January 28, 2017
Donald Trump has signed an executive order that will limit immigration and refugees from some Muslim-majority countries, fulfilling a campaign-trail promise to introduce what he dubbed “extreme vetting.” He criticised state department policy for allowing the 9/11 terrorists to obtain visas.
“I’m establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. We don’t want them here. We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas,” he said in a speech at the Pentagon.
The order bans Syrian refugees, claiming they are “detrimental” to the interests of the United States, and suspends the refugee admissions programme for all countries for 120 days. It will also suspend the issue of visas to nationals of countries where the US believes they do not provide enough information on an applicant to decide whether or not they are a security or public safety threat.
The new measures were called “harmful and hasty” by the International Rescue Committee, which provides humanitarian aid to refugees.
David Miliband, IRC president, said the order would damage the US resettlement programme, which he said was the strongest and most successful in the world. “Certified by successive administrations, the US resettlement programme makes it harder to get to the United States as a refugee than any other route,” he said.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, also criticised the order, becoming one of the first chief executives to openly challenge Mr Trump.
He and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are descendants of immigrants and refugees, he wrote in a Facebook post Friday.
“We need to keep this country safe, but we should do that by focusing on people who actually pose a threat,” Mr Zuckerberg said. “Expanding the focus of law enforcement beyond people who are real threats would make all Americans less safe by diverting resources, while millions of undocumented folks who don’t pose a threat will live in fear of deportation.”
The order prioritises refugees fleeing religious persecution, a move Mr Trump said was aimed at helping Christians in Syria. That led some legal experts to question whether the order was constitutional.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said it would challenge the order in court as it targets Muslims because of their faith, contravening the US Constitutional right to freedom of religion. “President Trump has cloaked what is a discriminatory ban against nationals of Muslim countries under the banner of national security,” it said.
Sample the FT’s top stories for a week
You select the topic, we deliver the news.