Obama’s administration made the “Muslim ban” possible and the media won’t tell you

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

I was outraged by the ban on refugees from war-torn countries in the Middle East. I’ve covered refugees fleeing war in Iraq and Syria over the last two years, meeting families on the road in Greece, Serbia and Macedonia, speaking to poor people in Turkey and Jordan and discussing the hopes and fears of people displaced in Iraq. If you want to ban “terrorists,” these are the last people to hit with a refugee ban. Instead the government should be using the best intelligence possible to find people being radicalized, some of whom have lived in the US their whole lives or who come from countries not affected by the ban, such as Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

So I was outraged, and then I read the executive order. There are many full texts of the order online, such as at CNN, the NYT, the WSJ or Independent.  According to most reports Trump was banning “nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for at least the next 90 days.” This bars people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. US Senator Elizabeth Warren said “Let’s be clear: A Muslim ban by any other name is still a Muslim ban,” and Senator Chris Murphy claimed “Trump has now handed ISIS a path to rebirth.”  Media, such as Vox and the Independent, compared the ban to banning Jews from entry during the Holocaust and bashed Trump for singing the order on Holocaust memorial day. World leaders are “condemning Trump’s Muslim ban,” according to headlines.

I had to see for myself, so I read the executive order.  The order does seek “to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.” It says that it seeks “Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern.” It also says “I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order.”  And it targets Syrians specifically. “I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.”

But, wait a sec. According to the reports “The order bars all people hailing from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.” Critics had attacked Trump for selecting these seven countries and not selecting other states “linked to his sprawling business empire.” Bloomberg and Forbes bought into this.

But, wait a sec. I read the order and Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen are not mentioned in it. 

Go back and read it again. Do a “ctrl-f” to find “Iraq”. Where is “Iraq” in the order. It’s not there. Only Syria is there. So where are the seven nations? Where is the “Muslim ban”? It turns out this was a form of fake news, or alternative facts. Trump didn’t select seven “Muslim-majority” countries. US President Barack Obama’s administration selected these seven Muslim-majority countries. 

The Department of Homeland Security targeted these seven countries over the last years as countries of concern. In February 2016 “The Department of Homeland Security today announced that it is continuing its implementation of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 with the addition of Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as three countries of concern, limiting Visa Waiver Program travel for certain individuals who have traveled to these countries.” It noted “the three additional countries designated today join Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria as countries subject to restrictions for Visa Waiver Program travel for certain individuals.” It was the US policy under Obama to restrict and target people “who have been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, at any time on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited government/military exceptions).” This was text of the US Customs and Border Protection in 2015 relating to “the Visa Waiver Program and Terrorist Travel Protection Act of 2015“. The link even includes the seven nation list in it: “Iraq, Syria, Iran, SUdan, Somalia or Yemen.”  And the media knew this back in May 2016 when some civil rights groups complained about it. “These restrictions have provoked an outcry from the Iranian-American community, as well as Arab-American and civil-liberties groups, who say the restrictions on dual nationals and certain travelers are discriminatory and could be imposed against American dual nationals.”

It was signed into law on December 18, 2015, as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of FY2016.

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-9-06-25-pm

The Congress and Homeland Security selected these countries in 2016 and before (Screenshot of visa waiver categories, US Customs and Border Protection)

What? So there was a Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 two years before Trump? There was a kind of “Muslim ban” before the Muslim ban? But almost no one critiqued it in 2015 because it was Obama’s administration overseeing it.

So for more than a year it has been US policy to discriminate against, target and even begin to ban people from the seven countries that Trump is accused of banning immigrants and visitors from. CNN even hinted at this by noting “those countries were named in a 2016 law concerning immigration visas as ‘countries of concern.'”  But why didn’t CNN note that the seven countries were not named and that in fact they are only on the list because of Obama’s policy?

