President Trump’s executive order, which prevents citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering America for at least 90 days, is unprecedented in calling for a ban on people of these nationalities- and even dual-citizens- being allowed in the United States. But names of the countries affected by the ban are nowhere to be found in the executive order itself and were not decided by Trump. That decision was made by the Obama administration.
Goes back to 2015
While the order does mention Syria by name, stating “I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States,” when it comes to the other countries, it says that the nations the order includes are “referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12)”. These seven countries, listed frequently in reports surrounding the executive order, were actually listed in the ‘Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015’, referenced on the US Department of State’s website.
The text reads:
Under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP): Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country) Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.
This is not the same as an outright ban on citizens and dual-citizens of these countries, as the new executive order seems to have instigated. Instead, this list of countries- which is the list of countries referenced by the new order- merely says that if you were, say, from the United Kingdom (and could enter the US under ESTA rather than getting a visa at the embassy) but had visited Iran since 2011, you would not be able to get into America without applying for a full visa. It also includes people from visa waiver countries- again, like the United Kingdom- who also were dual citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria.
These seven countries are affected by Trump’s executive order not because of his choosing, but because of decisions made under his predecessor’s administration. The above act was signed into law on December 18, 2015, and was part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of FY2016.
A bill was introduced in January 2016, called ‘H.R. 4380 (114th): Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016′, which sought to repeal the aforementioned restrictions on dual citizens, but the bill failed to be enacted by the end of that congressional session, meaning it was “cleared from the books.” While the document Trump has signed is a larger and more definite ban on people of these nationalities than has existed under previous Presidents, the seven countries were singled out long before his administration.
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