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Difference between Trump Ban and Obama Ban

On January 27, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13769, called “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The so-called Muslim ban was replaced by Executive Order 13780 in March 2017. Both versions of the decree caused chaos within the U.S. immigration system and sparked global uproars. However, despite the contentious nature of the order, Donald Trump and his office affirmed that the “ban” was built upon a policy set by former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2011. Yet, while the tycoon highlighted the similarities between his order and the one issued by Obama 6 years ago, the two Executive Orders are very different.

Difference between Trump Ban and Obama Ban

Trump ban

During his 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump insisted on the importance of harshening security measures and implementing stricter vetting procedures. The creation of a wall on the border with Mexico, the intensification of the fight against terrorism, and the dramatic reduction of illegal (and legal) immigration were the pillars of his political discourse – and (most likely) the main reasons for his victory.

After his victory, Donald Trump did not wait long before issuing the first Executive Orders concerning the protection of the American borders and the intensification of security measures. In fact, on January 27, 2017, the newly elected President signed Executive Order 13769, which:

  • Suspended the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely;
  • Suspended the U.S. Refugee Admission Program (USRAP) for a period of 120 days;
  • Posed limitations to the acceptance of refugees, prioritizing the claims made by individuals from minority religions;
  • Suspended the entrance of immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries (namely, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) for 90 days; and
  • Drastically reduced the number of refugees admitted in the country.

According to the Trump administration, the order aimed at temporarily reducing the number of refugees entering the country in order to allow the competent authorities to create stricter and more efficient vetting procedures. Although the tycoon obtained the favor of most American voters thanks to his strong stance against illegal immigration and terrorist acts, the Executive Order was largely opposed by the population – and by the rest of the world.

In fact, immediately after the issuance of the so-called Muslim ban, legal challenges and protests began to arise all over the world. For instance, during the three days that followed the entrance into force of the order, over 50 cases were filed in federal courts, and judges were able to obtain a nationwide TRO (temporary restraining order), which limited (or barred) the implementation and enforcement of most of the executive order. Furthermore, the state of Washington filed a legal challenge against the order (State of Washington vs Donald J. Trump). The case was later joined by the state of Minnesota.

Following the massive protests, Donald Trump signed a second Executive Order (order 13780) on March 5, 2017. With the second Muslim ban, the U.S. President:

  • Revoked and replaced Executive Order 13769;
  • Suspended the U.S. Refugee Admission Program (USRAP) for a period of 120 days (just as in the previous order);
  • Suspended the admission of refugees within the country for a period of 120 days; and
  • Restricted admission of immigrants from six Muslim majority countries (namely, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen) for 90 days.

Iraq was eliminated from the list of seven countries; however, section 4 of the Executive Order calls for a “thorough review” of all applications made by Iraqi nationals. Order 13780 was welcomed with protests as well. Legal disputes continue to date.

Difference between Trump Ban and Obama Ban-1

Obama ban

Barack Obama – former U.S. President, first American black president, and Nobel Peace Prize – enjoyed large support within the American population and abroad. When Obama won the 2008 elections and became the 44th President of the United States, he seemed willing to end conflicts, strive for equality, and slowly decrease America’s interventionist attitude in foreign conflicts. However, although progress was made, Obama was forced to face complex and delicate issues, particularly in the Middle East – where the United States had intervened under Bush’s presidency. The political and economic vacuum in Iraq and Afghanistan – mostly caused by the war, the spread of terrorist groups, and the reckless intervention of foreign forces – led to an increase of immigration towards the West (namely, Europe and the United States).

Confronted with a growing wave of migration, Obama allowed Iraqi and Afghani asylum seekers into the United States. However, in 2009, two Al-Qaeda terrorists – who had entered the country as war refugees – were found in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The two Iraqis admitted that they had attacked U.S. soldiers in Iraq and were accused of sending money, explosives and weapons to Al-Qaeda.

In response to the specific threat posed by the two Al-Qaeda affiliates and by the possibility of allowing alleged terrorists in the country, Barack Obama issued an immigration restriction policy, which:

  • Slowed the processing of refugees requests and “Special Immigrant Visas,” which were meant for Iraqi interpreters who had helped U.S. troops on the ground;
  • Called for the re-examination of thousands of Iraqi refugees who had already been admitted in the country (over 58,000 people were affected);
  • Expanded and perfected screening procedures;
  • Suspended (although never completely) the admission of new Iraqi refugees for a period of six months; and
  • Slowed the overall resettlement process for Iraqi refugees.

