On January 27, 2017, newly inaugurated President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13769 to ban the entry of Syrian refugees and temporarily suspend the entry of individuals from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. The controversial move was widely viewed as an effort to keep a campaign promise to impose a “total and complete ban” on Muslim immigration to America.
Politicians have long weaponized racist rhetoric to justify immigration policies that impact the world’s most vulnerable people, from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the Immigration Act of 1924. Critics decried the 2017 travel ban as firmly rooted in a historical legacy of racially biased immigration policies and as part of a political campaign that fanned the flames of prejudice and fear.
Immediately after the order was signed, airports across the country became centers of uncertainty and chaos as international passengers arrived with no warning of the new ban. Parents were separated from children, and even U.S. citizens were subjected to interrogation and detention, while family members and advocates worked to secure individuals’ release and to challenge the ban in its entirety.
Within days, multiple federal judges barred the ban from taking effect, and a nationwide injunction was affirmed on February 9, 2017. Within a month, a narrower version of the ban was issued that still barred travelers from specified nations who lacked a close relative in the U.S. or approved refugee status.
In June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed part of the ban to take effect and agreed to hear a case challenging the ban in the fall of 2017.