On Friday January 27th, US President Donald Trump presented an executive order temporarily banning all entering refugees, as well as citizens of seven nations; Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Titled: “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” the ban extends for 90 days effective immediately, with an indefinite suspension of Syrian refugees.
After being blocked by the courts, reordered under a different name, then blocked once again it is obvious that Trump will thankfully be unsuccessful in implementing some of his more controversial, racially discriminatory campaign promises. However, it is important to analyse why this order failed, and why future efforts must fail.
The initial failure
Given that the impacted countries were majority Muslim nations, and there was the express priority for Christian refugees entering the United States, the intention of the order was clear. Drafted primarily by political strategists with no prior government experience and put into effect without little forethought, the order was unclear and poorly executed. The final draft even evaded key members of national security and defence in it’s hast.
As such, the result of the first ban was chaos.
Over 200 people were kept in airports across America, as airport security was unclear whether those with legal green cards and visas should be allowed into the country. Despite some having had legal residence for over a decade. This lead to spontaneous protests and called to action many civil rights lawyers in defence of the individuals held. One particular case being that of an Iraqi translator who had worked along side US troops in Iraq in exchange for the right to live in the country he fought to protect.
Federal courts blocked the ban on February 4th on the grounds that the order was unconstitutional, citing the clear intention to discriminate based on religion. This was later affirmed in two separate rulings by Federal Appeals Courts.
The Trump Administration’s response
As the order’s legality was challenged acting Attorney General Sally Yates stated that she would not defend it in court; the White House responded with her immediate termination. In dismissing her warnings that the order would not stand up under legal scrutiny, they lamented her lack of loyalty to the new administration, demonstrating what would be a recurring theme in the White House. Valuing loyalty and submissiveness over experience and principle.
Following this, a new Travel Ban has been issued. Having learnt from the problems of the last attempt they specified the rights of current Visa holders, dropped the ban on Syrian refugees from permanent to 120 days, and eliminated Iraq from the list of banned nations. However much of the original order remained intact.
As of the 15th of March a Federal Court has blocked the revised Travel Ban national wide, quoting the President’s own campaign rhetoric as evidence of the order’s continued discriminatory purpose.
While it seems that the courts will do their part to prevent the passage of many controversial proposals by the Trump administration, it is important to consider the costs of these acts, and their ultimate ineffectiveness. Stephen Bannon and Donald Trump perceive Muslim immigrants to be a threat to American culture and safety. It is from this mind-set that the policy was drafted. However, even with this worldview in mind, the ban would not achieve its intended goal of protecting US national security.
Of the terrorist attacks that have taken place in the US since and including 9/11, none of the attackers have been a citizen of any of these 7 nations identified in the ban. An internal report by the Department of Homeland Security found that “country of citizenship [was] unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.” Given that most of those convicted of such crimes across the US and Europe have held passports for numerous and varying nations, to simply ban specific nationalities does not assist national security interests. Especially when none of those listed have been implicated in any such attacks.
Furthermore, several of those listed in the travel ban are allies of the United States, assisting the US military in ground efforts in those countries. To aggravate the people of those nations, especially in this manner, can and may have already put American soldiers’ lives at risk.
This was seen mere days after the policy’s introduction as the US attempted a ground raid in Yemen, with the help of local forces and intelligence. The raid failed with 24 people estimated to have been killed, including civilians and an American Navy SEAL.
While it is not uncommon for this President to alienate their allies and welcome historical opponents, the costs of doing this cannot be understated. Like with the leak of classified Israeli Intel regarding potential ISIS plots, to diminish the trust of allies in the American government can only weaken their efforts to fight terrorism overseas, and maintain their global influence.