Is Trump's Travel Ban Like Obama's 2011 Refugee Policy? Here's A Comparison
President Trump's recent executive order that has effectively acted as an immigration ban has mobilized protesters throughout the U.S. in the days following its signing. In defense of the controversial and seemingly unconstitutional order, Trump has insisted it's similar to a policy enacted by President Obama. Is Trump's travel ban like Obama's 2011 refugee policy? No — in fact, it's radically different.
As Trump's executive order became wildly protested, Trump attempted to justify it by claiming it was not unlike a policy enacted by Obama in 2011. This justification was, unsurprisingly, just another in a series of alternative facts spread by the Trump Administration, and several media organizations did their due diligence to prove it.
The policy that Trump is referring to came after two former Iraqi terrorists living in Kentucky were sentenced to 40 years in federal prison. For a period of about six months after that case was settled, the State Department stopped processing refugee applications from Iraqis, according to ABC News. This did not, however, impact green card holders or those with visas — an effect Trump's policy has. It also wasn't retroactive, so refugees who were already in the U.S. and had endured the rigorous vetting process were unaffected.
Trump's ban is different for a number of reasons. First and foremost because it promotes and to an extent demands racial profiling of Muslims by law enforcement. Obama's policy, which was temporary, did not single people out based on religious belief or practices. The policy was more concerned with the fact that two known terrorists were living as refugees in the U.S., which arguably should not have happened, and put the blame not on the Muslim community as a whole, but onto facets of the government that had failed in doing their job.
This six-month period slowed the processing of refugees, but did not stop it entirely. While this was certainly problematic for many Iraqis waiting to enter the country and was by no means a perfect solution, it served its purpose. The policy gave the federal government time to evaluate the vetting process and strengthen it without enacting any kind of travel or immigration ban. The period of evaluation also came as the direct result of an actual threat, whereas Trump's policies are based in and cater to mounting Islamophobia, which are not supported by statistics.
Trump's ban (and it is a ban, regardless of his argument to the contrary) is broad-ranging, and includes not just those seeking refugee status but even tourists from seven countries in the Middle East. Trump has justified the choice of these countries based on their alleged production of "radical terrorists," though the statistics don't seem to back that up. Trump also often cites Sept. 11, 2001, as an impetus, but the terrorists responsible for those attacks weren't from any of the countries in Trump's ban.
A federal judge in New York has already blocked the deportation of those who were detained at JFK over the weekend, and other cities may be soon to follow. The American Civil Liberties Union has continued its pro bono work to help file habeas corpus petitions for those who are stuck in limbo, and thousands of people have flocked to airports throughout the U.S. to protest Trump's ban — which is, and it bears repeating — nothing like the policy Obama put in place in 2011.