What Trump’s Immigration Order Says

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Lyman Stone explains the visa ban:

The media has focused on the blanket ban on all visas for all people (except diplomats) with citizenship from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen. This means no tourists, no students, no immigrants, no refugees, no nothing. The EO does include permission for Customs to give “case-by-case” exceptions, but there do not appear to have been many exceptions yet (I could find only one documented case), and no guidance was given to Customs about what rules to use for making such exceptions.

The ban is not permanent, lasting only 90 days, but, as with the refugee ban, can be renewed or extended. Indeed, Section 3(e) of the EO actually orders the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to come up with a list of countries for a more permanent ban. So this EO is teeing up for a more permanent ban in the future.

Some critics have claimed this EO is a “Muslim ban.” That’s debatable. The countries selected were based on a list provided by the Obama administration, and the Obama administration had already imposed stricter visa screening requirements on those countries.

However, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani has claimed that President Trump did explicitly say he wanted to ban Muslims. Yet most Muslims will be unaffected. The vast majority of Muslims and Muslim countries are in Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, or Central Asia. Within the Middle East, large countries like Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia were not restricted.

Some EO supporters have claimed the seven banned nations were selected due to a unique terrorist threat. This is not quite true. The Obama administration did identify them as places of concern, and most do have active sectarian conflicts and terrorist activity, but, the truth is, they have no common thread. Many unstable or violent places were not included (Chad, Central African Republic, Mali, Egypt, Ukraine, Nigeria, etc). Several of these even involve similar large-scale jihadist insurgencies similar to those observed in the banned countries. Iran, meanwhile, has no violent insurgency at all.

Furthermore, not a single American has died as a result of terrorist attacks committed by any citizen of the seven banned countries in this millennium.* Of course, this doesn’t mean, in the absence of a ban, no attack would occur in the future, but these countries have not posed a unique risk in the past. Additionally, countries whose citizens have perpetrated attacks, like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, were not banned.

EO critics have claimed these countries were selected to avoid Trump’s properties, implicitly rewarding countries for doing business with the Trump Organization. This view is likewise hard to support with facts. Many countries with no presence of the Trump organization but with violent insurgencies were not banned, like Chad or South Sudan. Many Muslim countries with no Trump properties were not banned, like Afghanistan or Oman.

The truth is, there is no single rational factor that correlates with the seven banned countries. They do not share close religious similarities (Iran, Yemen, and Iraq have large Shi’a populations; Syria is largely Alawi and Sunni; Libya and Somalia are heavily Sunni). They do not all have insurgencies. Their governments are not all enemies of the United States; some, like Iraq, are even our close wartime allies!

Aside from arbitrary countries, the EO was poorly administered. It became effective almost immediately upon issuance, giving Customs no time to develop rules and practices or train personnel. It impacted even people who boarded planes before the president declared it.

Plus, it was unclear who should be banned. What if a person served as a U.S. military translator in Iraq? Is he or she banned? Thus far, the answer is yes. What if they have dual citizenship between the United Kingdom and Syria? Banned too! What about foreigners who are lawful permanent residents of the United States? They were initially banned as well, but DHS has since announced they will be allowed in. It is unclear if the White House supports this change.

It is reasonable for the administration to restrict admission of people from countries of unique concern. The president has the power to do this. Both President Bush and President Obama used this power in moments of crisis to ensure national security. But that power must be exercised wisely: government agencies need clear guidance, not “case-by-case” exceptions with no rules about who gets in and who doesn’t. They need time to prepare implementation, and we need a consistent policy, not one that waffles every few hours as the protests and judicial orders ebb and flow.


  1. Space Nookie says:

    The important things about this EO were 1) act on campaign promises in the first week and 2) troll the media. This guy is pushing issues — was it effective? was it well managed? — that literally nobody cares about.

  2. Sconzey says:

    This whole thing reminded me of what happened with Thatcher and the Poll Tax. Thatcher’s ‘Community Charge’ was a sensible policy, moving the funding of local councils from a property tax to a poll tax, with generous exemptions for those who would be unable to pay.

    However, the predominantly anti-Thatcher, left-wing local councils who were tasked with implementing the new measure were very aggressive with their implementation, and did not apply the exemptions in anything like a fair or reasonable manner. Thatcher was already facing opposition within her own party, and so the media, opposition and anti-Thatcher Conservatives were able to blame the botched implementation on the policy itself, and it was repealed.

    Whatever you think of it, the measure is lawful and constitutional. It’s clear the main fuck-up here is by Customs, the DHS and foreign border control for their overly-aggressive application (the White House was clear from the start that green card holders were not covered by the blanket ban, although they would not automatically be granted entry), and the media for their insane hyperbole in their coverage.

  3. Collen Ryan says:

    We should simply have a moratorium on all immigration for 20 years with an allowance on a case by case basis.

  4. Sheldon says:

    Especially passports from Syria have to be very suspect. The Islamic State captured intact the presses, the paper, and the ink for making Syrian passports. The validity of any Syrian passport has to be questioned, until “things can be sorted out.”

  5. Sam J. says:

    Trump is running things like a business. He has broad goals and tries policies in a quick succession. This is the way all things are done. You make prototypes and then work on improving. Intellectuals believe that you can prop up some masterful super plan that does everything. The world doesn’t work that way through.

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