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Same Song, Second Verse
On Monday, President Trump signed a revised version of his executive order that temporarily bans immigrants and non-immigrants from six Muslim majority countries for 90 days. The executive order also bans all refugees from entering the country for a period of 120 days.
The new executive order is modeled after the original, but there are a few changes. First, the executive order no longer includes Iraq, leaving Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya as the six countries affected by the travel ban. Second, legal permanent residents (green card holders) and those already issued valid visas are exempted from the ban.
One of the causes for confusion in the roll out of the first order was the ambiguous status of many different kinds of immigrants and non-immigrants. In an effort to clear up doubt, the executive order provides ways for dual citizens, those returning to the U.S. to continue work or study, those wishing to reside with a close family member, infants, and those with medical emergencies, to receive a waiver for admission. However, there is no guarantee or guidance on how agencies will grant these waivers.
Two of the most controversial aspects of the original order were the exception for religious minority refugees, as well as the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. While the revised order did eliminate that religious minority exception, and the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, the 120-day ban on all refugees is still in place.
Despite the temporary nature of the ban, this four-month halt on refugee admissions will disrupt the refugee resettlement process for years to come. Beyond the obvious and immediate effects on refugees who have spent years, sometimes decades, applying for resettlement in this country, stopping refugee admissions has other far-reaching consequences. First, this ban puts undue stresses on cities and camps that are already struggling to sustain vulnerable refugee populations. Second, national security experts say that this ban can be used by extremist groups as a recruiting tool, as those who defend America’s welcoming culture are suddenly left without evidence of that fact.
The question remains – why place the immigration restrictions these six countries? The executive order cites ongoing conflicts in each of these countries, as well as the fact that previous administrations listed these countries as state sponsors of terror (Iran, Syria, and Sudan), countries of concern (Libya, Somalia, and Yemen), or were subject to restricted use of the Visa Waiver Program (Iraq and Syria).
This executive order was written under the pretext that previous policy regarding these countries inadequately protected the country from violence. However, the data do not support this claim. The conservative Cato Institute found that between 1975 and 2015, nationals from these seven (now six) countries have killed a total of zero people in terrorist acts in the United States. A Department of Homeland Security report showed that citizenship was an “unreliable” threat indicator. Also, the claim that there have been hundreds of convictions for terrorism and “terror-related cases” includes investigations that did not lead to convictions. The administration is using inflated numbers and false narratives to justify an immigration and refugee ban that harms and demonizes large groups of vulnerable people of color.
As people of faith, and as communities that banded together to oppose the original ban, we can stand proudly with the knowledge that our voices and demonstrations of opposition successfully halted the initial executive order, and caused a real change in policy by the president and his administration. But now is not the time to be complacent. This new executive order is still a ban that unfairly targets Arabs and Muslims, will have long term negative consequences for all refugee populations, all while shrouding its harmful policies in a false narrative of national security.