- A complete suspension of the US Refugee Admissions Programme for 120 days
- An indefinite ban on Syrian refugees
- Visitors entering the US from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen will have their visas suspended for 90 days. Some visa categories, such as diplomats and the UN, are not included in the suspension.
- A cap on refugees to be introduced later in 2017, reduced from the 110,000 limit set by former President Barack Obama, down to 50,000.
- A suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Program, which allows consular officers to exempt some applicants from face-to-face interviews if they are seeking to renew their temporary visas within a year of expiry.
Since the order was implemented, there has been much confusion over the wording of the document and exactly who is impacted, particularly those with dual nationalities. There have been reports over the weekend of non-US. based airport ground staff misinterpreting the rules and wrongly denying boarding for US bound passengers who hold passports from one of the countries mentioned in the order, or are dual nationality citizens.
It is reported that immediately after the executive order was signed, United States Customs and Border Protection instructed airlines to stop passengers of banned countries from boarding flights and to remove any who had already done so. Airline crew members from the seven named countries were also barred from the United States. White House officials also sent a message to American diplomatic posts globally, instructing them to immediately stop visa interviews for citizens belonging to the seven banned countries listed, and additionally to cease the processing or printing of any pending visas.
The confusion surrounding the details of the executive order has exacerbated due to contradictory advice provided by the Trump administration, The US Customs and Border Protection Agency, and The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In an apparent U-turn announcement, the White House Chief of Staff said on Sunday that green card holders from the seven banned countries would not be prevented from returning to the United States going forward. Further adding that border agents had discretionary authority to subject any travellers, including American citizens, to additional questioning and scrutiny if they had been to any of the seven countries mentioned in the executive order.
The situation was further compounded after a number of federal judges issued court orders temporarily blocking certain parts of the executive order. On January 29, the DHS issued a statement in relation to the executive order and in particular, the court orders issued by the Justice Department in an attempt to block the deportation of those with valid visas. The statement outlines that; Upon issuance of the court orders yesterday, US. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immediately began taking steps to comply with the orders. Concurrently, the Department of Homeland Security continues to work with our partners in the Departments of Justice and State to implement President Trump’s executive order on protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.
By late Sunday evening, it was still not clear if there was consistent compliance with the court rulings that partly blocked Mr. Trump’s executive order. The statements made on Sunday morning by the White House Chief of Staff gave no specific details on the criteria used by border guards to exercise their discretionary authority, hence the continued uncertainty for travellers. Those green card holders outside of the US, and attempting to return, were being advised to meet with a consular officer and seek a case-by-case visa waiver to return home; however, the requirements to get a waiver remain unclear. A senior Department of Homeland Security official told US media sources late on Sunday night that no green card holder had been denied entry as of Sunday evening. The International Air Transport Association appears to support this on Monday after instructing airlines that travellers who are permanent green card holders should be allowed to travel to the United States.
The initial chaotic situation that followed the signing of the executive order has remained fluid over the weekend, largely on the back of the federal court orders. On Friday afternoon, even travellers who were in the air when the order was signed were refused entry upon landing, if they were from one of the seven countries listed, despite having a Green Card or visa. Others were formally detained and figures provided by Department of Homeland Security claim out of the 325,000 travellers who entered the US on Saturday, 109 people were denied entry and detained, 173 were prevented from boarding aircraft in foreign locations, and 81 green card waivers were issued.
An Urgent Notice was posted to the US Embassy website in the UK stating:
Per US Presidential Executive Order signed on January 27th, 2017, visa issuance to aliens from the countries of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has been suspended effective immediately until further notification. If you are a national, or dual national, of one of these countries, please do not schedule a visa appointment or pay any visa fees at this time. If you already have an appointment scheduled, please DO NOT ATTEND your appointment as we will not be able to proceed with your visa interview. Please note that certain travel for official governmental purposes, related to official business at or on behalf of designated international organizations, on behalf of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or by certain officials is not subject to this suspension.
The Urgent Notice, which was also issued by the US Embassy in Berlin, clearly contradicts this and it is understood the UK Foreign Secretary is now seeking clarity from the White House.
There has been widespread condemnation of President Trump’s executive order, with protests taking place both nationwide and across the globe. Hundreds of protesters reportedly descended on airports countrywide, and rallies and marches also took place in a number of major cities including New York and Washington DC. Further protests took place on Monday January 30th, worldwide, with thousands committing their attendance at events globally via social media.
Additional global fallout from the US travel ban is likely, particularly in terms of reactions from governments of the seven countries listed. The Iraqi parliament has already voted in favour of implementing reciprocal visa restrictions on Americans visiting Iraq and it is possible other countries will do the same. It remains to be seen exactly who will be affected by the ban, however with large numbers of American military personnel, non-government and aid workers, oil companies and defence contractors doing business in Iraq, there is the potential for severe disruption to travel and business continuity. The uncertainty following the executive order is likely to continue for some time.
Further federal court intervention is almost a certainty, particularly as further security measures are being considered by the Trump administration, along with the possibility more countries could be added to the travel ban. On the face of it, the courts are claiming the order isn’t legal and they are likely to base at least some of their argument on the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which states that no person could be "discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person's race, sex, nationality, place of birth or place of residence".
However, an earlier law passed in 1952 and known as "Inadmissible Aliens", gives the president powers to "suspend the entry" of "any class of aliens" that he finds are detrimental to the interest of the United States. In addition, the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act has previously been challenged successfully when President Jimmy Carter denied entry to a number of Iranians during the 1980 crisis over the detention of 52 Americans being held hostage in Tehran.
There does not appear to be any initial reaction by President Trump to the condemnation surrounding the measures he has implemented, and if anything he continues to strongly promote the US immigration ban. This is despite a steadily growing global backlash.