This week, President Donald Trump has been all over the headlines due to the release of three executive orders regarding immigration. Here’s a quick summary of what they are and how we can expect them to affect the country.
The first two executive orders were released Wednesday.
The first expressed the immediate construction of a wall along the southern border as well as “tougher” immigration policies, which include detaining individuals that are suspected of violating immigration law pending legal proceedings and ensuring that State monitoring/detention programs are consistent with Federal law. The second enacted restrictions primarily upon sanctuary cities ultimately threatening that without their compliance they would no longer receive Federal funding.
The most interesting take-away from these two executive orders is that they overstep Trump’s legal ability. In the first executive order, Trump cites the Secure Fence Act of 2006 as his authority to begin construction on the wall; however, as long as Mexico refuses to pay for it, he needs the money from Congress to build it. In addition, the other “tougher” immigration policies have the potential of being overturned on the basis of constitutionality. The second executive order sets such an unconstitutional and dangerous precedent that many mayors have already released statements declaring their refusal to comply with it.
Another take-away from these executive orders is its infeasibility. According to MIT, the cost of constructing the wall Trump has described is approximately $38 billion, which far surpasses his original estimations to the public of between $8 and $12 billion. It is important to note that this estimation does not include maintenance, supervision or the countless lawsuits the federal government will face as it tries to take private and tribal land along the border for construction. Moreover, not only is the wall extremely costly, it is also completely ineffective both as a physical barrier and as a solution to stopping unauthorized immigration. The idea of undocumented immigrants creeping across the border is a fallacy rooted in the facts of the past, where 60% of all illegal immigration occurred through border infiltration. Now, border crossings are way less frequent and most undocumented immigration is a result of unauthorized visa overstays.
Then, on Friday, Trump signed the third executive order, which bars the entry of refugees awaiting resettlement to the US for the next 4 months, prohibits all Syrian refugees indefinitely, and prohibits citizens from seven countries—Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen—from entering the US on any visa category. This also includes those who are permanent residents of the US (green card holders) and those who have dual citizenship with a predominantly Muslim country.
Completely unprecedented, this order caused chaos throughout the country as families were separated, detainment remained unclear, and heartbreaking stories dominated the press. People united at 8 major US airports to protest against the action and lawyers volunteered themselves across the country to get people out of detainment. By Saturday night, a federal judge granted emergency stay for those who hold valid visas that were already in the US or in transit to the US, citing that deporting them would be in violation of their due process. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that they will be released from detainment anytime soon.
Despite the controversy and the bold action taken, banning refugees does not make our country safer—in fact, it potentially does the opposite. To begin with, refugees are not terrorists. They face an extremely scrutinizing process in order to get into our country—their screening includes biometric data, detailed biographic histories, hours of interviews and background checks against a multitude of government databases. This process is so in-depth that it often takes years to get into the US as a refugee. Despite the rhetoric of fear, the truth is refugees are people who haven given up everything they built and know, in order to find safety away from terrorism. By accepting refugees, America is able to defy ISIS’s propaganda, undermine their ability to recruit, relieve them of their resources, and gain intelligence about their whereabouts, leaders, finances, etc. Often, refugees are so thankful to come to the US, they become assets to our intelligence agencies potentially saving countless lives.
While Trump’s executive orders are not effective in protecting our country, they are effective in instilling a false sense of security rooted in Islamophobia and xenophobia as well as increasing hostility and tensions abroad. As a citizen, it is important to combat this misinformation with truth, demand that Congress represent the interests of all of its people, and refuse to allow the unjust persecution of communities due to baseless accusations.
“The job facing American [citizens] is to… unify a country rather than further divide it, to heal the wounds of a nation as opposed to aggravate its injuries, and to secure for the next generation a legacy of choices based on informed awareness rather than one of reactions based on unknowing fear.”—Aberjhani