by Margaret Hu, Associate Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University School of Law
On Jan. 25, 2017, The Economist reported that United States had been downgraded from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy.” Coincidentally, on the same day, President Trump issued two executive orders titled, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” and “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” The former states that it was “the policy of the executive branch to . . . secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall” between United States and Mexico. The latter threatens the loss of federal funding for “sanctuary” jurisdictions, those state and local governments refusing to cooperate with the federal government in the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants. Immediate protests erupted across the nation.
Two days later, on Jan. 27, 2017, President Trump issued another Executive Order on immigration policy, titled, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The most recent Executive Order on immigration bars the admission of all refugees to the United States for four months and excludes immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. For Syria, the suspension of immigration is indefinite. For the remainder of the countries, the suspension, for now, is stated as temporary. The Executive Order asserts that immigration from those countries is “detrimental to the interests of the United States” and suspends immigration from those countries for ninety days while visa protocols are scrutinized. The tumult has been immediate, with persons from those countries, already rigorously screened and approved for entry in this country, suddenly finding themselves detained at airports and fearing a return to their home countries where they could be placed in harm’s way.