Verify: Trump's 2017 executive order vs. Obama's 2011 executive order

The KHOU Verify team takes a look at how former President Barack Obama's 2011 immigration reform differs from President Trump's current ban on refugees and immigrants entering the United States.

On Monday, President Donald Trump defended his executive order that puts an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, a 120-day ban on all other refugees, and a 90-day ban on visitors from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

His actions are coming under attack from thousands of protestors around the nation, as well as lawmakers from both parties.
 
Those seven impacted countries are ones the U.S. State Department has long said harbor or sponsor terrorists. Since the order was signed on Friday, 350 people were denied flights to America and at least 109 people were detained at U.S. airports.

The White House says the travel ban is needed to keep America safe, but some national security experts say it bolsters terrorist propaganda that America is waging a war against Islam.

Trump says his controversial executive order is similar to one signed by former President Obama in 2011 targeting Iraqi refugees. Trump also says that Obama later singled out the same seven nations as “countries of concern.”

The latter claim is true, but there are major differences in both content and context between the two executive orders.

Obama’s order involved re-vetting 58,000 Iraqi refugees already living in the United States and creating tougher screening procedures.

The measure slowed visa applications, but did not stop them, nor did it ban travel to the U.S.

"There's never been anything similar to this with immigration,” said Dr. David Branham, Associate Professor of Political Science with UH-Downtown.

Branham says since President Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S. presidents have increasingly used the executive order to advance their political agendas.

Branham says unlike President Trump’s executive order, Obama's 2011 executive order was passed after a specific threat involving two Iraqi refugees accused of making bombs during the Iraq War that targeted American soldiers.

"We were in a war with Iraq,” said Dr. Branham, adding that in the current fight against extremists, “it’s very difficult to narrow boundaries on these people.”

"With the Obama executive order, people could see the logic behind that,” said Branham. “It's harder for people to see the logic behind this. We're not seeing terrorists coming in from these countries."

Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morrell appeared on CBS This Morning on Monday and called Trump’s executive order "a recruitment boon for ISIS".

"I think the order is going to make the threat worse,” said Morell.

Morell also responded to President Trump’s comments about the seven countries being on Obama’s list.

“This was actually part of a program to enhance the security of the visa waiver program from European countries,” said Morell. “So they enhanced it, and there's no evidence that there's any weaknesses to it. That's really important context here."

Raul Ramos, Associate Professor of History at the University of Houston, says another key difference between the two executive orders concerns the way they were implemented.

Ramos says while Obama spent weeks working with government agencies and lawmakers to make sure his order was workable, Trump’s quick rollout has caused a lot of confusion for customs agents.

Ramos also says the closest historic parallel to this law is the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 that banned Chinese laborers from coming to the U.S. That law was repealed in 1943.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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