On January 27, Mr Trump signed an executive order, named “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.” The order has suspended America’s entire refugee admissions system for four months and barred Syrian refugees from entering the country indefinitely. The order also denies entry to anyone from seven mainly Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- for at least 90 days. After signing the order, Mr Trump said his objective was to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists.”
The United States was to accept some 110,000 refugees in 2017, mostly women and children, from some of the world’s most conflict-wrought countries. Mr Trump has cut this quota to less than half – 50,000. Significantly, the ban order makes an exception for “religious minorities” (which is in fact a euphemism for Christian refugees). Trump has publicly stated that he wants to accord priority to Christian refugees. During the campaign, Mr Trump sought to give a religious twist to the issue of refugees. He claimed that Syrian Christians were “horribly treated” by the Obama administration. “If you were a Muslim, you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible,” he said at one of his rallies. This is blatantly false. Since 2001, the US has accepted nearly 400,000 Christian refugees and 279,000 Muslim refugees. In 2016, America accepted 37,521 Christian refugees and 38,901 Muslim refugees. The US accepted 12,486 Syrian refugees in 2016, compared with about 300,000 received by Germany the same year. Turkey has received around 2.7 million Syrian refugees, Lebanon 1 million and Jordan 650,000.
In the past 40 years there has not been a single fatal terrorist attack on America carried out by anyone belonging to the seven Muslim countries identified by the Trump administration for the ban.
It is also significant to note that the ban order does not apply to Israeli Jews born in the 7 identified Muslim countries. An estimated 140,000 Israeli citizens were born in Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The fact of the matter is that that Mr Trump’s executive order is aimed at targeting Muslims. On his campaign trail, Mr Trump has repeatedly said that he wanted a ban on the entry of Muslims in the United States. Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said that Trump wanted a “Muslim ban” and asked Giuliani to assemble a commission to show him “the right way to do it legally.”
In a related development, the Trump administration wants to revamp an existing US government programme called “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) and change its nomenclature to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism”. The focus of the proposed revamped programme would be solely and exclusively on Islamic extremism and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have carried out bombings and shootings in the US. The move is clearly aimed at targeting Muslim groups.
Mr Trump’s ban order resulted in utter chaos and confusion and was received with large-scale protests and demonstrations on the streets and airports and condemnation from the United Nations, world leaders and human rights organisations. Thousands of valid visa holders, non-US dual citizens and non-white US legal residents were detained at US airports following the order. Many were barred from boarding planes or ordered out of the country. Nearly 500,000 people from the seven identified Muslim nations received green cards in the past decade. Since the ban order, over 100,000 visas have been revoked by the US authorities.
Mr Trump’s ban order appears to be illegal and unconstitutional and in violation of international treaties which have been ratified by the US. The day after Mr Trump signed the ban, he spoke with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who told him that the US had obligations under international refugee law, which requires the signatory states to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds. Some of the provisions of international treaties, which have been ratified by the US, have been incorporated into US laws and cited as binding by the US Supreme Court. The 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, for example, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion or national origin. The United Nations Refugee Convention, ratified by the US, requires the signatory states to provide protection and safe haven to people fleeing persecution. Article 3 of the Refugee Convention makes clear that all signatory states must “apply the provisions…..to refugees without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin.” The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (ICERD), to which the US is bound, requires signatory states to “guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law.”
Immigration policy analyst David Bier, from the Cato Institute’s Centre for Global Liberty and Prosperity, has argued that the Trump order is unconstitutional due to a law implemented by Congress more than 50 years ago. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 forbids all discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin. The act clearly states that no person could be “discriminated against in the issuance of an immigration visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth or place of residence.”
Trump’s ban order has been condemned by the United Nations. The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the order “violates our basic principles and is not effective if the objective is to avoid terrorists entering the United States.” Several human rights experts issued a joint statement blasting Trump’s orders and dubbing them as discriminatory and in violation of human rights. Heads of states in Germany, France, Italy and the UK have expressed their disagreements with Trump’s order. Christian leaders in the US and Europe have come out against the order calling it discriminatory, misguided and inhuman. Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, vowed to take in refugees rejected by Trump and tweeted, “Canadians will welcome you regardless of your faith.”
Leading US companies, including Alphabet, Amazon, Ford, Goldman Sachs and Microsoft have come out against the order. Attorney-Generals from 15 US states condemned the order. New York’s Attorney General called the order unconstitutional. Many business leaders, especially in the tech industry, which relies heavily on immigrant talent, have condemned the order. In Mountain View, the headquarters of Google, several of the company’s head executives spoke against the Trump order. These included Marwan Fawaz, an immigrant from Lebanon, who leads the company’s Nest subsidiary, Sundar Pichai, an immigrant from India, who is Google’s C.E.O. and Sergey Brin, an immigrant from Russia, who is one of its two founders. Tim Cook, the C.E.O. of Apple, is reportedly considering legal action against the Trump Administration over the order. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and his colleagues have donated over $1.5 million to American Civil Liberties Union that has pledged to fight the ban order.
People participate in a candlelight vigil at Thanksgiving Square in downtown Dallas. People gathered to protest against President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US and suspending the nation’s refugee program. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Several lawsuits are underway in federal courts in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington, all challenging Trump’s order. A federal judge in New York ordered a stay on the deportations for people with valid visas. In Boston, a judge ordered agents to release detained people and to halt deportations. On February 3, James Robart, a federal judge in Seattle, has issued a temporary nationwide block on the ban order.
Canada said it would grant temporary resident visas to anyone with a valid US visa who was stranded in Canada as a result of the Trump's order [Al Jazeera]
Iran and Iraq are considering a reciprocal action to ban the entry of US citizens. Strangely, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 49 Muslim-majority countries, has maintained silence over the Trump order. On the other hand, United Arab Emirates has supported the ban. To say the least, it is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in the Muslim world.