President Donald Trump signed an executive order, entitled "Protection of the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States," this afternoon, implementing "extreme vetting" of all refugees who enter the country.
This action indefinitely bans all Syrian refugees from entering the US, and suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days, while the application process is reviewed and changed. Applicants already being processed “may be” admitted once they undergo the new screening process.
Trump's executive order also includes a 90-day ban on all visas for people from countries of “particular concern.” While the executive order did not specify the countries, the New York Times reported that the countries were Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.
Additionally, the executive order calls for the prioritization of refugee applications “made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” This provision essentially means people of Muslim faith coming from Muslim-dominant countries will be denied a timely application review, at the very least.
The executive order stipulates that the United States accept a grand total of 50,000 refugees in 2017, down from 100,000 under President Obama last year.
It also says state and local jurisdictions will have greater say in “the placement or resettlement of refugees in their jurisdictions,” which indicates that towns and entire states may be able to ban entry of all refugees.
The order also calls for the vetting process for allowing both immigrants and refugees into the country be reviewed. The process, which has been called "extreme vetting," will attempt to “to identify individuals seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission.” The new process will include in-person interviews, a “process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society,” as well as attempt to identify if an applicant will “commit criminal or terrorist acts.”
In an afternoon event at the Pentago where he signed the order, Trump called the decree "a measure to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of America," Trump added: "We don't want them here."
Before signing, Trump read the name of the Executive Order aloud, saying, "We all know what that means."
There are 21.3 million refugees around the world, half of whom are children, according to the UN Refugee Agency, and 4.7 million of them are from Syria, which has been steeped in a bloody civil war since 2011.
The US has admitted 12,000 Syrian refugees under the Obama administration. In 2015, Syrian refugees made up just 2% of total refugees who entered the US. The majority were from Myanmar, Iraq, and Somalia, according to the New York Times.
Since 1975, the US as admitted 3.3 million refugees. Under the Trump plan, this number will significantly decrease.
"To think that Trump's first 100 days are going to be marked by this very shameful shutting of our doors to everybody who is seeking refuge in this country is very concerning," Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, told the New York Times.
"Everything points to this being simply a backdoor Muslim ban."
Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) released a statement condemning Trump's executive order minutes after the decree was signed.
"Turning away immigrants based on their nationality and religion is un-American and in direct opposition to everything for which our Founding Fathers fought," Markey said. "President Trump may not call it a Muslim ban, but it is, and runs afoul of our morals and values."
Although Trump backed down from his campaign promise to completely stop the flow of Muslim immigrants into the US over the course of the campaign, his first actions as president indicate otherwise.
Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot by the Taliban and has become a powerful voice for womens' rights around the world, urged President Trump not to turn refugees away at the door.
"In this time of uncertainty and unrest around the world, I ask President Trump not to turn his back on the world’s most defenseless children and families," she said.