was immediate. Shortly after making the inflammatory comment, Landmark Group, a Dubai-based firm that owns the retail giant Lifestyle, banned Trump’s home décor products from their stores. Now that Donald Trump is the president of the United States, his anti-immigration policies, although toned down, have evoked profound concerns in the United States and worldwide. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees condemned the executive order, with UNHCR spokeswoman Catherine Stubberfield calling the restrictions “highly concerning from a humanitarian standpoint.” Immigration lawyers in the United States are also dismayed by the president’s recent decisions. Attorney Mark Curley, who operates the Curley Immigration Law Office in Omaha, Nebraska has said that his law firm has been receiving several calls from his clients who are worried about their future. Speaking to KETV.com, Curley lamented that speaking to his clients has become difficult, as it is “hard to talk to these people whose lives are in the balance right now and they don’t know what the outcome is going to be.” The refugee ban, according to Curley, could adversely impact refugees who are already citizens of the United States. In some cases, the ban could tear families apart, as Curley explained: “If a U.S. citizen is married to a foreign national from one of those countries, their spouse may not be able to come to the United States”.
World Relief denounces refugee ban
Some evangelic groups have stated their opposition to Trump’s anti-refugee executive order. World Relief, a humanitarian agency that is associated with the National Association of Evangelicals, has handled approximately 11,000 cases in 2016. The President of World Relief, Scott Arbeiter, has denounced the refugee ban in his statement on christianitytoday.com and said “this action really does further traumatize a group of people that have already borne so much tragedy”. Despite the considerable support for Trump among evangelical Christians, Arbeiter queried “The question for the American Christian is: Will we speak out on behalf of those who are running from the very terror that we are rightly trying to put an end to?” Even within the federal government, there are vast differences between Trump’s anti-refugee policy and the attitude of government agencies towards refugees. On the same day that Trump signed the executive order, the US Department of Defense posted an article on its website about Corporal Ali Mohammed, an Iraqi who joined the Marines after fleeing to America as a refugee. The article praised his courage and his ability to translate Arabic, which is vital for coordinating operations between the Marines and the Iraqi government. With Iraqis now banned from entering the United States, there will be no one who can follow Cpl. Mohammed’s example.
Some political commentators have gone on social media to scrutinize the inconsistencies in Trump’s justification for the anti-refugee policy. On January 25, Washington Post journalist Ishaan Tharoor tweeted to highlight the faulty justification for the refugee ban.
If you’re blocking people from “terror-prone” countries, shouldn’t France, Germany, KSA be all on the list?
— Ishaan Tharoor (@ishaantharoor) January 25, 2017
Saudi Arabia is noticeably absent from the list of countries where immigration will be restricted, despite the fact that 15 of the September 11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, and that Tashfeen Malik, who helped her American husband murder 14 people in San Bernardino, was also from Saudi Arabia. Additionally, according to an email written by former Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton (one of the many hacked emails published by Wikileaks), Saudi Arabia’s financial and ideological support for terrorism was becoming difficult to ignore. Clinton stressed the need to “use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” At first, it would seem contradictory that Trump would ban immigration from terror-prone regions while omitting Saudi Arabia, but the President’s ties to the kingdom are deeper than conventional political allegiances. According to Federal Exchange Commission documents, Trump registered eight new companies in Saudi Arabia in 2015, the same year he began his presidential campaign and proposed banning Muslims from America. At an Alabama rally in May of 2016, Trump spoke highly of Saudi Arabia, saying “Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much”.