It appears Donald Trump is sticking with his promise of ‘extreme vetting.’
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President Trump is expected to suspend the U.S. refugee program as one of his executive orders this week, closing the door on thousands of people seeking asylum from religious, political and ethnic persecution worldwide.
Here’s a look at what’s involved with the refugee ban:
Who could be affected?
Most refugees in 2016 came to the U.S. from countries that are at war or under the control of repressive governments. Top refugee admissions from Africa came from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (16,370) and Somalia (9,020). From east Asia, most came from Myanmar (12,347). The greatest number of Europeans came from Ukraine (2,543), which is at war with Russian-backed irregular troops in the east. Colombians (529) fleeing an insurgency topped the list from South America, and Syrians (12,587) and Iraqis (9,880) fleeing civil war and terrorist groups topped the list from the Near East and South Asia.
How many refugees has the U.S. admitted in the past?
Total U.S. refugee admissions have dropped since 1975 from 146,158 in 1975, when 135,000 came from Asia, to 84,995 in 2016, when four out of five refugees came from Africa and the Near East or South Asia, according to the State Department.
Who were the refugees from Iran?
It is uncertain how any ban on refugees from Iran will impact religious minorities from one of the world’s most repressive regimes. Of the 4,152 refugees admitted from Iran in 2016, more than three-fourths, 3,252, identified as non-Muslims —Bahai, Jewish, Zoroastrian or one of the Christian and Protestant faiths. According to media reports, unverified drafts of Trump’s executive order that would suspend refugee applications include an exemption for religious minorities, but the drafts may change before they are signed.
Does Trump have the power to block refugees and other immigrants?
Yes, for security reasons. A president has the power to shut down the refugee program completely, bringing the number of refugees to zero, without any justification or approval from Congress. Federal law allows for a president to bar entry to any immigrant “or any class” of immigrants if the president deems them “detrimental to the interests of the United States, and to “impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate,” according to the law.
U.S. Code § 1182 – Inadmissible aliens: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”
How many immigrants does the U.S. admit, and how many come from countries on Trump’s list?
The State Department issued 617,752 immigrant visas and 10,891,745 non-immigrant (tourist and worker) visas in 2016. One out of 20 immigrant visas went to people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.
The two major U.S. terrorist attacks that occurred in 2015 and 2016 involved people with ties to countries not on that list: Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, June 12, was a U.S.-born Afghan-American who’d traveled to Saudi Arabia in recent years. And Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the married couple who killed 14 people in San Bernadino, California, Dec. 2, 2015 also had no ties to those seven countries. Farook was born in the U.S. to Pakistani immigrants, and his wife was a recent arrival from Saudi Arabia, which Farook had visited.
Would Trump block immigrants based on their religion?
According to reports by the New York Times and Reuters, Trump is considering a month-long ban on immigrants from at least seven countries.
Had Trump called the immigration ban a ban on Muslim countries, which he proposed as a temporary restriction during the presidential campaign, he would likely have faced legal challenges based on the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion.
But the seven countries on his list have been carefully selected. Three of them — Iran, Sudan and Syria — comprise the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. The other four — Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — are designated “terrorist safe havens” by the State Department.
Trump can point to terrorism and defend his moves based on national security grounds.
Contributing: Alan Gomez
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