President Donald Trump’s executive order barring immigration from a list of seven predominantly Muslim nations sparked protests and backlash from both regular citizens and the judiciary almost immediately. However, Trump’s executive orders are the direct result of executive action by former President Barack Obama.
Specifically, Barack Obama’s lauded use of executive action in his tenure as POTUS increased the legality and power of executive orders. Obama used executive action numerous times to protect undocumented/illegal immigrants from deportation and even allowing certain benefits to be extended to them. According to a 2014 report by the Migration Policy Institute, “As many as 3.7 million unauthorized immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents could apply for temporary relief from deportation under the new deferred action program that President Obama is expected to unveil this week, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates.”
Obama’s controversial gun control executive action, often viewed as a potential infringement on 2nd Amendment rights, further extended the reach of the executive branch. While that particular executive order appears to have had a minimal effect on actual gun rights, the key point about that order is how it increased presidential power.
President Trump’s executive order regarding the temporary suspension of the refugee program and ban on immigration from the seven select countries could legally be supported by Obama’s expansion of the refugee program. According to a 2015 U.S. News report, “The executive branch is solely responsible for screening and admitting refugees and settling them in states with the help of private agencies. State governments are allowed to weigh in with concerns over whether refugees can be settled inside their borders, according to the Refugee Act of 1980, but there’s nothing they can do to stop settlement, or to keep refugees settled in other states from moving once they’ve already arrived.”
As such, while certainly not the most compassionate thing to do, President Trump had the necessary legal framework to place a ban on refugees from Syria. On the other hand, the legal ramifications regarding the effects of the immigration stay on Green Card holders are yet to be seen. Officially, the Trump administration claims the executive order should not have an effect on them.
Another issue which arose from the executive order was the issue that the order may target specific religious groups. Lawyers and judges will have to determine if that is the case, as the laws regarding the president’s powers over immigration are more than slightly obtuse, with various caveats which can cause the interpretation to sway depending on how they are interpreted. A couple of relevant sections can be found here and here. The first section points out someone cannot be denied access based on their country of origin. On the other hand, the latter section (search “terrorist”) indicates that someone can be denied if the Secretary of Homeland Security has reasonable cause to suspect them.
Additionally, it can be argued Trump’s executive order is simply the continuation of legislation passed during Obama’s tenure. The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 originally covered Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria, with Libya, Somalia, and Yemen being added on later. These are the specific countries covered by Trump’s ban. As such, Trump has further legal grounds for his controversial executive action.
Currently, the President’s order has been suspended by various judges around the country, and a number of Attorney Generals are rumored to be preparing opposition to the order on the grounds of it being unconstitutional.
So what do you think of President Donald Trump’s executive order regarding the suspension/ban on certain forms of immigration from particular countries? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!
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