Just one week in to President Trump’s term, his administration has turned the nation’s immigration system upside down, issuing sweeping edicts that are rewriting the country’s immigration and refugee policies.
This time last week, immigration watchers were most concerned about the fate of young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers. The president has so far declined to take action against this group of immigrants. But by mid-week, Trump moved on to crack down on the wider undocumented population—issuing executive orders calling for the construction of a border wall, increasing the number of Border Patrol agents, and denying federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities. He also drastically expanded the definition of what constitute a “criminal” in the eyes of immigration authorities, thus automatically widening the pool of undocumented immigrants who will be prioritized for deportation.
If Trump’s campaign slogans “build the wall,” and “mass deportation,” and “defund sanctuary cities” are still ringing in your ears, Wednesday’s executive actions were his first steps to making them a reality.
By Friday afternoon, Trump had turned his attention to not just undocumented immigration but the legal immigration system, as well as the nation’s long-standing refugee-admissions program. Trump moved to suspend entry for immigrants and non-immigrants from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, for 90 days. The order also bans refugees from Syria indefinitely, and suspends all other refugee admissions for 120 days, during which time the United States will initiate an “extreme vetting” program for potential refugee admittees. The United States will also stop issuing visas to people from those countries.
All of this action was necessary, Trump said Friday, as a way to “keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America.” “We don’t want them here,” he said. “We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas.”
The immigration ban applies to all classes of those who hope to enter the country, including those on travel visas, student visas, and professional visas, as well as green-card holders and those with dual citizenship. For example, a person with dual UK and Iranian citizenship would be barred from entering the United States.
Friday’s executive actions are the beginnings of the broader Muslim ban Trump promised during the campaign, say immigration experts. “It’s a seven-country ban today, but it may be a 10-country ban or a 12- or a 25-country ban down the line,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project, referring to the open-ended language in the executive order which invites the secretary of state or the secretary of homeland security to, “at any time,” “submit to the President the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment.”