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Debunking the Myths of President Trump’s Executive Order on Refugees

February 13, 2017

Myth: America is shutting its doors to those who seek refuge from other countries.

Fact: The order temporarily halts refugee admissions for 120 days while appropriate agencies work to improve the vetting process, then caps refugee admissions at 50,000 per year. As David French of National Review puts it, “Before 2016, when Obama dramatically ramped up refugee admissions, Trump’s 50,000 stands roughly in between a typical year of refugee admissions in George W. Bush’s two terms and a typical year in Obama’s two terms.”

As the Executive Order states: The Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days.  During the 120-day period, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall review the USRAP application and adjudication process to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States, and shall implement such additional procedures.  Refugee applicants who are already in the USRAP process may be admitted upon the initiation and completion of these revised procedures.


Myth: This order bans Muslims from entering the United States.

Fact: The order imposes a temporary, 90-day ban on people entering the U.S. from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. These are countries that were initially identified as "countries of concern" under the Obama administration. The temporary ban has been put in place to identify and ensure we are able to get all the information needed about those wishing to enter our country to ensure the safety of Americans.

Further, this provision contains an exception allowing the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to issue visas on a case-by-case basis when in the interest of the United States. This could allow already-vetted allies, such as interpreters, to enter during the 90-day period.

The Heritage Foundation has put together a good timeline of terror threats in the United States. Given the escalation in frequency of planned and executed attacks, a prudent examination of security measures is warranted.

At its base, this is a short-term pause on the immigrant entry from “countries of concern” in order to complete a review of our security procedures in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Americans.


Myth: This order imposes a religious test on those wishing to enter the United States.

Fact: This order merely allows religious minorities – those more likely to be persecuted – to be prioritized for entry. This does not bar Muslims from entry, nor does it require an immigrant to subscribe to one religion or another. In fact, Muslims in some countries may be the religious minority.

As the Executive Order states: “Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims 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.”

Moreover, in a 2015 piece, Andrew McCarthy adeptly points out that, “to qualify for asylum in the United States, the applicant must be a “refugee” as defined by federal law. That definition (set forth in Section 1101(a)(42)(A) of Title 8, U.S. Code) also requires the executive branch to take account of the alien’s religion.”

An immigrant, under established U.S. law, when seeking to come to the United States because of persecution, must then establish their religion as a central reason for seeking asylum. This policy is already codified in U.S. law and President Trump’s order has no bearing on this.


Myth: This order prevents Iraqi interpreters from coming to America.

Fact: This order provided for a case-by-case assessment of those impacted by the order and allowed the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State to provide an exception to admit those who have already been vetted such as interpreters and green card holders.

I understand and appreciate the inconvenience and stress felt by those affected by this order; but I also appreciate the underlying goal of ensuring the safety of American families that propelled this order. I trust we can move forward and achieve both goals: homeland security and compassion for those wanting to come to our shores.


While the executive order may require clarification to address concerns about green card holders and those with visas caught in transit, I appreciate President Trump’s steps to ensure the safety of American families. There is no higher priority. It is imperative we thoroughly vet those who are coming into our country. The Obama Administration implemented a similar policy in 2011 amid concerns of terrorist entry into our country, and Congress has passed legislation to address these concerns. We must prioritize Americans’ safety and wellbeing above all else.