On Friday, January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” which has caused waves of concern and uncertainty not just nationally, but internationally.
To recap—the executive order serves to ban all people from certain countries from entering the United States for a period of 90 days. While the text of the order does not identify the countries by name, the countries currently affected are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen–the same seven countries that had previously been the subject of less invasive executive orders issued by President Obama in December 2015 and February 2016.
Adding to the uncertainty, on the day following President Trump’s executive order, federal judges in three different states—New York, Virginia, and Washington—issued emergency stays that prevented the implementation of some elements of the executive order. Trump’s order sparked protests at airports nationwide, and the presidents of Pennsylvania State University and Temple University condemned Trump’s executive order.
1. President Trump’s Executive Order Addresses Three Important Elements
1. Citing as its purpose, the interests of “security and public-safety,” the executive order suspends the issuance of visas and other immigration benefits to nationals of the following countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
2. The entry of Syrian refugees into the United States has been immediately suspended until the Trump administration can ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with national interest.
3. For the calendar year 2017, no more than 50,000 refugees will be allowed entry into the United States, again until the Trump administration can determine that additional admissions would be in the nation’s best interest.
2. Nothing Is Set in Stone
Executive orders are official directives from the president to government agencies that declare governmental policy, carrying much the same weight as federal law. While there is no direct authority providing for the issuance of executive orders, the power to issue these directives stems from the president’s power as commander-in-chief as vested by Article II of the U.S. Constitution.
What does all this mean? While executive orders are legally binding, they are limited in scope. For instance, while an executive order by President Trump can overturn an executive order issued by one of his predecessors, no president can issue an executive order designed to reverse a law passed by Congress. Further, Congress would have the ability to pass legislation that could “trump” the president’s executive order (subject, in turn, to the president’s veto power, and in turn once again, by Congress’ ability to overturn a veto). Finally, an executive order must not run contrary to the laws of the United States.
Because of the considerable and immediate upheaval surrounding this executive order, you can be certain that the legal wrangling has just begun.
3. This Doesn't Mean President Trump's Executive Order Will Go Away Any Time Soon
Simply because some elements of President Trump’s executive order have been halted by federal courts, this does not mean 1) that any or all of the executive order is illegal, or 2) that the federal court orders are final or will be upheld if appealed.
In fact, it’s not unusual for an emergency stay issued by a court to be followed by a full hearing on the merits of the issue. The emergency stay is designed to prevent the commission of immediate and irreparable harm to those affected by the order (which, in this case, was the danger that implementation of the executive order would lead to violations of Due Process and or Equal Protection rights under the Constitution).
Just because the courts found that in the immediate circumstances, there was a need for a temporary halt, the results could be significantly different following a full hearing of the matter. And because the legal battles are just beginning, it is likely we won’t know the final fallout surrounding President Trump’s action for months.
It would be very easy to say that for the majority of international students, the key takeaway is to keep calm and carry on… that nothing has changed. But given the current environment, that would understandably be much easier said than done.
In times like these, education is key. It is wise to consider the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt who said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
As one who is intensely involved in international education, you understand the importance of using your strength and voice not only to advance the positives of your culture, but also to embrace those presented by others. You know better than most how valuable inclusion and compassion are to building better lives and a better future.
It’s time to focus on building bridges, not walls. #Youarewelcomehere