President Joe Biden is starting the immense task of removing the nativist legacy of former President Donald Trump on immigration on his first day in office, issuing an executive order to lift Trump’s divisive travel ban on non-citizens from 13 countries.
In January 2017, the policy, colloquially known as the “Muslim ban,” first went into effect and became one of the flagship immigration policies of Trump.
The ban has delayed or completely prevented legal immigration from some countries that were perceived to be security threats by the previous administration, holding families apart, and even stymied refugee resettlement.
Trump’s first concrete move on immigration policy was the travel ban, setting the tone for the tumultuous four years that followed for immigrants while galvanizing public opposition.
It culminated in mass demonstrations at airports across the US when the ban was announced, where individuals from the affected countries, initially limited to those with majority Muslim populations, were detained for hours for questioning.
This led immigrant advocates to call it a “Muslim ban” discriminatory, citing Trump’s campaign pledge to create a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
Democrats in Congress, who had held opposing views on immigration policy for years, coalesced in opposition to the policy, using it to present a united front to reject the xenophobia it represents.
In the face of several court cases alleging that Trump did not have the legal authority to issue it and that it unfairly discriminated against Muslims, the ban was amended several times.
Ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court, the third version of the ban prohibited residents of seven countries—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea—from receiving visas of any sort, effectively prohibiting them from joining the US.
(In April 2019, Chad was removed from the list of countries subject to the ban after it met the requests of the Trump administration to share information with US authorities that could assist in efforts to vet foreigners.)
Last February, Trump extended the ban to impose new restrictions on residents of six additional countries: Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania.
Although they were still able to visit the US, the people of these countries were, for the most part, barred from permanently living in the US.
One of Biden’s topline campaign promises on immigration policy was to end the ban, and he is about to deliver it.
But this executive order marks just the beginning of a project to remove the impact of Trump on the immigration system, which was largely about keeping immigrants out through a massive network of executive orders, policy memos, and regulatory changes.