On January 27 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The new policy cited the September 2001 attacks and other recent terrorist acts as its motive.
Components of the policy included the controversial “Refugee/Muslim Ban” which suspended the entry of refugees into the United States for a period of one hundred twenty days and placed a ninety-day hold on entry by citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries: Syria, Iraq, Libya, Iran, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. In addition, any individual seen as a threat to national security would have his or her visa suspended or have additional immigration benefits, such as eligibility of employment and residential status, revoked.
Talha Tariq ’17, a Muslim student, stated that in his opinion, “Implementing a ban solely based off geographic location is unconstitutional.”
Fernanda Ponce ’19, a member of the Spiritual Council, stated: “I was astounded that the President could… ban people based on their religion, especially since the First Amendment of our Constitution allows people to practice any religion they choose without discrimination… The Muslim Ban… sends many wrong messages, such as that Muslims are all terrorists even though less than 1% are.”
Many experts have echoed the same sentiment. Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney, stated in an interview with Fox News on February 7th, “The president can’t get away with discrimination by simply taking out some words… The Supreme Court has made clear that you have to figure out what the intent is.”
On the other hand, some students argue that the ban is not discriminatory. Mason Horton ’19 stated, “The ban protects our national security by allowing the government to restructure our vetting process while still permitting immigration. Additionally, the ban is temporary. I do not feel it targets the Islamic faith, as several predominantly Muslim countries were not targeted. Instead, the policy is directed specifically to countries where the administration, and I, think the threats of terrorism need to be addressed.”
Though Head of School Dr. Margarita Curtis announced that Deerfield would not take a political stance, the administration is monitoring how the new changes affect the Deerfield community, although there are no current Deerfield students from the seven countries.
“We tried to be proactive to get students ready, also looking at the implications for daily travel. Our stance is that we are here to support,” said Ms. Marjorie Young, Director of Inclusion & Community Life.
Since refugees were first detained at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City on January 28, organizations such as the ACLU have legally represented detained individuals. These civil rights and non-profit organizations saw a surge in donations the weekend following the Executive Order.
On the other hand, some critics argued that the ban is not comprehensive enough, because it does not include other countries that could possibly pose threats to national security. For example, 15 of the 19 hijackers during the 9/11 attacks were Saudi Arabian. However, Saudi Arabians have not been barred from entering the United States.
The controversy heightened when, on February 3, Federal Judge James Louis Robart put a temporary restraining order on the travel ban. The next day, the Trump administration appealed to reinstate the ban.
However, a three-judge panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth circuit unanimously upheld the restraining order.
Ms. Young stated that even with the restraining order, “We cannot be complacent and assume that it’s business as usual. We need to be prepared for the unpredictability of the decisions that this new administration is making… Things are changing pretty quickly.”
Iqbal Nurjadin ’18, a head of the Muslim Student Alliance, remains optimistic about the future. He reflected, “If Trump’s ban was meant to spread hatred towards Muslims, then it seems to have done the opposite. Never have I seen so much support for Muslims in my time here than after the ban was enacted. That feeling of support tends to dominate my fear over the situation, leaving room for hope that the American people and politicians can prevent Trump from causing too much damage.”