Executive (Dis)order

In late January, President Trump signed an executive order which would ban travel for 90 days from seven Muslim-majority countries: Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia. Notably, Syrian refugees would be banned indefinitely. He made this command as part of an effort to ensure that radical terrorists do not stage another attack on American soil; after the ban, new vetting laws would be put in place. The order also revoked visas of 60 to 100 thousand residents who were not in the US. However, the judicial branch, most notably through a ruling from a Seattle judge, blocked the implementation of the policy nationwide, arguing that the order was unconstitutional because it violated the rights concerning freedom of religion and due process, since minority religions were given preference and the detainment of residents and cancelling of their visas was not following due process. The Trump administration is in legal arguments to get the ban reinstated.

The executive order’s prioritization of “refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution if their religion is a minority in their homeland” in Section 5b is troubling. When coupled with the fact that President Trump stated in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that Christians would specifically be given preference and Rudy Giuliani’s assertion that he proposed this plan after Trump asked him to develop a legal way of realizing the “Muslim ban” that he had promised while campaigning, the directive may well be unconstitutional.

Additionally, the executive order treats long-time residents of the United States with shameful disrespect. After its issuance, countless anecdotes of unjust treatment of people surfaced, with green card holders held up in airports and, at first, Iraqi interpreters who had served the US in military operations being denied access. The Seattle judge criticized the lack of due process involved in the conduct toward visa-holders. Moreover, the order is also illegal since a 1965 law prohibits the establishment of bans on immigrants, which, legally, means those entering the United States for permanent residency and not temporary work or study, based on race, gender, nationality, place of birth or residence. Now, the Trump administration argues that the President is given the power to deny entry to anyone that he or she finds to be detrimental to the US. However, this power was granted by a law in 1952 and was restricted by the aforementioned 1965 statute.

Besides the fact that the directive is unconstitutional and illegal, it is extremely troubling how the executive order was, well, executed; there seemed to be no tangible or acceptable plan on how to implement the policy. According to the New York Times, customs officials had a complete lack of instruction on how to execute the command, having only received incomplete briefings. This confusion extended to the highest ranks of the Homeland Security Department, indeed to the very leader of the agency. The Secretary of Homeland Security was informed of the signing of the order in the middle of his first briefing on and review of the directive; the White House had not asked him to review the document. This negligence of cabinet agencies was a common trend of the execution of the policy. For instance, General Mattis, the defense secretary, was also not asked to revise the command and only did a few hours before it was signed into law.

The move is also perturbing in that it does not really make sense and seems to just be a hasty and rash attempt at making good on a campaign promise. The President chose countries that are have no history of being destructive on American soil. The executive order mentions on the first page how we need to stop another attack similar to the one that took place on September 11th, 2001, from occurring in this nation, but it does not ban immigration from any of the countries whose citizens staged this or other attacks in the US, namely Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt. The move seems to be a rather weak attempt at striking the root of radical Islamic terrorism. National security experts have argued that it makes American operations in the Middle East more difficult, as the people who are being slighted or affected by this policy are essential to such operations, and because it allows ISIS and other organizations to point more credibly to the United States as an enemy to the Islamic World.

In the school body, opinions vary. For instance, a 10th grader* whose family was affected by the ban, in that his grandparents, who are from one of the banned countries, had to postpone their flight, fearing the prospect of never being able to see their children and grandchildren again. “My family and I see it as a very negative thing.” He added, “There are other ways to deal with terrorism without banning entire countries from entering while their countries are in danger.” Furthermore, an 11th grade student questioned the effectiveness of the ban, saying many terrorist attacks had been staged by Americans and that “[terrorists] will find a way in whether or not the ban is there and whether or not they are from those countries.” Conversely, a 10th grade student argued that the temporary ban is necessary because the government has to strengthen vetting procedures, because “these are countries hostile to the West that overtly support terrorism (Iran)  and countries in civil wars that don’t have functioning governments we can get information on immigrants from (Syria).” Clearly, there is no consensus on the effectiveness or ethics of the directive.
On the bright side, the Constitution has been tested and succeeded in keeping our country sound. The nation must be proud of the constitutional victory that has been won by the branches. The United States’ government is based on three separate branches that check and balance each other, and although the Trump administration has not been happy with the result of the legal proceedings so far, it has respected the decisions made by the independent judicial branch. In spite of our beliefs on the ban, it is wonderful to see that our constitutional structure has not been shaken by these events.

*Due to the controversy and strong opinions surrounding the topic names have been left anonymous

Sources and Other Opinions