On Friday night, January 27, President Trump signed an executive order that has come to be known as the travel ban, the immigration ban, the refugee ban and, most notably, the Muslim ban.
The executive order has had an immediate effect on individuals across the nation, including some close to Sam Houston State University.
Dr. Kandi Tayebi, who teaches graduate classes in literary theory and 19th-century British literature and has received over $4 million dollars in research grants, has felt the impact in more ways than one.
“[My husband] holds dual citizenship. After the ban from our country, Iran followed with a ban on American citizens. Thus, to visit his aging mother, he would travel to Iran on his Iranian passport, but if he does this, the United States will not let him back in,” Dr. Tayebi said, “Since his mother is in her late 80’s and in poor health, this is a horrible situation for him.”
The global impact of the ban is still unfolding. As Dr. Tayebi mentioned Iran followed the United States ban with one of their own, and over the next few weeks other nations may take similar action.
“My cousin holds a green card, has a job here in the United States, owns a house here, and has all her belongings here. When the ban was signed, she was back in Iran visiting family. She was told that she should get back to the United States immediately,” Dr. Kandi Tayebi said, “In order to change her ticket, she had to travel to three different countries and pay thousands of dollars. When she arrived in the states, she was detained for seven hours without food after an 18 hour flight.”
Once safely on the ground in the United States the situation for an Iranian citizen with an established life continued to get worse.
“Because the current administration does not call holding these people detention, they are not allowed legal representation,” said Dr. Tayebi.
As stories like this unfolded over the weekend, protests spread across the country. In every major airport protestors gathered to challenge the ban and voice their anger at the administration.
The text of the order details two distinct, enforceable orders. First, the order bans immigrants and visa holders from 7 countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days. Secondly, the order halts a vast majority of refugee additions for the next 120 days, with Syrian refugees entry halted indefinitely.
The 7 countries banned are primarily Muslim countries who have appeared on a number of travel bans issued in the past, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
One major loophole, and a center of issue for the protesting, stems from a clause that permits religious minorities to be aloud entry under the joint discretion of the Secretary of State and the Homeland Security Department.
The issue with this clause stems from an apparent contradiction within the legislation. While the loophole covers refugee’s, it doesn’t appear in the indefinite immigration ban regarding Syria. This led to confusion for government officials over the weekend, as Christian Syrians (a persecuted minority in that country), were still barred from entering the United States due to the immigration ban.
“Attending the protests Saturday and Sunday was important to me because I was raised to believe in protest as a civic duty. Much like voting, civil dissent is a way to show decision-makers that they won’t be in office long if they ignore the concerns of the people. I disagree with the executive order and the way it is being implemented, it’s discriminatory and punishes those who are legally entering and working in this country,” Abbe Carter, who attended the protests at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), said.
Faculty across campus got involved with the protests as well. Dr. Jeff Littlejohn, the Director of Graduate Studies in the history department, specializes in the history of Civil Rights.
“The protest against President Trump’s ban on refugees at IAH airport in Houston proved to be very interesting. Hundreds of people from East Texas participated, and the remarkable diversity of our state was on display. Several local figures spoke on the need to maintain America’s tradition of accepting refugees from war-torn areas of the world,” said Dr. Littlejohn.
But it wasn’t just the immigration ban that had hundreds of thousands out protesting over the weekend, Dr. Littlejohn noted several things called out during the protest at IAH.
“Participants at the protest also pointed out many other questionable moves made by the Trump administration, including Steve Bannon’s promotion to the National Security Council, the nomination of Betsy DeVos to education secretary, and the move to repeal the Affordable Care Act before any suitable replacement has been articulated,” Dr. Littlejohn said.
Amongst all the activity over the weekend, some are more hesitant to condemn the entire idea.
“Well I think that right now it is okay,” said Noah Hood, a SHSU conservative student on-campus.
Hood argues that Trump wants to take the time that the ban provides to further improve the refugee process.
“Because Trump wants to look at the refugee process to make sure it is the best we can get it. Also there are other countries that are accepting refugees, so it isn’t like they don’t have a place to go. The ban is only temporary so it isn’t long term. If he renews it then I will probably not be happy with it, but right now it is good,” Hood said.
The executive order did detail that during the 120 day ban, congress needed to rewrite the methods for admitting refugees into the country. Political scientists from both parties have indicated that the timeframe is incredibly short, and appear doubtful anything concrete will appear before the deadline.
Federal Judge Ann Donnelly in the Eastern District of New York delivered an order keeping law enforcement from deporting immigrants who have arrived at airports since the ban was signed. The text says that law enforcement responsible in making the decisions are “restrained from, in any manner or by any means, removing individuals with refugee applications approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, holders of valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas, and other individuals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen legally authorized to enter the United States.”
The order wasn’t written by the President, but by Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller, two of his top advisors. Both have histories of taking a hard line against immigration, and the order seems to walk a line between the pairs previous ideology and Trump’s proposed Muslim ban from his primary campaign.
Less than 2 weeks after inauguration President Trump’s administration is conducting itself in the same manner it did during the campaign, and if the immigration/refugee ban is any indications, it will continue to even as social pressure mounts from both sides.
While nearly every Democrat in Congress, with the exception of 4, Republicans are split in their support or opposition, many remaining silent on an issue that affects so many of their constituents. At the time of this writing, 38 House members have opposed or been critical of the order, 62 have supported it, while a staggering 192 have been silent or held no position.