Will Trump's New Travel Ban Admit Syrian Refugees?

by Elizabeth Strassner
David Ramos/Getty Images News/Getty Images

After its first iteration was halted by federal judges, Donald Trump's new travel ban was issued by the White House Monday morning. The debate about the travel ban — and Trump's immigration policies in general — were frequently centered around its treatment of Syrian refugees. Under the first travel ban, Syrian refugees who were banned entirely from the United States. Under the new ban, the entire U.S. refugee program will be halted for 120 days, after which point the number of admitted refugees will be halved (to around 50,000) compared to previous years. The old ban blocked all Syrian refugees indefinitely; the new ban treats them as it treats refugees from other countries.

The second version of the ban also applies only to Muslim-majority countries, though Iraq has notably been removed from the list after the Iraqi government promised to implement new vetting procedures. Citizens of the other six countries covered by the first draft — Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, and Iran — will still be affected when the new travel ban takes effect on March 16.

Even though the new ban no longer singles them out for indefinite prohibition, Syrian refugees are still among those must vulnerable under the new order.

Alexander Koerner/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Syria has been suffering through brutal civil war since 2011, in which warring factions including ISIL and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad battle for control of the country. The war, which has completely destabilized the country, has also turned millions of its former citizens into refugees. These refugees have fled to neighboring countries like Turkey and Lebanon, but also as far as Europe and North America. The United States accepted 12,486 Syrian refugees in 2016, according to The Guardian, while Germany admitted about 300,000.

As of last December, according to CNN, 4.81 million Syrians have fled the country and another 6.3 million are internally displaced within it. The same report also noted that as many as 400,000 Syrians have died as a result of the conflict.

Trump has previously demanded so-called "extreme vetting" for refugees before their admission to the United States. However, even before his election, would-be refugees were subject to intense scrutiny, including interviews, background checks, fingerprint screenings, and cultural orientation. Syrian refugees were subjected to two additional reviews by United States immigration headquarters.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Notably, the new travel ban will not have a provision waiving the ban for "religious minorities," an aspect of the previous ban that Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network was meant to help Syrian Christians. As the second travel ban stands, it appears that Syrian refugees of all religions will be eligible for entry to the United States after the 120-day probationary period elapses.

However, given the president's previous calls for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on," many critics have their concerns about how these guidelines will actually be implemented. Members of the Democratic caucus, including Sens. Charles Schumer and Bernie Sanders, have already spoken out against it.

The American Civil Liberties Union has also already vowed to challenge the executive order.