The Muslim Ban and Federal Power

-By, Sindhu Krishnamurthy

          From as early as 2015, Donald Trump made his intentions toward Muslims clear, calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what’s going on.” Since then, he continued to advocate for a halt in immigration from countries that he views as sources of Islamic terrorism. As soon as he assumed his position as president, he took action to achieve that goal.

        On January 27, a week after his inauguration, he gave an executive order to stop issuing visas to immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen for 90 days. The order reminds Americans of 9/11 and the consequences of weak security, and then declares that foreigners who are dangerous to American lives and ideals should not be allowed entry to the United States. After all of the Muslim terrorist attacks over the past few years, many Americans responded positively to the new security measures against terrorism. According to their logic, the safety of Americans should be placed first before immigrants’.

Furthermore, many argued that the ban was not even a dramatic change, citing Barack Obama’s similar anti-terrorism law from 2015. The law barred people from the same seven countries from using the Visa Waiver Program, which enabled travel to the U.S. without a visa for up to 90 days. On the other hand, it did allow immigrants who had visas to enter the United States. President Trump’s order does not allow even people with visas, and has caused massive confusion for green card holders and other people trying to enter the U.S. 60,000 foreigners who used to have valid visas have now had them terminated. These difficulties, along with the discriminatory implications of the ban, have caused a lot of opposition.

Since the countries restricted are specifically majority Muslim, the public called it a ban on Muslims. In reality, the countries named only contain 12% of the world’s Muslims; however, no one from any of these countries has killed an American in a terrorist attack since 2001. Trump’s order was seen as unjustified and unnecessarily extreme, and on February 3, judge James Robarts from Seattle called for a temporary restraining order on the ban.

While airlines like Qatar Airways acknowledged the suspension of the ban, several foreign airlines such as the Kowsar traveling agency in Iran continued to block people with visas from entering the U.S. A longer-term policy to end the confusion is still in the process of being handled. Just recently, the government appealed to the United States Court of Appeals arguing against the restraining order. A hearing took place discussing whether the executive order was clear, justified, nondiscriminatory, and made in good authority. Trump’s administration argued that the court could not halt the ban because the president had the authority to pass laws for the nation’s security. Ultimately, the judges voted unanimously to keep the restraining order and stated that “It is beyond question, that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.” The fact that the restraining order succeeded shows that America’s checks and balances are functioning and federal power can still be challenged in the United States.