The revised order removes Iraq from the list of countries with restricted entry for the next 90 days, but keeps Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen on the list. All of these countries are majority-Muslim countries.
Citizens of these countries are deemed to be potential security threats, despite an internal document issued by the Department of Homeland Security in February, which found that citizens of those countries pose no greater threat than citizens of other countries.
The new directive clarifies that legal permanent residents, dual nationals and those holding valid visas will not be affected and says that others can apply for visas on a case-by-case basis.
Preemptive travel bans, like the one in Monday’s order, were popular in the late 19th and early 20th century with laws such as the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act but have not been used in recent U.S. history. Nationality-specific exclusions have historically been based on discriminatory fears about immigrants.
Refugees who have already been approved for travel to the U.S. will not be affected but the refugee program as a whole will be “paused” for 120 days.
In effect this freezes the U.S. refugee program for much longer than four months, because refugees receive approval to travel during a limited window of time and so applicants who are not yet approved will need to start the entire process again.
The order also caps the number of refugees who can enter the U.S. this year at 50,000, a dramatic cut from the planned 110,000 – and at a time when the number of forcibly displaced persons worldwide is at a record high. The order does remove the explicit preference for refugees who are religious minorities and also removes the explicit ban on refugees from Syria.
While the new order addresses some concerns, it retains the overall framing of refugees and visa applicants as threats to our nation’s security. The U.S. has a long tradition of welcoming refugees and we should continue to extend a hand of hospitality, not close the door on those who are in need.