(Disclaimer: I denounce a pure immigration ban. Trump’s executive order is flawed, and it is rightfully being criticized. This post is for informational purposes only.)
Some people asked why Trump’s recent “Muslim ban” only includes certain countries. A fair question. Others, like David Frum at The Atlantic, pointed out how if this is meant to deter radial Islamic terrorism, then it’s an ineffective ban. Why did the Trump administration choose these 7 countries?
The countries in question, for reference: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.
If you’ve paid really close attention to the news over the past couple of years, and have a good memory, you’ll recognize that those countries have been grouped together before. The Obama administration singled them out for travel restrictions.
So if you’re asking why Trump picked those 7 countries for his ban: Trump didn’t pick them. All Trump did was take an already-existing list and expand on the restrictions. If the recent immigration ban ends up as a court case, the Trump administration will try to cite the previous administration’s actions as precedent.
It isn’t a “Muslim ban” either. If it was, a lot more countries would be included.
If Trump wanted a “Muslim ban,” then he somehow forgot NINE out of the top TEN countries. That doesn’t seem likely. If Trump really wanted to discriminate against Muslims, he’d ban immigration from countries with the largest Muslim populations. As noted by The International Spectator, almost 90 percent of the world’s Muslims are not impacted by the temporary immigration ban.
The simple fact of the matter is that Trump expanded on policy set by the Obama administration. I’m sure that makes some Democrats deeply uncomfortable. But to fix a problem, you first have to recognize it. (Note: I’m a registered Democrat.)
For more information on the immigration ban, NPR has a decent article.
Although… that’s not quite the end of Obama-era controversies. As Quartz Media pointed out, “Trump plans to block visas from seven Muslim-majority countries. The US is currently bombing five of them.” And “[in] 2016 alone, [the USA] dropped an estimated 26,172 bombs in seven countries… according to the Council of Foreign Relations.” Most of the bombings were in Syria and Iraq. The USA has also helped with Saudi Arabia’s attacks on Yemen. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that as many as 801 civilians were killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya.
So we have to ask another question: why would the U.S. government bomb several countries, at times killing civilians, then place visa restrictions on some of these countries?
6 of the 7 countries mentioned in the ban also discriminate against Israeli citizens (and sometimes, people who even visit Israel). This may be one reason why visa restrictions were put on those Muslim-majority countries. The United States and Israel have a strong relationship, and Israel is occasionally at odds with its neighbors.
Regarding Trump’s temporary ban on Syrian refugees, this too echoes actions taken during Obama’s presidency. In 2011, “the State Department stopped processing Iraq refugees for six months,” according to ABC News, halving the number of Iraqi refugees allowed into the U.S. (compared to the previous year). Personally, I don’t recall anyone condemning Obama for banning refugees based on their country of origin.
I’ll close out this post with some quotes from journalists:
- “So for more than a year it has been US policy to discriminate against, target and even begin to ban people from the seven countries that Trump is accused of banning immigrants and visitors from…. [The media] should have told us about the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 rather than pretend this list was invented in 2017.” – Seth Frantzman
- “Many liberals slept while Obama expanded watchlisting and violating of rights at airports. @ACLU fought it then too with little support…. the ACLU was constantly raising this for 8 years. It was in the courts. Many big exposes in media…. Trump will use all of this to argue his policy is just and constitutional.” – Jeremy Scahill
- “The framework built over last 15 years is what’s allowing all of this now. That matters not for blame, but because it should all be uprooted” – Glenn Greenwald
- “Much of the policy groundwork for Trump’s actions was laid by Obama. Unless people recognize and grapple with this, #resistance rings hollow” – Michael Tracey
Image credits: Michael Vadon