Chicago Sun-Times

Does Trump have le­gal power to block refugees?

- Oren Dorell and Alan Gomez

Pres­i­dent Trump sus­pended the U. S. refugee pro­gram for 120 days, banned im­mi­grants from seven Mus­lim na­tions for 90 days and or­dered his ad­min­is­tra­tion to de­velop “ex­treme vet­ting ” mea­sures for im­mi­grants from those coun­tries to keep “rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ists” out of the U. S. The order, signed Fri­day, bars all Syr­i­ans from en­ter­ing the U. S., and gives pref­er­ence in ad­mis­sion to Chris­tians.

Q What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween im­mi­grants and refugees?

Im­mi­grants come from other coun­tries to the U. S. for a va­ri­ety of per­sonal rea­sons, such as seek­ing a bet­ter life. Refugees are a spe­cial class of im­mi­grants who seek asy­lum from war, per­se­cu­tion and other risks to their safety. They have pro­tected sta­tus un­der in­ter­na­tional law.

Q Who are the refugees ad­mit­ted to the U. S. in 2016?

Most of the 85,000 refugees ad­mit­ted in 2016 came from coun­tries that are at war or un­der the con­trol of re­pres­sive gov­ern­ments. Top ad­mis­sions from Africa came from the war- torn Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo ( 16,370) and So­ma­lia ( 9,020). From East Asia, most came from Myan­mar, for­merly known as Burma, ( 12,347). The great­est num­ber of Euro­peans came from Ukraine ( 2,543), which is at war with Rus­sian- backed ir­reg­u­lar troops in the east. Colom­bians ( 529) flee­ing an in­sur­gency topped the list from South Amer­ica, and Syr­i­ans ( 12,587) and Iraqis ( 9,880) flee­ing civil war and ter­ror­ist groups topped the list from the Near East and South Asia.

Q How many refugees has the U. S. ad­mit­ted in the past?

To­tal U. S. refugee ad­mis­sions have dropped steadily from 146,158 in 1975, when 135,000 came from Asia, ac­cord­ing to the State Depart­ment.

Q Does Trump have the le­gal au­thor­ity to block refugees and other im­mi­grants?

He might on se­cu­rity grounds. A pres­i­dent has the power to shut down the refugee pro­gram with­out ap­proval from Congress. Fed­eral law al­lows the pres­i­dent to bar en­try to any im­mi­grant “or any class” of im­mi­grants if he deems them “detri­men­tal to the in­ter­ests of the United States,” and to “im­pose on the en­try of aliens any re­stric­tions he may deem to be ap­pro­pri­ate,” ac­cord­ing to the law.

Q Why did he sin­gle out seven coun­tries for the ban?

Three of them — Iran, Su­dan and Syria — com­prise the State Depart­ment’s list of state spon­sors of ter­ror­ism. The other four — Iraq, Libya, So­ma­lia and Ye­men — are des­ig­nated “ter­ror­ist safe havens” by the State Depart­ment.

Q Have any refugees from those coun­tries re­cently com­mit­ted ter­ror­ist acts in the U. S.?

No. The two ma­jor U. S. ter­ror­ist at­tacks that oc­curred in 2015 and 2016 in­volved peo­ple with ties to coun­tries not on that list: Omar Ma­teen, who killed 49 peo­ple at the Pulse night­club in Or­lando last June, was a U. S.- born Afghan- Amer­i­can. And Syed Rizwan Fa­rook and Tash­feen Ma­lik, the mar­ried cou­ple who killed 14 peo­ple in San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 2, 2015, also had no ties to those seven coun­tries. Fa­rook was born in the U. S. to Pak­istani im­mi­grants, and his wife was a re­cent ar­rival from Saudi Ara­bia, which Fa­rook had vis­ited.

Q How are refugees now vet­ted?

The State Depart­ment says it has the most ex­haus­tive back­ground sys­tem in the world. Refugees are first in­ter­viewed in their home coun­tries and their back­grounds are checked care­fully dur­ing a process that can take up to two years. Some refugees worked for the U. S. mil­i­tary in Iraq as trans­la­tors or in other jobs and are seek­ing asy­lum for fears of be­ing sin­gled out for their as­so­ci­a­tion with the U. S. gov­ern­ment.

Q Why a to­tal ban on Syr­i­ans?

Syria is a con­cern be­cause the Is­lamic State mil­i­tant group that is be­hind ter­ror­ist acts around the world still op­er­ates in the coun­try. Eleven mil­lion Syr­i­ans — half of the pop­u­la­tion — have been dis­placed.

Q Who are the Syr­i­ans ad­mit­ted to the U. S.?

The State Depart­ment says the vast ma­jor­ity of the 12,587 ad­mit­ted last year are women and chil­dren, and only 2% are sin­gle young men who are most likely to com­mit ter­ror­ist acts.

QCan Trump block en­try of im­mi­grants who al­ready re­ceived visas and trav­eled to the U. S.?

That will likely be de­cided by the courts.

 ?? HAS­SAN JARRAH, AFP/ GETTY IM­AGES ?? Syr­ian chil­dren play in the snow in the Deir Zei­noun refugee camp in east­ern Le­banon on Satur­day. Pres­i­dent Trump has is­sued a tem­po­rary ban on all im­mi­grants from Syria.
HAS­SAN JARRAH, AFP/ GETTY IM­AGES Syr­ian chil­dren play in the snow in the Deir Zei­noun refugee camp in east­ern Le­banon on Satur­day. Pres­i­dent Trump has is­sued a tem­po­rary ban on all im­mi­grants from Syria.

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