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A Timeline of Trump’s Travel Bans

The Trump administration’s first year has been marked with numerous actions that highlight an “America first” narrative. This includes a series of Executive Orders that have outcasted citizens of multiple countries facing conflict and atrocities – countries in need that are now being viewed by the U.S. government as potential threats to national security. Rather than posing a threat, IDPs and refugees seek safety and a life without war and persecution. The U.S. government must help protect, not target, such vulnerable populations. Many of the affected countries are facing dire humanitarian crises, and the ban symbolizes U.S. passivity to, and neglect of, these crises.  

BAN 1: Lowered refugee admission to 50,000; suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days; suspended entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely; and suspended entry for residents of Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen by case-by-case basis. This order was ultimately blocked by a federal appeals court.


When President Donald Trump assumed office in January, he issued Executive Order 13769, titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” which became colloquially known as the “Travel Ban,” and the “Muslim Ban,” effectively banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. The Executive Order extended to U.S. permanent residents, foreign visitors and businesspeople alike, and suspended refugee resettlement in its entirety. It also included language that seemed prejudiced to religious minorities, assumingly Christians instead of Muslims. Right away, the move sparked controversy and protests at airports, and volunteers sought to help those detained or turned back upon their arrival into the U.S. Several federal judges opposed the ban, deeming it constitutional, and five states sued the Trump administration on account of the ban. Eventually, after several court cases, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government had not provided sufficient evidence of possible threats posed by travelers from the Trump administration’s list of threatening countries.

In light of the legal critiques and mass protest, the Trump administration has been adjusting the ban to comply with federal courts challenges and recommendations. There have been numerous arguments regarding the constitutionality of such a ban, but a prominent one is that it violates of the First Amendment under the Free Exercise Clause as it is specifically aimed toward Muslim countries and that it is a manifestation of the anti-Muslim rhetoric that was a core component of Trump’s presidential campaign.


BAN 2:  Iraqi citizens were removed from the Executive Order; For the first 90 days after the signing of the order, foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Somalia, Iran, and Yemen could not travel to the U.S without a visa, but green card holders and students with valid visas were excepted; the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees was removed; the clause excepting refugees from religious minority groups was removed; and a 10-day instead of immediate-effect policy was put in place.


President Trump revised the January ban on March 6, excluding Iraq from the previous list of Muslim-majority countries. The ban was virtually the same, only removing Iraq as a preemptive tactic because Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, feared it [the travel ban] would hamper coordination to defeat the Islamic State.” For years, Iraqi citizens aided the U.S. during their occupation in the country, placing their lives, and the lives of family members, at risk. A U.S. Embassy official in Baghdad stated, “The U.S. government has determined that it is in the national interest to allow Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (S.I.V.) holders to continue to travel to the United States.” Additionally, it replaced the complete halt to Syrian refugee entry with a 120-day freeze, exempted permanent residents and visa holders, and dropped language offering preferential status to persecuted religious minorities, namingly Christians.


Ban 3: Restrictions against Sudan were lifted; restrictions were maintained, modified, or eased for Libya, Iran, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen; restrictions and additional vetting were added for Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela.


In late September, the Supreme Court announced that it would not hear the oral arguments from the second travel ban scheduled for October 10, but would accept briefs from both sides on October 5. While the second ban temporarily limited travel for 90 days, the third ban was indefinite and conditions-based rather than time-based. The new restrictions included 8 countries, removing Sudan and adding Chad, Venezuela, and North Korea, with restrictions differing by country and taking effect October 18. Despite the administration’s attempt to justify travel restrictions without emphasizing religion, ACLU director Anthony Romero stated that 6 out of the 8 countries are still Muslim-majority, and that the addition of a ban on North Korea, which has few visitors to the U.S. already, and some government officials from Venezuela do not obfuscate the anti-Muslim goals of the ban.

The third ban was challenged by judges from Hawaii, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. before it could take effect. Maryland district court judge Theodore Chuang persistently pressed Justice Department attorney Hashim Mooppan regarding the classified Department of Homeland Security report that ‘justified’ the third travel ban, to which the DOJ attorney never answered. The district court judge of Hawaii, Derrick K. Watson, blocked the administration from enforcing the ban against any of the seven major Muslim countries and asked the Trump administration to produce the DHS report used to justify the national security act – the administration refused his request and did not produce the report for the court.  


BAN 4: Ended the 120-day suspension of refugee processing; called for 90-day review of the program for 11 high-risk, unnamed countries; placed a hold on family reunification process for some refugees resettled in U.S.


On October 24, President Trump issued an executive order titled “Presidential Executive Order on Resuming the United States Refugee Admissions Program with Enhanced Vetting Capabilities,”  to, as stated, “enhance the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program’s (USRAP) vetting capabilities.” The order directly targets refugees, stating that they pose different security risks than foreign nationals who apply for immigrant or nonimmigrant visas and suspends refugee travel to the U.S. and current applications for resettlement. It calls for a 90-day review of the program for 11 unspecified nations that are supposedly high risk. On November 13, a federal court gave Trump “temporary permission to proceed with part of of the third version of his travel ban policy, but it created an exemption from the new restrictions for foreigners with U.S. ties.” This move, a partial win for the Trump administration, is similar to the Supreme Court’s permission of an earlier version of the travel ban which excepted those with a ‘bona fide relationship’ to someone in the U.S.

