At 4:42 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning refugees from any country and the citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States.
Shortly thereafter, a flood of commentary (from Republicans and Democrats alike) swept across social media, dominating our newsfeeds with confusing headline after confusing headline. If you struggled to make sense of the truth through the hysteria, you’re not alone.
We took a hard look at the facts, as told by reputable news sources, fact-checking services, and U.S. Government websites to put together a handy guide for understanding the ban, what it means, and what you can do about it.
What does the immigration ban do, exactly?
President Trump signed an executive order Friday (you can read the full text here) that immediately did the following:
- Suspended ALL refugee admission into the United States for 120 days.
- Stopped Syrian refugee admission into the United States indefinitely.
- Blocked entry into the U.S. for passport holders of seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) for 90 days. This includes all travelers, airline crews, and even people who hold U.S. green cards and visas.
How did this affect people?
Refugees around the world were blocked from getting on planes bound for the United States. Citizens from the seven named countries, including those who hold U.S. green cards or other U.S. visas, were also turned away.
Those who fit into the above categories who were already on a plane when Trump signed the order (officials estimate 100 to 200 people) were detained upon arrival. Many were sent back to their countries of origin.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that green card holders from the seven named countries would be allowed in the United States. He then added that “If you’re traveling back and forth [between the named countries and the U.S.], you’re going to be subjected to further screening.” If this sounds ambiguous, that’s because it is: Articles published Monday report many green card holders still remain in detention, while others were deported.
Who isn’t affected?
The executive order did not include people who were born in any of the seven named countries who are now U.S. citizens. According to Preibus, anyone with U.S. Citizenship should be allowed into the country, even if that person has dual citizenship with a country on the ban list.
Additionally, the travel ban did not include other Muslim-majority nations, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Critics of the order expressed concern that Trump’s business ties to those countries prompted him to leave them off the list. Priebus denied those claims Sunday, saying Trump’s business ties did not influence the list of selected countries.
Did Obama ban refugees in 2011?
Trump defended his executive order over the weekend, calling it “similar to what President Barack Obama did in 2011, when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.” Since then, this argument has been circling around the internet to defend the travel ban.
According to FactCheck.org, this comparison is “faulty.”
Here’s what we know: In 2011, the White House learned that two Iraqi refugees, who were living in Kentucky, were involved in an attack on U.S. Troops in Iraq. The U.S. Government then rescreened 58,000 Iraqi refugees currently living in the U.S., as well as the 25,000 refugees already approved to live in the U.S. but not yet admitted.
This re-screening process slowed the acceptance of Iraqi visas, thanks to the huge backlog, but did not ban them from the country.
Obama spoke out against Trump’s comparison and condemned the executive order, claiming in a statement that he ““fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”
What happened with the ACLU?
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with Judge Ann M. Donnelly of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn against Trump’s order Saturday. The judge blocked part of Trump’s order, stopping the government from sending people detained at U.S. airports back to their countries of origin. The judge’s ruling stopped deportations for 100 to 200 people, but did not let people held at airports enter the country.
The Department of Homeland Security says it will not deport the people the judge protected, but will continue enforcing the executive order. “Prohibited travel will remain prohibited,” the department said in a statement.
What did the acting Attorney General do?
Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates ordered Monday that the U.S. Justice Department may not defend the executive order.
Yates was serving as Attorney General until Trumps AG pick, Jeffrey Sessions, could be confirmed. Trump responded by firing Yates for being “weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”
Journalists and policymakers drew a connection between the firing and the “Saturday Night Massacre” of 1973, when Pres. Richard Nixon fired his AG attorney general and deputy AG after they refused to dismiss the Watergate case’s special prosecutor.
How are lawmakers reacting?
Democrats fiercely oppose the travel ban and promised to introduce legislation to overturn it. They’ll need Republican support to do so, however, and the majority of Republicans in congress support the order.
Between the House and Senate, 24 Republicans oppose the executive order and 38 have reservations, compared to the 85 who support it.
“We should not stop green-card holders from returning to the country they call home. We should not stop those who have served as interpreters for our military and diplomats from seeking refuge in the country they risked their lives to help. And we should not turn our backs on those refugees who have been shown through extensive vetting to pose no demonstrable threat to our nation, and who have suffered unspeakable horrors, most of them women and children.”
President Trump tweeted out some choice words for the two senators after they released the statement:
How can I get involved?
As with any issue you’re passionate about, one of the most effective things you can do as a citizen is to let your rep know how you feel. You can look up your representative here, and let them or a staffer know your thoughts on the travel ban, and how that will affect your vote for their re-election.
If you want to show public support, activists are organizing in essentially every city across America. Do a quick search on Facebook for events in your area, grab a friend, and get marching.
Have you or has someone you know been affected by the executive order? Start a discussion in the comments!
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