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Is it a Muslim Ban?

Updated: Feb 5, 2018

Many voters don’t like to read–I’ve probably lost those voters already. Politicians use titles and labels to steer the conversation in whatever direction they choose–think Trumpcare vs. Better Care Reconciliation Act. This was no different with the President’s “Travel Ban.” Because many are unlikely to read the executive order, the labels and titles attached to it have a lot of influence into its perceived impact. Is it a Muslim Ban? A Travel Ban? Or extreme vetting?

After several roadblocks, the Supreme Court has, by a unanimous decision, allowed part of the “Travel Ban” (formally titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States) to go into effect. Since its inception, this executive order has received criticism for its restrictions that would limit entry from certain predominantly Muslim nations to the US.

Before the Executive Order was signed, many were concerned that Donald Trump intended on barring entry for individuals because of their religion. This “ban” was arguably a major position on Donald Trump’s platform during his campaign and was a topic of interest in the debates. During the primary, some Republican opponents including Kasich, FiorinaBush, Rubio, and, Christie all expressed some level of concern or opposition.

Trump did not call his position a “Muslim Ban,” but in a press release on his campaign website from December 7, 2015, that has since been removed, he called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” With no additional context indicating if it would affect Muslim citizens and/or individuals with Visas, many feared this was a civil rights infringement while others simply didn’t see it as a smart strategy to fight terrorism.

“This is the problem,” Jeb Bush argued in the 5th GOP Debate, “Banning all Muslims will make it harder for us to do exactly what we need to do, which is to destroy ISIS.” Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) took to the Senate floor in response to Trump’s press release, comparing the proposition to the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese American citizens.

The “ban” then began to change. “The Muslim ban is something that in some form has morphed into a extreme vetting from certain areas of the world,” President Trump explained in the second debate against Hillary Clinton.

Since its official signing in January of this year, this executive order has gone through several revisions–Iraq was removed from the list of restricted countries, for example. It’s important to note that the executive order would only last 90 days from its inception. The Trump administration has argued that it does not target “Muslim countries” but countries with poor vetting–according to them, this “ban” would allow time to improve the vetting process of travelers from these countries. Some, like Lindsey Graham who had originally criticized the ban, have since gotten on board.

In a letter to General John Kelly, a team of Democratic US Senators stated, “The order precluded people from seven majority-Muslim countries from traveling to the United States, temporarily halted the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program, and permanently excluded Syrian refugees from entering the United States. The order was rightfully dubbed a ‘Muslim ban.’” 

While President Trump does not consider it a “Muslim Ban,” he seems to have embraced the informal title of “Travel Ban” for the Executive Order. In a series of tweets he even criticized those who have chosen to shy away from using the term:

Soon after the 9th Circuit Court shut down the Executive Order in early June, Donald Trump sent out the following tweet:

You likely came here for an answer. Is this a “Muslim Ban”? It is safe to say that it is, in fact, a temporary “Travel Ban” and supporters believe that, as the official name states, it will “[Protect] the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”

Our answer is that it doesn’t matter what you call it if you don’t know what it is. Politics is a game of words–and words carry a lot of power. Vote Smart helps you dig deeper into these words–their message as well as their intent. Read the President’s words carefully and read the executive order. If you have trouble understanding, call our hotline (1-888-VOTE-SMART) or email us at and one of our researchers can help you get the facts!

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