After Trump signed an executive order banning refugees and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, his administration and right-wing media allies defended the action as “perfectly legal” and “not a Muslim ban.” Yet mainstream media figures and experts explained that the executive order’s exception for religious minorities renders it a de facto religious test. Trump and his advisers explicitly called for a Muslim ban during the last year of his campaign, and the administration’s claim that the order’s religious exception is necessitated by disproportionate persecution of Christians in the Middle East has been debunked.
Trump Signs Executive Order Restricting US Entry For Refugees From Majority-Muslim Countries, Carving Out An Exception For Religious Minorities
Trump Signed An Executive Order Banning U.S. Entry For Refugees From Majority-Muslim Countries. CNN reported on January 27 that Trump signed an executive order that “limits the flow of … refugees into the United States by instituting what the President has called ‘extreme vetting’ of immigrants.” Drafts obtained by CNN state that the order “bars all persons from certain ‘terror-prone’ countries” -- Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia -- “from entering the United States for 90 days and suspends the US Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days until it is reinstated ‘only for nationals of countries for whom’ members of Trump's Cabinet deem can be properly vetted.” [CNN.com, 1/27/17]
Trump And His Allies Have Explicitly Stated That Their Goal Was A Muslim Ban
Trump’s December 2015 Press Release Explicitly Called For A Muslim Ban. Trump first explicitly called for a Muslim ban in a December 7, 2015, press release that stated, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on.” That statement remained live on Trump’s official website for the rest of his campaign on a page that is still active as of January 31, 2017. From the December 7, 2015, press release:
Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on.
Mr. Trump stated, “Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life. If I win the election for President, we are going to Make America Great Again. [Donald J. Trump, 12/7/2015, accessed 1/31/17]
Rudy Giuilani: “When Trump First Announced It, He Said ‘Muslim Ban’" And “He Called Me Up And Said, … ‘Show Me The Right Way To Do It Legally.’” Trump’s cyber security adviser and frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani explained in an interview that “when [Trump] first announced it he said ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up and said, 'put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.'” From the January 28 edition of Fox News’ Justice With Judge Jeanine:
JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): Does the ban have anything to do with religion? How did the president decide the seven countries? I understand the permanent ban on the refugees. OK, talk to me.
RUDY GIULIANI: OK. I'll tell you the whole history of it. So when he first announced it he said “Muslim ban.” He called me up and said, “put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.” I put a commission together with Judge Mukasey, with Congressman McCaul, Pete King, a whole group of other very expert lawyers on this. And what we did was we focused on, instead of religion, danger. The areas of the world that create danger for us. Which is a factual basis. Not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, and that's what the ban is based on. It's not based on religion. It's based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country. [Fox News, Justice with Judge Jeanine, 1/28/17]
Media Figures And Experts Agree The Order Is Effectively A Muslim Ban
ACLU’s Anthony Romero: Trump’s Order “Violates The First Amendment" By “Saying That We’re Going To Exclude Individuals From Predominantly Muslim Countries,” And Then “Carv[ing] Out An Exception For Religious Minorities.” The ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that “you have Mr. Trump saying that we're going to exclude individuals from predominantly Muslim countries, and then he carves out an exception for minority religions.” Romero called the order “a smoking gun that violates the First Amendment.” From the January 29 edition of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS:
FAREED ZAKARIA (HOST): Parse that out for me. You're saying that it's unconstitutional and unlawful, why?
ANTHONY ROMERO: The executive order does a couple of things. It’s a moratorium on all refugees. It prohibits the entry of Syrian refugees. It bans the entry of individuals from seven countries. That includes even green card holders. That includes individual who have lawful visas. And then it carves out an exception for minority religions. Taken together, the four components of the executive order we think violate the due process protections of the Constitution, the equal protection clauses of the Constitution, violates some federal statutes -- the Immigration Nationality Act. We think it also violates some of our international treaties and conventions, and violates the First Amendment. The First Amendment is one of the core principles of our Constitution. It prohibits the government from either favoring or discriminating against any one particular religion. And here you have Mr. Trump saying that we're going to exclude individuals from predominantly Muslim countries, and then he carves out an exception for minority religions. The executive order is a smoking gun that violates the First Amendment. [CNN, Fareed Zakaria GPS, 1/29/17]
International Refugee Assistance Project’s Lara Finkbeiner: “This Is Clearly A Ban That’s Discriminating Against Muslim People.” International Refugee Assistance Project deputy legal director Lara Finkbeiner said on CNN that, despite the president’s “wide latitude” to suspend noncitizen entry, “we also have a Constitution that says you cannot discriminate against people based on religion.” Finkbeiner added that the executive order is “clearly a ban that's discriminating against Muslim people” because Trump “said during his campaign” he wanted a Muslim ban and “the seven countries listed are Muslim-majority countries.” From the January 30 edition of CNN’s At This Hour With Berman And Bolduan:
JOHN BERMAN (CO-HOST): There are apparently two things going on here. One, there's criticism from both sides of the aisle on how this was carried out over the weekend -- you were just talking about the chaos there, the fact that people were uninformed -- and then there's the law itself, Lara. There is the 1952 law which gives the president broad power over foreign policy and immigration control. It says, “He can suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants if the president determines their entry would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” That seems pretty clear. It does seem like he has wide latitude here.
LARA FINKBEINER: The president does have wide latitude. However, we also have a Constitution that says you cannot discriminate against people based on religion. And even though the executive order doesn't specifically mention Muslims, we know from everything he said during his campaign and the fact that the seven countries listed are Muslim-majority countries, this is clearly a ban that's discriminating against Muslim people. [CNN, At This Hour With Berman And Bolduan, 1/30/17]
AP’s Julie Pace: It’s Hard To Read Trump’s Preference For Christians “In Any Other Way Than A Religious Test For Refugees.” The Associated Press’ Julie Pace, discussing the executive order, noted that Trump said in an interview, “‘We are going to give preference to Christians.’” Pace concluded, “It’s hard to read that in any other way than a religious test for refugees.” From the January 30 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): I suspect there will be a judge somewhere up and down the line somewhere before they get to the Supreme Court that will see that preference for Christians and call that a religious test.
JULIE PACE: I think of all the things that happened over the couple of days when this was rolling out that probably should have gotten more attention it was the president's own words, where he said specifically in this interview with David Brody, “We’re going to give preference to Christians.” It’s hard to read that in any other way than a religious test for refugees. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 1/30/17]
CNN’s Ana Navarro: “I'll Tell You Who Thinks It's A Muslim Ban. Muslims Think It's A Muslim Ban. Those Who Want A Muslim Ban … Are Celebrating It As A Muslim Ban.” CNN political commentator Ana Navarro responded to the ban, saying, “I'll tell you who thinks it's a Muslim ban, Muslims think it's a Muslim ban. Those who want a Muslim ban like little boy [Michael] Flynn and David Duke, the former KKK leader, are celebrating it as a Muslim ban. And those of us who don't want a Muslim ban see it as such.” From the January 29 edition of CNN’s State Of The Union:
JAKE TAPPER (HOST): Ana Navarro, are you surprised that so few Republicans, who came out against the, quote unquote, “Muslim ban” a year ago are saying anything about, this is not a Muslim ban but it is is a ban on people from seven majority Muslim countries, are you surprised that so many Republican officials are being so quiet?
ANA NAVARRO: I think people are exhausted. I think a lot of Republicans are exhausted. The flurry of activity this week has been really a dizzying pace. It's so hard to keep up. And so many of them have been speaking out consistently this week against the charge that there were 3 million illegal voters, against the tariffs against Mexico, against the idea of the wall, against not investigating Russia for hacking. So I think it is such a steady rain of things that they have to confront Trump on that it's been an emotionally exhausting week. I have friends telling me, “I disagree with this. It is an un-American executive order. But I can't survive politically if I am confronting the man every day.”
But this is one where, as exhausted as they may be, Republicans need to appeal their sense of consciousness, to their principles, to what is right and wrong, to American values, and they need to speak up. The Republican Party I grew up in is a Republican Party of family unity. What we saw yesterday were families being torn apart. What we saw yesterday was violations of the constitution. We don't treat different people different ways. We don't impose a religious test. And the folks may want to tell us this is not a Muslim ban. I'll tell you who thinks it's a Muslim ban, Muslims think it's a Muslim ban. Those who want a Muslim ban like little boy [Michael] Flynn and David Duke, the former KKK leader, are celebrating it as a Muslim ban. And those of us who don't want a Muslim ban see it as such. [CNN, State Of The Union, 1/29/17]
NY Daily News’ Mike Lupica: “When He Says It’s Not A Muslim Ban, It Is.” On MSNBC, New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica remarked that “They’re not targeting all Muslims, but they’re targeting Muslims. So, when he says it’s not a Muslim ban, it is.” From the January 30 edition of MSNBC’s Live With Stephanie Ruhle:
ARI MELBER: There is no debate that this does not prioritize the terrorists that come into this country, which makes it look really illogical. There is legal debate over whether this is constitutional. No one knows until that makes its way to the Supreme Court.
MIKE LUPICA: No, they're not targeting all Muslims, but they're targeting Muslims. So, when he says it's not a Muslim ban, it is. And then, Ari, how many more countries do we have to put on the list? How many more countries do we have to put on the list where we're supposed to feel safe now that we started with seven, which is a new form of Nixon's old enemies list, except it’s countries now instead of people. [MSNBC, Live With Stephanie Ruhle, 1/30/17]
NY Times' Editorial Board: Trump’s Executive Order “Sets A Blatantly Unconstitutional Standard” By Giving Other Faiths Preference Over Muslims. The New York Times' editorial board wrote that the order “sets a blatantly unconstitutional standard by excluding Muslims while giving government officials the discretion to admit people of other faiths” and that the “order’s language makes clear that the xenophobia and Islamophobia that permeated Mr. Trump’s campaign are to stain his presidency as well” as they did his presidential campaign. From the January 28 editorial:
The order lacks any logic. It invokes the attacks of Sept. 11 as a rationale, while exempting the countries of origin of all the hijackers who carried out that plot and also, perhaps not coincidentally, several countries where the Trump family does business. The document does not explicitly mention any religion, yet it sets a blatantly unconstitutional standard by excluding Muslims while giving government officials the discretion to admit people of other faiths.
The order’s language makes clear that the xenophobia and Islamophobia that permeated Mr. Trump’s campaign are to stain his presidency as well. Un-American as they are, they are now American policy. “The United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles,” the order says, conveying the spurious notion that all Muslims should be considered a threat. (It further claims to spare America from people who would commit acts of violence against women and those who persecute people on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation. A president who bragged about sexually assaulting women and a vice president who has supported policies that discriminate against gay people might well fear that standard themselves.) [The New York Times, 1/28/17]
Trump Administration Says It Will Prioritize Christian Refugees Because Christians Have “Been Treated Horribly”
Trump: “Yes,” Persecuted Christians Will Be Given Priority As Refugees Because It’s “Almost Impossible” For Syrian Christians To Come To The U.S. When CBN host David Brody asked Trump, “As it relates to persecuted Christians, do you see them as kind of a priority here?” Trump replied, “Yes,” adding hypothetically that “if you were a Christian in Syria, it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States.” From the January 27 interview:
DAVID BRODY: “Persecuted Christians, we’ve talked about this, the refugees overseas. The refugee program, or the refugee changes you’re looking to make. As it relates to persecuted Christians, do you see them as kind of a priority here?”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “Yes.”
DAVID BRODY: “You do?”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “They’ve been horribly treated. Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible and the reason that was so unfair, everybody was persecuted in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.” [Christian Broadcasting Network, The Brody File, 1/27/17]
Sean Spicer: “We Need To Make Sure We Recognize [Christians]” So They Can “Practice Their Religion.” In an interview with White House press secretary Sean Spicer on ABC’s This Week, host Martha Raddatz pointed to Trump’s statement and asked “why are Christian refugees more worthy of admission to the United States than Muslims or even Jewish refugees?” Spicer responded that “in some of these countries, [Christians] are the persecuted group” and that they are “not able to practice their religion, in some cases under threat.” From the January 29 edition of ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
MARTHA RADDATZ (HOST): The executive order also stipulates that after the refugee program is reinstated in 120 days, the government will prioritize religious minorities persecuted in their country. How will you determine what religion people are? How do you vet them?
SEAN SPICER: During this 120 day period, we’re going to put a system in place that looks country by country, group by group, and makes sure that we put appropriate vetting in place. Again --
RADDATZ: A religious test?
SPICER: Hold on. No, what we’re going to do is to make sure that people who have been persecuted for either religious or other reasons have an opportunity to apply and go through a vetting system that ensures that they're coming to this country to seek asylum, to seek a new life for themselves or their family but to do so with peaceful purposes.
RADDATZ: OK, President Trump said during an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network that persecuted Christian refugees should be seen as a priority.
SPICER: Well, in some countries, they should.
RADDATZ: Why are Christian refugees more worthy -- let me finish -- why are Christian refugees more worthy of admission to the United States than Muslims or even Jewish refugees?
SPICER: Well it's a question of making sure that in some of these countries, they are the persecuted group and so it's just -- it's a fact that when they live in a majority country of another religion, they are a minority being persecuted, not able to practice their religion, in some cases under threat. And so it's just a fact that they are being persecuted in some of these countries, and we need to make sure that we recognize them so they can come to this country and be able to practice their religion in accordance with our laws and our Constitution. [ABC, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, 1/29/17]
The US Accepts Almost As Many Christian Refugees As Muslim Refugees, And Muslims Face Religious Persecution From ISIS, Too
Pew: “Almost The Same Number Of Christian As Muslim Refugees Were Admitted In Fiscal Year 2016.” An October 5 report by the Pew Research Center stated that “Almost the same number of Christian (37,521) as Muslim refugees were admitted in fiscal 2016, which ended Sept. 30. A slightly lower share of 2016’s refugees were Christian (44%) than Muslim.” From the report:
A total of 38,901 Muslim refugees entered the U.S. in fiscal year 2016, making up almost half (46%) of the nearly 85,000 refugees who entered the country in that period, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center. That means the U.S. has admitted the highest number of Muslim refugees of any year since data on self-reported religious affiliations first became publicly available in 2002.
Almost the same number of Christian (37,521) as Muslim refugees were admitted in fiscal 2016, which ended Sept. 30. A slightly lower share of 2016’s refugees were Christian (44%) than Muslim, the first time that has happened since fiscal 2006, when a large number of Somali refugees entered the U.S. [Pew Research Center, 10/5/16]
NPR: “The Implication” That the U.S. Is “Making It Difficult” For Christian Refugees Is “Not True At All.” In a January 29 fact check, NPR reported that “if the implication is that the U.S. is not admitting Christian refugees or that the U.S. is making it difficult, that's not true at all,” noting Pew’s report. NPR explained, in response to Trump’s claim that it’s “almost impossible” for Syrian Christians to be admitted to the U.S. as refugees, that while less than 1 percent of Syrian refugees in 2016 were Christian compared to 99 percent Muslim, the Syrian population in 2010 was 93 percent Muslim and “with the civil war going on and the millions who have been displaced, it's nearly impossible to tell exactly what the most current percentages are.” From the report:
It's true that 99 percent of the 12,587 refugees from Syria admitted in 2016 to the U.S. were Muslim and less than 1 percent were Christian. That would outpace Muslims' population in Syria, which is 93 percent. But that's based on 2010 numbers. With the civil war going on and the millions who have been displaced, it's nearly impossible to tell exactly what the most current percentages are.
Another possible reason for the lower percentage of Christians being admitted from Syria to the U.S. is the protection they have received from the Assad regime.
What's more, if the implication is that the U.S. is not admitting Christian refugees or that the U.S. is making it difficult, that's not true at all. In fact, the number of Christian refugees to the U.S. in 2016 was almost equal to that of Muslim refugees — 37,521 to 38,901, according to the Pew Research Center, which is basing its numbers on figures from the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services. [NPR, 1/29/17]
NPR: “Muslims Have Been [ISIS’s] Victims Far More Frequently [Than Christians] And Represent The Strong Majority.” The NPR fact check also noted that “while Christians in Iraq and Syria have been killed by ISIS, Muslims have been the group's victims far more frequently and represent the strong majority.” The report pointed out that ISIS, which “claims it fights for Sunni Islam,” has “killed and displaced” Sunni Muslims “in greater numbers than Christians” and that “Shiite Muslims are killed by ongoing waves of ISIS bombings of Shiite neighborhoods.” From the report:
But here's the reality: While Christians in Iraq and Syria have been killed by ISIS, Muslims have been the group's victims far more frequently and represent the strong majority. Shiite Muslims are killed by ongoing waves of ISIS bombings of Shiite neighborhoods, and Shiite members of Iraq's security forces have been victims of mass ISIS executions.
But even as ISIS claims it fights for Sunni Islam, fellow Sunni Muslims have also been killed and displaced in greater numbers than Christians. That is in part because ISIS operates mostly in Sunni areas. Hundreds of thousands of Sunnis have been displaced from ISIS areas, as Sunnis, who try to oppose the group or have ties to the Iraqi government, are targeted.
But that pales in comparison with the mass murder of Muslims — massacres in Iraq; 1,700 Iraqi air force cadets executed or missing from Camp Speicher, a former American military base near Tikrit; the slaughter of hundreds of the al-Sheitat tribe in Syria; and the massacre of Syrian army POWs at Tabqa in 2014. [NPR, 1/29/17]
Trump Media Allies Try To Deny The Ban’s Religious Test
Fox Contributor Mike Huckabee: “There Isn’t A Muslim Ban.” Fox contributor Mike Huckabee claimed that “the people who are screaming the loudest” in opposition to Trump’s executive order and claiming it constitutes a Muslim ban are “lying about it,” adding, “There isn’t a Muslim ban.” From the January 30 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:
BILL HEMMER (HOST): Did the White House -- did the president do the right thing or not?
MIKE HUCKABEE: Absolutely did. He did exactly what he said he was going to do throughout the campaign, but more importantly, it's what he didn't do. He didn't ban people from seven countries. I don't know if John McCain read the executive order. He might ought to do that because those countries are not mentioned in the executive order.
HEMMER: Should the implementation have been better communicated between government agencies and perhaps governments overseas?
HUCKABEE: I think that's something that everyone can figure out but in the meantime what I do think is that [Reince] Priebus is right. If you said, “Oh, by the way, in another seven days, we’re going to implement a policy,” well for seven days you’re going to have people flooding the borders and doing everything they can to get in, saying, “The window is closing.” So the only way to implement something like this and be serious about is is to do it quickly and abruptly. That's exactly what the president did. I think that, again, the people who are screaming the loudest, they’re lying about it, saying, “There’s a Muslim ban.” No there’s not. There isn’t a Muslim ban. Or that Trump named seven countries.They need to read the executive order. They obviously did not. And so, once again, it’s I think almost like a collaboration between a very either ignorant or deliberately lazy media that doesn’t look into the facts before they report them. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 1/30/17]
Fox’s Steve Doocy: It’s “False” That This Order Is A Muslim Ban. In an interview with conservative journalist Amy Holmes, Fox co-host Steve Doocy asked, “Is this a Muslim ban?” When Holmes replied that “It is not,” Doocy exclaimed in agreement, “That’s false.” From the January 30 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (HOST): On the cover of the New York Daily News today and a bunch of other newspapers that says this is a Muslim ban. Is this a Muslim ban?
AMY HOLMES: It is not. It is a moratorium --
DOOCY: That's false. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/30/17]