Hi Internet People,
This past weekend our president signed an executive order titled, “PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES,” or as many have referred to it, the Muslim Ban. Online I saw that within the messages of protest and disgust at this order that there were mentions of something from the previous administration. As someone who spent all of my collegiate years researching, the one benefit of two history degrees is that I am very comfortable hunting for information online, I tracked down just what it was that people were talking about.
Yes, in 2015 there was a piece of legislation that passed known as the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.” This document does mention Iraq and Syria, which are specified in the above titled executive order, but it is very important to note that the Act of 2015 was not an executive order and does not list all 7 countries. It passed through both the House of Representative and the Senate, following the proper channels of a Bill and thus was enacted. This meant that the president in 2015 did not put in place any sort of ban or restriction of his own volition. I also researched the apparent stop on visas that took place in 2011. According to all sources I could find there was a slow down and it is possible visas were not granted, but no official executive order was filed. I looked through all the registered executive orders I could find from the entire term of that presidency and while those countries are mentioned, there is no specific visa ban order within the orders.
The reason that the media and a number of people within the United States are concerned about this ban is that it was done by executive order. There was no time to prepare or explain the procedures to those who would be expected to implement it. The wording was also vague enough to cause issues for legal green card holders and those already granted legal access to the country. In drafting an executive order, or really any form of legal and governmental writing, it is important to be clear so as to not cause confusion for the general public.
Let’s say you’re the president, go you getting to live in the White House. During your first week you decide that you no longer want the United States to import goods from Australia. You write an executive order and because you are the president it becomes law. Now you’re a busy person you can’t know everything. It turns out that the US has previously agreed to take 300 hats from Australia. These hats arrive by boat and suddenly the port authority is faced with a dilemma. Now these hats were expected to come into the country, legally they have all the proper documentation, but based on the order passed that day technically they can’t come into the country. People have to be called, documents have to be checked, and after hours, even days, someone has to do something with those hats. While this is a rather simplistic example, the idea is that if the executive order had been clearer and stated that already verified shipments of hats from Australia could enter the US then time would have been saved and the hats wouldn’t have had to sit at the port this entire time. Again, hats aren’t people, but I thought I’d use something high school textbook level example wise.
The point of all of this is to say that while yes, there was legislation in 2015 that highlighted two of the countries from the executive order in 2017, that legislation was not enacted solely by the president. The concern is that such orders will lead to sweeping changes in US legislation with no input from Congress. The other point is that when executive orders are passed it is crucial that they be written in a way that does not cause unnecessary confusion or lead to scrambling on the part of government employees to understand what they are expected to do. So instead of saying that the executive order is the same as something from the previous administration take into consideration that executive orders carry a much different perspective than edited bills that passed through the legislature.
Talk to you tomorrow,