On the 27th January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that prohibited entry to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries, namely Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq. The effects of this decision have been disastrous and detrimental to the reputation of the US, a state who has historically offered sanctuary and resettlement to those fleeing war and conflict.
The order has caused chaos both in the American Immigration system and at US international airports, creating great uncertainty as to whether some individuals, such as those with dual nationality, approved refugees and non-US dual citizens, are allowed into the country: in recent events, many have been detained or even turned back. This uncertainty has called into question the uniformity of implementing immigration policies across the states, as there seems to be much arbitrary conduct on the part of airport and immigration officials.
Whilst some believe that this ban is primarily targeting Muslims, arguments against this view include the fact that the ban does not prohibit all Muslims from entering the US. The Department for Homeland and Security clarified that this travel ban only affects nationals from the named countries and not any other states other than those listed, therefore is not banning Muslims from other countries. Moreover, the prohibition of travel is not permanent: it lasts for only 90 days from the day of commencement, thereby, countering the argument that this ban in someway is an attempt to permanently prohibit Muslims and other nationals from the listed countries from entering the US. Furthermore, it may be argued that the countries that Trump has banned nationals from do indeed have, to an extent, a history of terrorism and conflict. Iran is a key example here as it has been hostile to the US for a very long time and has, in response to this ban, banned all US nationals entering its country. Furthermore, one could argue that this ban has effectively been exaggerated for political purposes and the effect of it is not as severe as has been reported in mainstream media.
On the other side of the argument, some would argue this ban has been implemented upon a platform of, at the very least, a strong dislike of Muslims. His comments such as ‘a total, complete shutdown of Muslims’ are clearly bigoted, and proponents of this view could also argue that he could have taken stronger steps in curbing immigration had he not been challenged by the judiciary.
There have been many unsavoury actions perpetrated by past Presidents, from Bush’s Iraq war disaster to Nixon’s Watergate scandal, and most former US Presidents have been called out for such actions. However, some would argue that to extend such an early bird state visit invitation to Trump would be a matter of disrespect to our values and system of democracy and justice. Indeed, some would argue that it is concerning that our own administration has fervently rejected the will of almost two million people to ban Trump’s state visit. Moreover, there have been calls for Theresa May to reconsider her government’s position on this and consider whether it is right for the UK to maintain this special relationship with Trump’s government.
In a legal context, President Trump has faced fierce criticism from lawyers, judges and advocates alike. In New York, a federal Judge ordered a stay on the deportations of those with valid visas so as to attempt to resolve this aspect of the uncertainty in the application of the ban. Coupled with this is a growing number of federal law suits, challenging parts of Trump’s vague and unjust ban. There has even been bi-partisan support in favour of Trump scrapping the order, with diplomats and national security officials backing the call.
Considering his ban in a wider legal context, there effectively is now a constitutional battle between Trump’s executive order and the laws on discrimination. A number of organisations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Council on American-Islamic relations, have expressed their wishes to sue on the grounds that there is an ‘improper religious motive’. Whilst some have argued that Trump has not specifically stated that he wishes to ban Muslims in relation to his order, legal academics have opined that his executive order is ‘blatant religious discrimination’. The US Supreme Court, however, has not been vocal on this issue, as it has historically deferred immigration policy and practice to congress and the executive. It certainly will be interesting to see how this order survives such high profile legal scrutiny and whether it ultimately is allowed to continue by law.
The future of immigration to the US is cloudy and deeply concerning. At a time when Muslims are constantly under attack from the far right and Trump himself, when graves are being damaged, motivated by religious hate, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the situation is not going to improve. The important point to consider is that we must engage and stand up for what we believe in. We cannot allow the actions of a minority to silence us or in any way hinder our efforts to resolve such problems. In my view, we must stand up to Trump and like-minded people, whether it’s by rescinding the state visit invitation, to peaceful protest, President Trump cannot be allowed to play with the future of America and ultimately, the peace and security of the world.