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Professors highlight details of travel ban

| Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Professors of political science Pat Pierce and Marc Belanger hosted an open forum Tuesday to discuss President Trump’s executive order on immigration that banned the entry into the U.S. of nationals from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya for 90 days.

The forum’s goal was not to discuss the executive order in a manner of pros or cons, but rather to provide information on it as a whole, Pierce said.

“What different sides in the debate have done is … emphasize part of the picture, but it’s important to put the whole thing together,” Pierce said.

Pierce said the court tends to allow the president a little more freedom to decide what is in the nation’s best interest in cases regarding immigration and terrorism.

“In terms of the ways that courts have handled these kinds of issues, they have often given presidents a great deal of discretion,” Pierce said. “Probably even greater because the president can claim to have information that they cannot make public that they can make the basis of that decision.”

According to Pierce, the First Amendment provides another concern in the order, as the order is targeted at predominately Muslim countries.

“This isn’t supposed to violate the First Amendment,” Pierce said. “We are not supposed to be making policies that establish a particular religion as the religion of the United States.”

Pierce said this establishment of religion is “linked to the notion that this has been directed at Muslims,” which draws concern in regards to the secularity of the nation.

“The Trump administration has attempted to argue that it is not at this point,” Pierce said.

According to Pierce, the most persuasive argument in the court decision will depend on the particular judge.

“Depending upon which judges are listening to this case, they may or may not take that seriously,” Pierce said. “Because there are at least a couple of things that he said during the course of the campaign that he was going to stop Muslims from entering the country.”

Belanger said the executive order does not specify that there should be an exception made in the travel ban for Christians, but that many people believe it suggests that.

“There’s another part in the executive order that seems to create a preference for Christian minorities from countries where they are a minority,” Belanger said. “It doesn’t talk about Christians, but it talks about religious minorities facing persecutions in countries where they are a minority.”

Since the Trump issued the executive, many Americans have pointed to the six-month immigration ban under the Obama Administration. Belanger said the background to that ban is important to understand when comparing it to Trump’s order.

“In 2011, it turned out that a couple of refugees’ fingerprints were found on some evidence of explosive devices that exploded in Iraq,” Belanger said. “Therefore, they had lied about their record.”

In response to this, the process for immigration from Iraq froze for six months, and when it resumed it was slower than it had been previously, he said. This is different from the current executive order, according to Belanger. 

“What didn’t happen under President Obama’s was it did not suddenly change the status of green-card holders,” Belanger said. “That’s what created a lot of the problems in the airport. … People were coming back form these countries whose visa status when they left was fine, and suddenly their visa status was up in the air.”

Belanger said there are often misunderstandings in terms of the process to attain refugee status, which needed to be clarified to understand the situation.

“It’s worth just talking a little bit about the process for how refugees are screened right now, because it may just seem like you tell someone you’re a refugee and you get into the United States,” Belanger said.

According to Belanger, the term refugee has a legal meaning, and people must go through not only the process set forth by the United Nations, but also of the country they wish to inhabit.

This process includes proving that one wishes to leave the country they inhabit due to “well-founded fears of persecution” based on factors such as race, religious affiliation or sexual orientation, Belanger said.

“‘Refugee’ is a term that has a meaning in international law,” Belanger said “It gives you a status in international law but it comes from being able to demonstrate a number of things.”

Belanger said the debates surrounding the executive order will continue even if the president issues a new executive order in the near future.

“They [the Trump administration] have continued to say that they’re going to continue to argue in court,” Belanger said. “They think the original executive order should be held up by the courts but … if they introduce a new one, it may make the whole thing moot.”

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About Jordan Cockrum

Jordan Cockrum is a junior at Saint Mary's studying Communications and Humanistic Studies.

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