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-9-01-43-pm

The “ban” didn’t exclude countries linked to business interests, it targeted countries of “concern” drawn up last year by Obama’s administration and Congress

Because mainstream media has been purposely lying, either due to ignorance or because of unwillingness to read the document and ask questions and because they are too ready to accept “facts” without investigating. They want to blame Trump for a “Muslim ban” because they were ready with that script since last year. And indeed Trump has enacted a harsh executive order cracking down on visitors from these countries (particularly Syrians), but his crackdown only includes those seven countries because of Obama’s policy. Trump’s decision to go beyond the policy and increase the Obama policy harms refugees, but it only increases an existing discriminatory policy, it doesn’t invent it. Reading media reports you would never know that.  Most disingenuous, truly bordering on fake news, are the reports that claimed the seven countries were connected to Trump business interests, as if Obama’s DHS picked them because of Trump?

So why didn’t anyone of the thousands of reporters covering this read the same document and ask the same question and do the same investigation of where the seven “countries of concern” came from? A simply Google search would have revealed the history. A bit of searching around US code would have explained it.

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-9-15-33-pm

Were reports misleading on Trump “Muslim ban”?

The public should be suspicious of Trump’s policies and the media should speak truth to power and demand answers from the administration. But the media should also be truthful with the public and instead of claiming Trump singled out seven countries, it should note that the US Congress and Obama’s Department of Homeland Security had singled out these countries. It should have told us about theTerrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 rather than pretend this list was invented in 2017. Trump’s executive order said “countries of concern,” it didn’t make a list. That list was already made, last year and years before. 

 

 

146 responses to “Obama’s administration made the “Muslim ban” possible and the media won’t tell you

  1. Pingback: Trump’s Muslim Ban? No, it’s Fake News — UPDATED - TeeJaw Blog·

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  3. The 2016 DHS regulations you’re citing affect nationals of VWP countries (Western Europe + Japan). If they have visited one of the seven countries they are no eligible to enter the US without a visa. The citizens of the seven countries (iraq, Syria) etc. were never eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, and have always required visas. Those new 2016 regulations do not address them, and hence do not ban them.

  4. To argue that Obama approved it when the provisions were passed by a republican controlled congress and he signed it as part of a large omnibus bill, is not quite the same as Trump signing an executive order. Additionally, as Tom Ridge and many other conservatives have argued, the vetting process is already significantly detailed. I bet any new process doesn’t change much, but there will be a dramatic shift in the number of Muslims ultimately being admitted. And banning anyone (temporarily or otherwise) who assisted the military at any time is outright absurd.

  5. The Visa Waiver Program, Obama had valid ground for banning folks from those countries coming in the US without a visa. The Trump Admin..just used the list. However, this isn’t the same…this is affecting ppl with Visas and Green Card Holders. They didn’t think it through, or the implementation.

  6. It’s pretty easy to see through the media wool on this one.

    1. Whether or not the countries are Muslim majority or not, they are not 100% Muslim. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Jordan are not on the list prepared by Obama. So it’s not a Muslim Ban…if it was, Trump would have expanded the list or named the religion in his order. What we have is a list of known terror breeding sites that happen to be Muslim majority. You can argue other countries need to be on it (take that up with Obama administration too), but to call it a Muslim ban is either misinformed, disingenuous, or a lie.

    2. Really all we have here is a new administration in place who doesn’t think 1 week is enough time to assess what we are doing to vet the refugees who are already undergoing stronger vetting. It’s fairly reasonable, if you ask me, from a couple perspectives. Anything that occurs from Jan 20th on will be blamed on Trump, regardless of whether the seeds were laid before his inauguration. If he is responsible he needs to own the process. Secondly, the ban is temporary. As we have seen in Europe, perhaps how we are doing things needs to be looked at. Daesh has openly said it will attempt to exploit the refugee crisis. I think looking at the process with a fresh set of eyes isn’t a bad thing, and taking a time out while doing it is reasonable. The one missing piece is we need a way to protect those trying to flee until we can figure out the best way to handle them. Let’s get everyone in their places (cabinet etc) and then they can actually get a good look at where we are.

