There’s several reasons why the “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” executive order has been given the nickname of “muslim ban”.
1. There is language in the order specifically stating that once the refugee admissions program is reinstated, that cases based on religious persecution are to be prioritized, IF the applicant is from a minority religion in their country. As all countries listed in the order are muslim-majority nations; this means that non-muslims will take priority when refugee admission begins again, rather than all applicants being on equal footing.
2. The order does not include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, or the United Arab Emirates; nationals from all of those countries carried out terror attacks in the US (including 9/11) that killed Americans. On that same token, none of the countries in the ban have actually produced successful terror attacks on the US. According to data from Bloomberg, the other thing those 4 countries have in common is that Trump has business ties there. He does not have known ties to the countries that ARE listed. If this were a serious attempt to curb terror attacks, then the higher-risk countries would have been included regardless of potential personal consequences for the president.
3. The order includes ALL non-citizens except for diplomats, which means that students, legal residents, etc are all barred from entering or re-entering the country regardless of whether they have valid visas, green cards, or other paperwork. Protests have sparked in no small part due to the fact that students returning home from visiting their families have been detained, as have Iraqi soldiers & interpreters who fought alongside our military for years. Additionally, the order also applies to dual citizens, meaning that we have now barred tens of thousands of people from close allies like Canada, the UK, etc if they happened to have been born in one of the banned countries.
Comparison to previous travel/refugee bans show these differences fairly clearly as well. Presidents Carter and Obama implemented temporary bans on Iran & Iraq, respectively; however, there are some important differences:
- Both cases were due to active problems or actionable intelligence; Carter’s ban was during the Iran Hostage Crisis, and Obama’s was due to intelligence indicating an imminent large-scale attack from Iraq.
- Both cases affected only new applications, and did not affect current valid visas, green cards, or dual citizenships. During Obama’s “ban”, refugees were still admitted but at a slower rate.
The new order is also compared to a 2015 measure by Obama adding restrictions to the same countries. However, that measure removed those countries from the “visa-waiver” program, in which travelers from those countries did not need to apply for a visa. Additionally, it required a visa for travelers who went to one of those countries after 2011.
Compared to the new order, the 2015 measure was much less restrictive, applied to all non-US citizens, and did not include any religion-based rules – in other words, a location-based travel “ban” that implemented additional processes, but did not actually bar travelers.
Given the components of the new order, and how it compares to measures taken by previous presidents, it is reasonable to characterize it as an attempt to bar muslims of arab descent from the country, not protect anyone from terrorism.
Full text of this Executive Order is available at: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=122529