The speed with which US President Donald Trump has made good on some of his most extreme campaign promises/threats has been breathtaking. Following attacks on reproductive health providers, beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act, environmentalists and even Science in general, he has now turned to immigration.
The most recent Executive Order, banning the issuing of visas to nationals of seven countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – lays bare the nastiness of this new administration. The order claims to ‘identify individuals seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission.’ The elements of the uniform screening process that it seeks to put in place are in fact already in place. The restrictions are to apply not only to nationals of those countries seeking new visas, but also apparently those who already have visas and are seeking to return to the country. This means that those with work permits, students, and even permanent residents – Green Card holders – may be subject to losing their status if they leave the country or seek renewal of the visas.
Moreover the Order puts an immediate stop to the resettlement of refugees from Syria in particular, including those who have already been accepted for relocation to the United States. As many as 200 people were reportedly detained at American airports over the weekend. Luckily, legal teams led by the American Civil Liberties Union, succeeded in getting judges in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington to block the deportation of those who had already arrived in the US over the weekend.
This latest legal development, while welcome, will not be the end of the matter. Trump’s order to cut the number of refugees accepted for resettlement from 100,000 to 50,000 this year (already 25,000 have arrived, so this would amount to only 25,000 more before September) and to close the door to any Syrian refugees is a cynical and sad assault on the rights of refugees around the world. Just when the UNHCR is appealing for more refugees to be resettled to bring them out of harm’s way, the US is sending a message that rather than being protected, refugees should be the target of suspicion and fear.
Trump’s wholesale victimisation of all nationals of these seven countries comes despite the fact that no US citizen has been killed as a result of a terrorist attack by a national of any of these countries.
As difficult as the Order may make life for those named nationals intending to enter the US, the implications are much wider. With this Order, the government is sending the message across America that people who originate from these countries are somehow dangerous, that they have slipped into the country through lax procedures (they have not) and are to be treated with suspicion, fear, even hatred. The threats to migrant communities throughout the US have, with this signature, increased dramatically. Anti-immigrant sentiment is a poison that is unfortunately already spreading through the US, but Trump’s Order legitimises it and helps it to grow. Like other forms of populist baloney, it makes an association between foreigners (particularly Muslims) from troubled countries and a whole raft of other problems, from high unemployment to crime rates to struggling schools.
The fly in Trump’s ointment has been the huge public outcry in the US and around the world, calling out this form of xenophobic vitriol for what it is. Let us hope the Order will be struck down completely in the courts, and that other countries will take the opportunity to stand in solidarity with migrants and refugees from all countries.
- MSc Migration, Mobility and Development
- MA Migration and Diaspora Studies
- Development Studies degree programmes