    The issue is, while some are comfortable with the current process, others are not, and it’s not because of some xenophobic response as the democratic party leaders would have you believe. Terrorism exists because it works…a chunk of our society has seen what happened in Europe and is scared. The executive order is a way of working on those fears, to let them know that the President and his administration is going to make sure everything is above board and the people we let in are not our enemies.

    This carries risk for President Trump too, beyond liberal hyperbole and hysteria over a “Muslim ban” and the bad press. If he blesses the process and something happens (and as Comey said, they can’t prevent it), the citizenry will hold him accountable.

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  8. Thank you for your article.
    Will everyone just take a deep breath & let this administration figure out the best way to protect us from terrorists. This is what the people over most of this country asked Trump to do. It may be painful for a short period of time but hopefully it will protect us from the killing incidents like in California, Florida, etc. once it is all figured out then we can all feel safe. I am sure the moderate Muslims will agree — remember that is why they migrated so they could get away from the radical Muslims.
    So inhale deeply, it will all work out without people going nuts over it.

  9. Pingback: Soros Bankrolling Effort to Stop Trump’s Temporary Refugee Halt Order - Israel Islam and End Times·

  10. Not covered by visa waiver program is hardly discriminatory… you see there are 196 countries in the world yet only 38 have that previlige — it’s a privilege not a basic right. Every country has such a list and it never cover the majority. For example, China is not eligible in most western countries even though it is one of the biggest emmigration countries and not currently in a war zone.

  11. Surely you need to look at the end result, and Trump’s promise in the election to ban Muslims? He’s basically now done that …

  12. Interesting! I am very disappointed by the media since Trump become a Republican candidate they have done their work unproffessionally.

  13. This was passed as part of the Omnibus Appropriations act and was written and debated by both houses of Congress. Both Republican-majority houses of Congress. It was attached to a bill funding chunks of the government. Considering the Republican leaderships vocal comments about never passing anything Obama wanted up to and including additional funding for health crises like Zika I think it’s fair to assume Congress wrote this bill on their instigation.

    A quick search shows that it was sponsored in the House by Candice Miller (R-MI) (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/158/text). It passed the House of Representatives on a vote of 407-19 (so definitely some Democrats and quite probably all Republicans) (https://homeland.house.gov/visa-waiver-program/).

    In fact President Obama had a completely different immigration/visa policy as outlined by the Republicans in the House of Representatives in this publicly available letter – https://homeland.house.gov/press/house-leaders-press-president-obama-on-administrations-unilateral-changes-to-visa-waiver-law/

    So no, this wasn’t President Obama’s policy. It was a bill championed by Congressional Republicans and was added as a rider to the bill funding the government. So Obama’s choices would have been to sign the bill funding the government into law or to veto it, shut down the government over a visa waiver bill. So at a guess, Obama did what was best for the country overall by not shutting down the government over something he didn’t personally agree with.

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  15. Yesterday, 1/28/17, it was mentioned on CNN that the Obama Administration created the list of seven countries.

    I do appreciate the post as I was trying to track down the names of the listed countries.

  16. Great read, Thanks for the research. I don’t understand the opposition against the temporary ban. It was long overdue. I understand why Obama did it and why Trump has put his declaration in effect. We live in dangerous times, Europe is being overrun with refugees and the terrorist that come with them. I’m sure the President had a large group of advisors. This was not done off the cuff, but with a great deal of thought.

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  21. Dear Mr. Frantzman, please cite the actual text from the bill where you find this list. I am looking this up and still cannot find the list of 7 countries in relation to the visa waiver program. There is no mention of any nation except Iraq and Syria in the Terrorist Travel Protection Act of 2015, which died in the Senate but was resurrected in the omnibus spending bill of 2015 – still no list of 7 there. In the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, there is finally a list of four countries that looks like it could be the base of what you’re citing, but it is in relation to using funds for Guantanamo and not the visa waiver program:

    SEC. 603. PROHIBITION ON USE OF FUNDS FOR TRANSFER OR RELEASE TO
    CERTAIN COUNTRIES OF INDIVIDUALS DETAINED
    AT UNITED STATES NAVAL STATION, GUANTANAMO
    BAY, CUBA.

