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A 100 years later, another Prohibition


“Prohibited travel will remain prohibited.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued the above statement on January 29th, 2017 as a response to the many lawsuits filed against the Executive Order (EO) signed by President Donald Trump on 27th January – “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”.

An Executive Order is a rule or order issued by the president to an executive branch of the government and having the force of law. President Trump’s EO commenced on the same day it was signed and has the following directives: 

An action that has been receiving flak both nationally and internationally, the EO is not fully enforced as tremendous confusion surrounds the exceptions to the rule. Persons holding a dual citizenship from any one of the banned countries would not be granted access into the US. Whether this also applies to those with a dual American citizenship is as yet unconfirmed because airport authorities are detaining or denying entry to such cases while the provisions in the order does not state so explicitly. Speaking in defense of his order, President Trump has said that this move is to increase the safety of US borders and is not religiously motivated, even though all the banned nations have a Muslim majority. Official statements issued from the White House have reiterated that this ban will only be in effect until the concerned authorities assess risks and formulate secure policies.

In the mean time, many travelers have been detained at airports across the U.S. irrespective of their age or status, while many more have been stopped from boarding planes with an American destination in the seven banned countries. Peaceful protests have broken out at American airports as a defiance of the new EO, with citizens thronging arrival lounges holding placards decrying the President’s newest policy.

The lawfulness of the order is also being called into question with many American lawmakers deeming it unconstitutional. In recent developments the acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, was replaced for ordering the Justice Department to not enforce the new immigration order. Federal judges have been stepping in and granting relief with Judge Ann Donnelly of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn stopping deportations after a request from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Following this, several Federal and District Judges have alleviated the status of detained nationals on the ruling that persons in transit cannot be subject to the order.

While many protest or file lawsuits, America’s neighbour to the north took a different approach. In response to President Trump’s ban, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has issued a statement saying that refugees are welcome in his country and has offered to speak to the White House on Canada’s successful refugee policy. His point was further driven with support from the Mayor of Toronto stating that Canada is a country of immigrants and that no one can be turned away from its shores on the basis of their nationality or ethnicity.

President Trump’s EO speaks of protecting the U.S. from terrorists, but the majority volume of the brunt is being borne by refugees, migrants and foreign nationals. Violation of human rights as well as unconstitutional persecution of green-card holders has been the argument put forward by protestors of the ruling, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Out of the seven Executive Orders signed since taking office, President Trump’s refugee ban has been the most controversial to date. This EO has not only elicited a backlash from the international community and his fellow Americans, but also from those within his own political party. The future of the 90,000-odd visas issued collectively to the seven banned nations every year is currently put on hold and the state of refugees escaping the civil war in Syria is unclear. The only positive way forward is the addition of provisions to the current ban so that unlawfully detained nationals can be free and the true threats can be filtered out efficiently.