An Executive Order will end visas from seven countries and could be a first step toward banning immigration by Muslims. We have reviewed a draft copy of the Executive Order, which has not yet been signed by the President. The draft copy may be downloaded here: Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals. We will update this post as more information becomes available.
Summary of the Order’s main elements.
- Temporary visa ban from certain countries. Effect 30 days after signing the Executive Order, visa issuance will be immediately halted in certain countries. According to Vox news, those countries will be Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syri, and Yemen.
The countries in question are those included in the State Department’s list of terrorism-sponsoring countries (Iran, Sudan, and Syria), those designated by the Department of Homeland Security as countries of concern (Libya, Somalia, and Yemen), and Iraq, which is specially designated in the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, the law from which the executive order gets its list of barred countries. (Syria is specially designated too, but it’s already banned due to the terrorism list.)
- Identify other countries to ban. The Order directs federal agencies to identify other countries that provide inadequate information to determine whether visa applicants are security threats. Those countries might include other Muslim-majority nations like Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. They could also include non-Muslim countries that simply lack sophisticated civil infrastructure.
- 120-day ban on all refugees. The nation’s entire refugee admissions program will be suspended for a period of four months immediately after the Order is signed. This includes refugees from any country, not just those viewed as terror-prone. During the suspension, federal agencies are supposed to study how to make the refugee admissions program more secure against would-be terrorists.
- Indefinite ban against Syrian refugees. The order will indefinitely prohibit any refugees from Syria.
- Require immigration agencies to screen for “American” values? The Order will require federal agencies to implement a “uniform screening standard” for all immigration programs. The screening will, not surprisingly, have security-related components. But it will also ask immigration officers to “evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positive contributing member to society.” It is hard to imagine how the agencies will implement that extremely open-ended standard – nor is clear that agencies have the legal authority to reject applications where they do not believe an individual will be sufficiently “positive” for our society.
- Work on entry-exit tracking system. Currently, the U.S. has no program for tracking when visa-holders are in the U.S., when their visa expires, and when they leave. Implementing such a program has been studied in the past and was determined to be cost-prohibitive. The Order will require the program to be pulled off the shelf and implemented.