    No amounts authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available
    to an element of the intelligence community may be used during the
    period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act and ending on
    December 31, 2016, to transfer, release, or assist in the transfer or
    release of any individual detained in the custody or under the control
    of the Department of Defense at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo
    Bay, Cuba, to the custody or control of any country, or any entity
    within such country, as follows:
    (1) Libya.
    (2) Somalia.
    (3) Syria.
    (4) Yemen.

    • Okay, I see now you are referring only to a list of countries that the Department of Homeland Security has added over time to the list of nations where dual citizenship does not grant you access to the visa waiver program. DHS has authority over this list – it is very misleading to make it sound like Congress or Obama rubber stamped this specific list of 7 nations.

  22. while the content of your article is correct, it is ironic that the headline is the exact type of clickbait / fake news that you are criticizing.

  23. A couple of thoughts: Obama’s enactment excluded individuals who performed duties on behalf of the US Military – such as detainee and Iraqi interpreter who has performed services in Iraq on behalf of the US for over a decade. Secondly, Obama’s order specifically refers to persons from those countries on Visa WAIVER….the 11 detainees at JFK were all in possession of US issued VISAS (not waivers). And lastly, if it were true that Trump’s order merely reiterated President Obama’s, surely he – and the GOP – would have shouldered Obama with responsibility creating the fiasco that was last night….most likely via that time honored tradition of Tweeting.

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  25. So the Trump administration is using the ground work that Obama administration laid enact its executive order. The only problem i see is the merit on this executive order was passed. If the exclusion of minorities in that country include mostly Christians, I can see a Constitutional challenge. However, if those minorities that are allowed in are Muslim, I think his executive order stands if and when it goes to Supreme Court. That’s my only beef with the executive order. Then, any judge would have to take into account what Trump has said on the past. I still think his executive order will stand based on Constitutional merits but I have my concerns.

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  27. I’d like to say that this article and the comments that followed were a breath of fresh air. The reasoned discourse, for and against, was a wonderful departure from the left and right rhetoric. Thank you.

  28. Pingback: Out! Out! Out of the Shadows | The Crawdad Hole·

  29. And here we go!! Anything done in the T Rump administration that exposes him for who he really is, like the horrible racist, sectarian he is…is now being blamed on the Obama administration. ..REALLY? T Rump is in office now and HE signed the executive orders for this ban on immigration for these particular countries… and he has so far been working on undoing everything Obama has done. I’ll give him credit for that….So anything from here on out there’s nobody to blame but T rump’s Administration…PERIOD!

    • I won’t discuss this blog, but will say that Constitutionally President Trump is not only empowered, it is his primary duty to protect the citizens, the real citizens of this country first. The dangers are real, you are not. You only hate. Obama ILLEGALLY allowed the “immigrants” into the country without going through legal means. He left President with a deliberate mess. Look at Europe. Germany allowed them, now protesting to get them out. In emergencies, INS is allowed to hire up to 10,000 agents to expedite processing of them to check their health, background, willingness to work, which some said they would not because they are “guests of Allah”. Likely some are terrorists. Obama could have done that. He fucked it up, and was mostly responsible for them being refugees in the first place.

  30. I did a little more digging than what you stated here in your article. You have good information but also a bit misleading. The countries you listed were not completely banned from entry in the US. They were simply added to the list of countries of the Visa Waiver Act. Which means you cannot enter the country (US) for a period of 90 days with a VISA Waiver. You have to get a VISA if you had visited any of the countries llisted on the exempted countries on the VISA Waiver act; which includes the 7 countries named.

  31. I’m glad someone took some time to actually read the order. Good reporting. The media (really all media now) sensationalizes everything and it sometimes takes a little bit of extra work to get to the actual facts so thank you.

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