In addition to the ban’s constitutionality, questions have been raised regarding humanitarian impact. Ongoing conflict and atrocities in many of the targeted countries have resulted in increased numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Refugee and IDP camps are often overpopulated, and food rations are split among great numbers of people. Moreover, there are many people in critical medical condition who seek treatment in the United States, but cannot be treated because they are banned. The humanitarian aid community has repeatedly said that the ban undermines existing United States efforts to aid victims of atrocities and conflict in the listed countries. Additionally, the most recent iteration of the ban completely grinds the refugee resettlement program to a halt, leaving time-sensitive checks to run out for those in the process of resettlement, requiring them to restart the long and arduous process.


Rujjares Hansapiromchok is a senior at California State University, Northridge, double majoring in Political Science and Religious Studies, with a minor in African Studies. She is currently a team member of the Communications Task Force for STAND, after learning about STAND  during her internship at Jewish World Watch in Los Angeles. She is passionate about genocide and mass atrocities prevention and hopes to work in the field of peace and conflict resolution in the future.

Regional response to the Rohingya violence and persecution

The Rohingya are considered the world’s most persecuted minority. They are an ethnic group made up of mostly Muslims and some Hindus and have lived in Rakhine State even before Burma, a Buddhist-majority country, established its jurisdiction there in 1784. Even though the Rohingya existed before Burmese settlement and British colonial rule, the government refused to recognize and integrate the ethnic group post-independence. In 1982, the Burmese government stripped the Rohingya of their citizenship, calling them “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh. The government continues to institutionally discriminate against the group through legal restrictions in both private and public spheres. This discrimination includes limits on inter-group marriage, family planning, employment, education, religious choice, and more. For instance, the Rohingya are required to seek permission from the government when they travel, move to a new home, and marry. The tension between the government and the Rohingya has been on the rise since Burma gained independence from Britain.

Fast forwarding to the recent crisis, although many cannot fathom it, extremist Buddhists have committed vast human rights abuses against the majority-Muslim ethnic group. In 2012, violence resulted in a mass exodus of the Rohingya. Buddhist monks and nationalists started burning Rohingya homes because a group of Rohingya men were accused of raping and killing a Buddhist woman. Hundreds of Rohingya were killed following this incident, in what Human Rights Watch called crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Indeed, approximately 662,400 Rohingya have been internally displaced since 2015. In addition to internal displacement, the Rohingya are seeking refuge throughout the region, including in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Bangladesh formally hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees registered under the UNHCR, 100,000 unregistered refugees, and recently received an influx of 11,000 Rohingya in one day. In September, the country announced it would produce special identity cards for the Rohingya refugees in order to regulate migration numbers. Although Bangladesh has accepted a great number of refugees, there is a clear lack of proper and adequate infrastructure due to the increasing number of Rohingya refugees. Additionally, the camps are becoming overpopulated. There is high concern of disease spreading easily, especially cholera and tuberculosis. As the flow of refugees continues to increase, the number of aid organizations who are responding to the crisis have increased as well. However, local and foreign aid organizations are struggling to deliver aid to the camps. The Bangladesh government announced that they do not plan to give refugee status to Rohingya who have recently arrived in the country, as they expect the Rohingya to return home in the future. Rohingya refugees are stateless, and many have not been able to register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).The differences between camps for registered and unregistered refugees are stark, as unregistered refugees are essentially “illegal foreigners”, susceptible to arrest at any time, and restricted from UNHCR services such as education centers, healthcare, and food sacks. Many lack humanitarian assistance, live without documentation, and struggle to find protection from the United Nations or the country to which they fled.

There is more that the international community can and must do in order to protect the Rohingya. Recent public condemnations, while important, will not suffice. Although there has been an increased recognition of the Rohingya crisis and members of the international community have called it a genocide, such as Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister and President Erdoğan of Turkey, many Southeast Asian states are still not establishing legal protections for the Rohingya refugees. Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN, a regional intergovernmental organization) members must further their efforts to ratify the United Nations Refugee Convention to help refugees and distribute proper resources to them. Only two of the ten ASEAN member states, Cambodia and the Philippines, have signed on to the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol. As the Rohingya crisis continues to escalate, the international community, UNHCR, and ASEAN members must work together both to find effective means to alleviate the conflict and to provide additional humanitarian relief to those in refugee camps. The international community must be proactive in assisting the Rohingya with asylum and issue sanctions against the Burmese government in order to demonstrate unified efforts to end this humanitarian crisis.


RujjaresRujjares Hansapiromchok is a senior at California State University, Northridge, double majoring in Political Science and Religious Studies, with a minor in African Studies. She is currently a team member of the Communications Task Force for STAND, after learning about STAND during her internship at Jewish World Watch in Los Angeles. She is passionate about genocide and mass atrocities prevention and hopes to work in the field of peace and conflict resolution in the future.