President Trump, after being in office for 12 days, signed 18 executive orders and memorandums. Surprisingly, the figure falls one short of the executive orders and memorandums signed by President Obama in his first two weeks in office. Nevertheless, the orders signed by Trump have been arguably more varied and impactful. The sixth and most controversial order that Trump signed on Friday 27th January, under the heading ‘protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’ better known as the ‘travel and immigration ban’, has placed a temporary ban on all refugees and restrictions on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The executive order however, has done more than just create fury domestically and internationally. The entire US refugee admissions system has been suspended for 120 days and the Syrian refugee program has been suspended indefinitely. The US accepted 12,486 Syrian refugees which isn’t a large figure when compared with the 300,000 received by Germany in 2016 alone. Since war broke out, countries surrounding the nation have taken in civilians fleeing the conflict zone, such as Turkey who have received estimates of 2.7 million, Lebanon- 1 million and Jordon- 650,000. Alan Yuhas and Mazin Sidahmed claim the refugee process of the US already is one of ‘the most rigorous vetting regimens in the world.’ Taking between 18 and 24 months to process combined with interviews and background checks via numerous federal agencies, Trump is insisting on more restrictions. Furthermore, any person that claims refuge on the grounds of religious persecution will be prioritised if the applicant belongs to a religion that is a minority in their country of origin. Therefore, giving the White House the ability to prioritise Christians from the Middle East over Muslims. The total number of refugees to be accepted from any country in the coming year has also been lowered by from 110,000 to less than half at 50,000.
Perhaps the most baffling and vague part of the order however, was the banned entry of civilians from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The justification given by the White House was that it would protect the American people from the threat of terrorism. The only issue with the justification however, is that no perpetrators from these countries, have carried out terrorist attacks in the USA on a major scale in the name of Islam. Jennifer Williams says that ironically, ‘the country home to the biggest number of terrorists who have carried out successful attacks inside the US is the US itself.’
For example, the San Bernardino shooting that killed 14 people was carried out by a US citizen, who was born in the states, and a permanent US resident – both had Pakistani descent. The shooter of an Orlando nightclub that murdered 49 people was of Afghani descent but an American born US citizen. The Boston marathon bombers, originally from Kyrgyzstan but grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts carried out killing 3 people. Kuwaiti born-US militant killed four Marines during a shooting spree in Tennessee belonging to parents of Palestinian and Jordanian descent. And of course, the 9/11 hijackers- out of the 19 in total, an overwhelming 15 were from Saudi Arabia, the others constituted of citizens from the UAE, Lebanon and Egypt.
So, how exactly is the Trump administration’s justification for the travel ban going to reduce terrorism when the countries listed on the order have hardly featured in terrorist activity in the last 15 years in the US?