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Immigration Impediment: Understanding A Recent Executive Order
01/26/2017 Donald Trump Andrew S
keywords: Immigration Ban Muslim Countries

One of President Trump’s most controversial campaign promises was to ban Muslims from entering the country, a proposal he later softened to “extreme vetting.” Though condemned as a violation of religious liberty, the promise won him support among conservatives who view Islam as a threat. A recent draft executive order appears to be a the first step in fulfilling that promise, limiting immigration from several majority-Muslim countries.

Overview Of The Order

The President’s draft executive order, leaked to the public on 26 January, bans from the United States both immigrants and travelers from the following countries: Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. Although the ban only lasts for 30 days, it also calls for the secretaries of State and Homeland Security to propose a list of countries from which foreign nationals can be banned within 60 days.

The order puts a moratorium on refugee admission and resettlement, which will last indefinitely for Syria and 120 days for all other countries involved. After refugee admissions resume, only 50,000 refugees from all countries will be allowed to settle in the United States, compared to 100,000 under current laws. Refugees who are Christians, Yazidis, or other religious minorities in the specified countries will receive preferential treatment.

Considering The Challenges

Once the order has been issued officially, critics of the Trump Administration will likely challenge it on civil liberties and religious freedom grounds. Joanne Lim of the American Civil Liberties union has compared the order to an “ideological test” for admission to the United States, and thus a likely violation of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause. To the extent that the order is designed to target Muslims, it may also be challenged for violating the religious freedom clause.

With Republicans in control of both chambers, Congress is unlikely to challenge this order, and because it requires little funding, there is not much they could do to stop it anyway. The battle over this order will thus likely be waged in the courts. Challengers are likely to claim that this decree violates numerous provisions of the Constitution and should thus be overturned. Defenders will likely respond that the order does not explicitly target Muslims, allows immigration to continue from many other majority-Muslim countries, and only bans ideologies that represent a clear threat to national security. The courts’ past decisions give little indication as to how they will rule on this order. If they do uphold it, it will likely become a key campaign issue for the 2020 presidential election.

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