In sum, Obama’s ban only targeted Iraqi refugees and never completely suspended the admission of asylum seekers into the country. Obama’s policy was a reactive decision, made in response to a specific threat, and did not target Muslims.

Trump ban vs Obama ban

Although Trump administration affirmed – and continues to affirm – that the so-called Muslim ban resembles the immigration restraining order issued by Barack Obama in 2011, the two bans differ on many levels.

  • Trump’s ban affected immigrants and asylum seekers from seven (later six) Muslim majority countries (namely, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen), while Obama’s ban only targeted Iraqi citizens;
  • Both bans were issued to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks and to allow national authorities to create and implement stricter vetting procedures (and both bans involved the collection of biographical and biometric information); however, Obama’s ban was issued in response to a specific threat – the two Al-Qaeda terrorists found in Kentucky – whereas Trump’s ban is a pre-emptive defense policy, aimed at preventing alleged terrorists from entering the United States;
  • Obama’s ban applied to Iraqi refugees and Iraqi applicants for Special Immigrant Visas (which was meant for Iraqi interpreters that had helped U.S. troops), whereas Trump’s ban applies to all types of Visas and affects all immigrants and non-citizens visitors;
  • Obama’s ban called for the re-examination of the status of Iraqi refugees and slowed the process of admission of Iraqis in the country, whereas Trump’s order barred Syrian refugees, suspended the USRAP, and restricted the admission of immigrants from the above mentioned countries for 90 days;
  • After Obama’s policy entered into force, refugees (including Iraqi refugees) continued to be accepted in the United States – but at a slower pace; conversely, Trump’s ban aims at completely suspending the entrance of immigrants from the six Muslim majority countries; and
  • Trump’s executive order was largely disputed, even once it was revised and replaced; conversely, Obama’s policy was implemented for six months and did not have to be replaced.

However, despite the differences, the seven countries that were included in Executive Order 13769 had already been identified by the Obama administration. In fact, the Omnibus Spending Bill – signed by Obama in 2015 – prevented dual citizens from the seven countries from participating in the Dual Waiver Program. In other words, the law required dual citizens from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen to apply for a Visa before entering the United States.


The increasing pace of immigration and the threat posed by terrorist attacks have paved the way for the emergence of nationalist and populist movements, in particular in Europe and in the United States. In fact, Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States, spent most of his 2016 Presidential campaign promising a dramatic decrease in illegal immigration. On January 27, 2017, the newly elected President signed Executive Order 13769 (later replaced by Executive Order 13780), which suspended the entrance of immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries in the United States for 90 days and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely. While the order was followed by large-scale protests and legal disputes, Trump and his administration affirmed that the ban was similar to a policy implemented by Barack Obama in 2011.

In fact, in 2011, former President Obama had called for the suspension of the admission of Iraqi refugees for a period of six months, and had slowed the process of resettlement of Iraqi refugees within the United States. However, the two orders are very different: Trump enacted a broad, pre-emptive defense measure and targeted all immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries while Obama reacted to a specific threat and only targeted Iraqi refugees.

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References :

[0]Exclusive: US May Have Let 'Dozens' of Terrorists Into Country As Refugees, ABC News, available at http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/al-qaeda-kentucky-us-dozens-terrorists-country-refugees/story?id=20931131

[1]Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, the White House, available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/27/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states

[2]There are major differences between Trump's immigration ban and Obama's 2011 policy, Business Insider, available at http://uk.businessinsider.com/big-differences-between-trumps-immigration-ban-obamas-2011-policy-2017-2?r=US&IR=T/#scope-1

[3]Trump’s Immigration Ban vs. Obama’s 2011 Policy, Huffpost, available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trumps-immigration-ban-vs-obamas-2011-policy_us_58b1cc3de4b0e5fdf61972b3

[4]Trump's Muslim ban comes into effect, Al Jazeera, available at http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/trump-muslim-ban-redefining-family-170629193344749.html



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