n January 27, President Donald Trump banned immigration from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen into the United States for the next nine months under an executive order titled: “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” Even though this ban has caused turmoil and confusion among citizens as well as incorrect detainments in many airports, green card holders from the seven countries are still allowed to enter the United States under the executive order. A significant rhetorical talking point that I’ve heard many spout is that the travel ban is unprecedented and uncharacteristic of our country. For people rallying against Trump with the catchphrase, “This is not who we are,” a closer examination of America’s policies on immigration and travel prove that this ban is nothing new for the United States.
Trump’s executive order directly references the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015,” signed by our Former President Barack O b a m a . Obama’s act denies visa-free travel to all peoples that have even visited one of the aforementioned countries in Trump’s travel ban. If one were eligible to travel to the United States without a visa but happened to visit one of the seven countries, they would need to be interrogated and individually approved for a printed visa at an American embassy. Even if that person is a journalist or a member of a volunteer health-team, the same restrictions still apply. So, Trump’s travel ban is not an unprecedented decision at all. It is simply an evolutionary twist to a law that has slipped under the radar and been in place for the past two years.
Many pundits and political analysts have taken notice to Trump’s use of the term “extreme vetting” when speaking on Muslim immigration into the United States. This is a rhetorical phrase that Trump has been using throughout his entire campaign, even months before he won the presidency. So what further immigration policies will this phrase entail? Virtually none — there is no policy proposal attached to this talking point, and it is likely that Trump will just stick with the current immigration laws that are in place for vetting. The phrase is propaganda and masked in a way to suggest actual substantive change in the way we regulate immigration. Yet, in actuality, it is unlikely that there will be a set of clear changes. People must recognize that the current way the United States vets immigrants warrants more attention and discussion than the vague platitudes that Trump spouts.
Bringing the conversation back into the context of the travel ban, stringent vetting has been in place ever since 9/11. The same people in the seven countries of Trump’s travel ban undergo an entirely different visa process: one that delays flights by hours through interrogations by different government agencies.
If you are adamantly against the travel ban, realize that this is not the first time that the United States has placed burdensome restrictions on immigration and travel for Muslims. If you wish to fight these laws, just know that Donald Trump is not the first president to impose these rules, and he won’t be the last. With his provocative rhetoric, there is much more scrutiny on his administration than there was for any of our other presidents. This is why it is paramount that the mainstream media and American citizens promote social reform during these four years, as it might be the only time that people will take extreme notice of our president’s every move.
William Lam is a two-year Lower from Lawerence, Mass.