On Friday, President Donald Trump signed a controversial executive order that sparked protests and debate all weekend long.
The order temporarily banned all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days. Syrian refugees were banned indefinitely (or until further notice). In addition, all visitors from the countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen were banned for 90 days. These seven countries are mainly home to Muslims.
Confusion leaves travellers stranded
Trump talked about an immigration ban like this for much of his presidential campaign last year. For him and his supporters, this order is essential to protecting the country. They are concerned about terrorists pretending to be refugees to enter America and start attacks.
Friday's ban happened very suddenly. It surprised travellers and government workers alike and sent the country into confusion over the weekend. Many travellers and refugees from the banned countries were high in the air when the order was signed. This meant that they landed only to discover that they would not be permitted to leave the customs offices. In many cases, these people were simply coming back from a vacation to visit family in one of the seven banned countries.
Protests, criticism come quickly
While some agreed with the ban, the order was also strongly opposed in America and across the world. By Friday afternoon, large protests had started at both the White House and at international airports in New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington, Seattle, and more. The protestors felt that the order was religious discrimination against Muslims. The hashtag #MuslimBan trended on Twitter, while protesters led chants like, "No hate. No fear. Refugees are welcome here."
World leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May stated that they disagreed strongly with Trump's approach. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went on Twitter to extend a welcome to refugees unable to come to the United States.
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
Numerous top American lawmakers, including mayors of major cities, state governors, and members of Congress, also spoke out against the order. The ban was called unacceptable, poorly planned, and it could be seen as America turning its back on all Muslims. Many of the strongest voices against the order—such as senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham—are Republicans, which is Trump's political party. This is unusual for American politics, because members of the two major parties tend to defend their leader's actions (especially in public).
Will the order survive?
There is some question of whether or not Trump's order will survive. An executive order is not a law. Instead, it is a command issued by the president that acts like a law unless it is struck down by either Congress or the court system.
Already a federal judge issued a "stay" (it's like pausing a legal action) on Friday so that refugees and travellers trapped at customs could be allowed to enter the country. Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) spent the weekend working on behalf of stranded travellers. By Sunday, the Trump administration had adjusted the wording of the law so that people with proper paperwork (known as green cards) could enter the country.
But even many critics of Trump's order agree that immigration is a serious concern. We expect new developments as lawmakers debate how to keep the country safe while helping victims such as Syrian refugees.