By Victoria Herring
President Trump signed an executive order on January 27, 2016 that banned immigrants from seven primarily Muslim countries in order to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists”: Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. Citizens of these countries were banned from entering the U.S. for ninety days, and authorities were ordered to reject Syrian refugees from opening new visa applications. The order also set the quota for all other entering refugees at 50,000 – a drastic difference from the Obama’s administration’s 85,000 limit. A variety of reactions ensued from the general public – intense criticism and protests along with applause for this new law’s promise of protecting the American ‘homeland.’ Yet critics noted the apparent paradox with the seven-country ban: no person from any of those countries have killed any American in the U.S. since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Chaos reigned in airports where families were detained with no clear instructions for next steps. Dual citizens and green card holders were also detained, while large crowds of protesters accumulated in the vicinity of major international airports. Simultaneously, three federal judges questioned the constitutionality of the order, prompting the president to threaten to challenge the judges at the Supreme Court.
Above is a map detailing the entry of Syrian refugees primarily in the year 2016. They are concentrated in four states, similar to the pattern with the total number of refugees: 10 states accepted 54% of them, demonstrating that the burden of immigrants is not equally spread out and that border states take the greater responsibility, which affects their economies and workforces significantly. If the weight were to be distributed, perhaps greater immigration numbers could in fact be a more feasible. The influx of Syrian refugees due to extreme turmoil in Syria was up 675% in 2016 as compared to the previous year.
After much confusion, a revised executive order has been proposed. What exactly does it entail, and how has it changed from the original? How will its novelty and controversial regulations affect the lives of millions of immigrants attempting to leave Syria, as well as those in foreign countries who are in the process of applying for Visas?
The new executive order is yet to be approved by the president, but its memos have been signed by John F. Kelly, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. This new order exempts travelers who already have a visa to travel to the U.S., even if they have not used it yet. The White House also said that green-card holders and dual citizens of the United States, and any of the seven targeted countries, are exempt. Nonetheless, the refugee problem in Syria is at a point of crushing immediacy and requires immediate attention.
The Syrian civil war is now in its sixth brutal year. United Nations emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brian describes it as “a slaughterhouse, a complete meltdown of humanity, the apex of horror”. This tragic war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced more than 11 million Syrians from their cities. Children are unfortunately the most drastically affected, as they lose parents, family members and friends. The physical and psychological ramifications of the violence they have observed will undoubtedly manifest itself in coming years. These young Syrians have also fallen years behind in school hampering their already fragile educational efforts. Most Syrian refugees remain in the Middle East, in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Slightly more than 10 percent of them have left Europe, the majority of these seeking peace in the United States.
The embattled city of Aleppo became well known across the globe when the picture of a young boy salvaged from the remnants of his bombed house went viral on social media.
While only ten percent of Syrian refugees seek shelter in America, this number still constitutes over one million people. With the Trumps administration’s cap of 50,000 immigrants, and blocking the entry of Syrians, the situation will undoubtedly grow worse. Peace talks have been underway since 2015, with both the rebels and the government struggling to maintain ceasefire and in the process destroying much of an innocent population.
Syria is not the only country to be drastically affected by Trump’s executive order. Millions of Mexican immigrants face the possibility of deportation, as the recently reported memos highlight an increase in the discretion of immigration authorities among previously unharmed groups. required While the Obama administration focused mostly on criminals, Trump executive order will rescind these regulations and seek out many types of undocumented people. Although he will not seek to deport Dreamers – individuals in the U.S. who were brought to the country at an early age without documentation but have assimilated to U.S. culture – parents of these young children along with their families face a fearful directive.
The contested story of Guadalupe is a tragic yet bold example of the danger faced by many people who are currently stateless – they do not have papers from the country in which they were born and remain undocumented in the United States. Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, 36, was deported to Nogales, Mexico on February 16th, 2017, according to her attorney, Ray Ybarra Maldonado. A mother of two, she came to Arizona at age 14 and lived in the US illegally for 22 years, until the Trump administrations placed priority on any immigrant with a criminal record. She was convicted in 2009 of felony identity theft in a workplace raid for using a fake social security number, and thus was placed on the priority list for deportation.
The consequences for the economies of states where illegal immigrants constitute a large part of their workforce – like California, New Mexico and Arizona – could be detrimental to the nation’s GDP. A Mexican movement dubbed #AdiosProductosGringos on twitter soon received national attention last week to boycott American brands in Mexico, such as Starbucks and Walmart. Unfortunately, these corporations are staffed in Mexico by Mexicans, which would harm their own employment rate. These ramifications will continue if Trump signs the proposed executive order, and if authorities have clear directions on how to carry out protocol. While displaced immigrants in countries like Syria and Somalia, and fleeing immigrants in Mexico, await an action from the White House, the future of millions of people remains uncertain.