Trump’s Travel Ban: Unpacking the Policy

(image by Doug Turetsky

Since January 27th, headline after headline has raged over the “travel ban” from President Trump and how several courts have stopped its execution. But there are so many questions including: what exactly is the travel ban, how has it progressed through the courts, what is its impact, and how does the second version differ from the first?

As all other executive orders, the travel ban—i.e. Executive Order 13769 titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States—can be found at the White House website. The executive order goes into detail about President Trump’s reasoning behind it, which is mostly to prevent terrorism committed by foreign nationals from specific countries of concern. These countries include Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Anyone from these countries is barred from entry into the country no matter what their visa-status is, meaning that even those with green cards or permanent residents would not be allowed into the country for at least 90 days. At least 60,000 visas were cancelled. The only exceptions were for diplomatic visas granted to persons from these seven countries. However, never once in the ban does it list or mention the seven countries other than Syria. The majority of the order extensively discussed reforms to the visa-application system in all areas, especially concerning the granting of refugee status as well as focusing on the minority religions in the seven stated countries. It additionally charges the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to provide a multitude of reports on the progress of these reforms and suggestions to further expand the executive order.

At the announcement of the executive order, protests broke out across the country and even beyond the United States, namely at airports. A few days after the order was enacted, the states of Washington and Minnesota filed a suit about the lawfulness of the order based on nine different causes of action, including the fifth amendment, religious freedom, and immigration acts. U.S. District Judge James L. Robart issued a temporary restraining order on the executive order until there was further evaluation of the order’s legality. The administration appealed this ruling. But the restraining order was then upheld by a panel of three federal judges of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as the administration failed to provide evidence that the order needed to be enacted immediately or for national security and the states were able to demonstrate that the order would negatively impact current residents. The administration challenged the court’s right to review the executive order; however, this was quickly put down by the court, stating they had the constitutional right to do so. President Trump tweeted shortly after, “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!” However, the appeal did not move forward as President Trump issued a new version as Executive Order 13780 also titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States on March 6th.

The new order revokes and replaces Executive Order 13769. The ban is similar in most ways, such as refusing to admit any refugees for 120 days, but it does differ in some key ways. Most importantly, anyone granted a visa prior to January 27th will be admitted to the United States. Also, the exemptions for religious minorities was removed from the second version as this language was a key part of the case surrounding the first order. Syria will now have the same restrictions as all other refugees rather than the more expansive ones originally mentioned. Iraq has been removed from the list of countries impacted by the ban. The order was not to go into effect until March 16. However, this never happened as the order was taken back to court. U.S. District Judges Derrick Watson of Hawaii and Theodore Chung of Maryland issued temporary restraining orders on the order on March 15th. Other attempts to obtain restraining orders on the executive order have failed thus far; however, there has not been a change in the status since this date because the other restraining orders are still in effect.

The executive order has surely been one of the more controversial, if not the most controversial, acts of the recent administration. Hundreds were impacted by the ban for the first few days of the first executive order, getting stuck in limbo or taken into custody in airports. The order will continue to be an issue that will be move forward in the court system. The president has challenged the power of the court systems, while the public debates the political influence of the courts. The outcome will have an impact on thousands of people as well as the future of US immigration policy.

Emily Ruhm is an MPP Student at the College of William & Mary and an Associate Editor of the William & Mary Policy Review. 

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