By Nathan Ress
Since being elected president of the United States, Donald Trump has taken quick action to begin creating and implementing new policies for the American government. Most of this action has been taken through the use of executive actions issued directly from President Trump himself, signed from his desk in the White House.
Within his first ten days in office, President Trump issued 20 executive actions on a variety of topics, including: repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), President Trump’s first executive order; withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact involving countries surrounding the Pacific Rim; approving the construction of various pipelines, including the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline; directing customs and border agencies to construct a physical wall at America’s southern border; the development of a plan to defeat the Islamic State; and, most controversially, barring refugees and immigrants.
With the implementations of these actions, President Trump surpasses former President Obama in the number of actions issued in the first ten days of presidency and has issued the highest number of executive actions in modern history. Former President Obama had issued 18 executive actions in his first 20 days as president, with former President George W. Bush issuing eight and former President Clinton issuing 12.
An executive action can be divided into four categories: proclamations, executive orders, presidential memorandums, and national security directives. A presidential proclamation is the most basic form of action and can be ceremonial or substantive and impactful. President Trump has issued two proclamations thus far. An executive order is the most popular, as well as the most scrutinized, form of executive action, and is able to organize or reorganize the federal government or set government-wide policy. Thus far, President Trump has issued seven such actions. A presidential proclamation can be regulatory as well and often directs a cabinet secretary to take specific action. President Trump has issued seven presidential proclamations. Finally, a national security directive is an action that involves national security. The term “national security directive” is general as each president names these actions something different; President Trump’s are called “national security presidential memoranda.” President Trump has issued three of these.
The 20th action taken by the Trump administration was an action signed by President Trump’s Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, and carries the same force as an executive action. This action specifically is a regulatory freeze lifting when Trump’s nominations for lead agencies are confirmed by the Senate. This act specifically is also traditional, allowing the president’s appointees to take office before creating policy.
Of these actions, one in particular has sparked immense outcry and controversy: Executive Order 13769 — “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” This order was signed on January 27 and was intended to take effect immediately. It is directed specifically at the United States Refugee Admissions Program.
Once signed, the order suspended the entrance of refugees from any countries for 120 days, expiring May 27, 2017. The order also restricts entry by refugees from any of the following Muslim majority countries for 90 days (expiring April 27, 2017): Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, and Somalia. Finally, the order indefinitely suspends the admittance of refugees from Syria, the second largest group of refugees to America in 2016. Once the universal ban is lifted, the order also issues the prioritization of refugees of minority religions, in their countries claiming religious-based persecution, particularly Christians. The full text of the order can be found online in the federal register.
Notably Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were not included in the list of countries banned.
The order immediately caused problems for officials, as its language and orders are very unclear and hard to interpret. This could be due in part to the fact that it was drafted and implemented with little to no consultation by relevant agencies or the National Security Council. As such, many were detained in various airports across the country, often for many hours. Additionally, many legal procedures have already been put in motion against the ban with court sessions to follow.
Due to the lack of clarity in the order, there is some discrepancy between who will be barred and who will not. The Trump administration issued additional guidance on Tuesday, January 31 clarifying who will and will not be barred. New immigrant visa and green card applicants from the specified countries will not be allowed into the country. People on temporary visas such as visitors, business travelers, students, or temporary workers will also be barred if trying to enter the country. This includes people who may have left the country before the ban and are trying to re-enter after its implementation.
Current green card holders will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and evaluated upon arrival before being allowed in if appropriate. Additionally, individuals with special immigrant visas such as translators or military interpreters will also be assessed on arrival on a case-by-case basis. People with dual citizenships or U.S. citizens travelling back from the selected countries will be allowed, as well as diplomats, government officials, and NATO officials.
This action immediately caused huge outcry and criticism, both domestically from both political parties and abroad in the United Nations, with many dubbing it a pseudonymous “Muslim Ban.” Domestically, huge numbers of people took to airports to protest and make their voices heard. These protests took place nationwide at airports such as LAX in Los Angeles, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, and JFK International Airport in New York City.
Given that the order affects international students and can potentially strand them in any of the affected countries, many academic institutions are also voicing their opposition to President Trump’s order. Colleges and universities have made statements that they will fight for their students and not leave behind any who have been stranded in their native countries.
Canisius College’s own President John J. Hurley has taken action in opposition to the issue in collaboration with college presidents nationwide. In an email to faculty and staff this past Wednesday, he confirmed that, after conferring with Dr. Terri Mangione, Canisius does not have any students from the affected countries.
As such, rather than issue a separate statement for Canisius, he has signed on to letters from the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU).
The ACCU released it’s open letter during its 2017 Annual Meeting and President Hurley’s name appears alongside the names of presidents from colleges such as Fairfield University, Xavier University, Gannon University, Fordham University, and St. Thomas Aquinas College, as well as nearly three pages of others.
Furthermore, the AJCU, of which President Hurley is a member, signed on to a letter composed by the American Council on Education (ACE) directly to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John F. Kelly. The letter includes 50 other higher education organizations voicing their concerns about protecting America’s duty as an educational resource for the entire world.
Each of these letters expresses the need to accept students from other countries, giving them access to American higher education to be used as a resource beneficially within the United States, in students’ home countries, and worldwide. In the letter from the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, Pope Francis was quoted, summing up the feelings of the organization as well as many others throughout the country who added their voice in opposition to the barring of refugees, saying that “authentic hospitality is our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism.”
The respective letters can be viewed online at the following links:
Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities:
American Council on Education (Signed by Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities):