President Donald Trump in a statement on Sunday argued that his newly signed executive order “is not a Muslim ban,” pushing back against protesters and critics across the world who have labeled it as such (emphasis mine):
America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave. We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say. My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror. To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days. I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.
It is true that Trump’s executive order is not a ban on all Muslims entering the US, as “Muslim ban” suggests. The order instead bans travelers (but not legal permanent US residents) from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — from entering the US for 90 days. It also bans refugee admissions for 120 days and Syrian refugee admissions indefinitely.
Still, the executive order is an evolution of Trump’s actual Muslim ban proposal. On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly said that he would temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the US. Over time, this turned into “extreme vetting” and then the executive order that he signed on Friday. So even though the effect is not as far-reaching as Trump’s original Muslim ban, critics argue that the intent is still to ban Muslims from America — allowing the description of “Muslim ban” to take off.
Indeed, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a top adviser to Trump, told Fox News that the evolution happened because Trump asked him how to do a “Muslim ban” legally. “When he first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban,’” Giuliani said. “He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’”
Trump also compared his new order to President Barack Obama’s 2011 order. Obama did slow processing of Iraqi refugees for six months that year. But that move was very different from Trump’s order in several significant ways: Obama’s order only applied to refugees — not other potential immigrants and tourists, both of whom are covered by Trump’s order. And, according to the Washington Post, Obama’s order never actually stopped all Iraqi refugees from getting into the US during the six-month period, but instead greatly slowed the speed at which they were processed — whereas Trump’s order is a full ban.
Simply put, Trump’s order reaches much, much further than Obama’s did — and it’s exactly how it reaches further that’s drawing so much outrage.
Watch: Donald Trump's executive order, explained
Update: Added new information about Obama’s 2011 order.