Did Trump’s “Travel Ban” Come From Obama, and Would it Have Worked?

It has been a month since Trump signed an executive order that prevented visitors from 7 countries from entering the US until “our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”  The order was largely criticized as being chaotic and confusing because no officials were made aware the order was coming and it also targeted legal immigrants that had already been vetted, such as green card holders (CNN.)

That order was then struck down by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on February 9th in a unanimous decision (LA Times).  Trump has since vowed to appeal the ruling citing that he “must keep ‘evil’ out of our country!” (Trump Twitter)

Here is a look at who Trump’s “ban” targeted, what Obama’s administration’s involvement was, and what the effectiveness of the ban could have been or will be if reissued.

Who did Trump’s “Travel Ban” target?

President Trump’s travel restrictions prevented all refugees for 120 days, prevented refugees from Syria indefinitely, and prohibited any citizens from “Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days” (WhiteHouse.gov).

Most of the residents in those countries are Muslim and the order was received by many as a “Muslim ban.” However, most Muslims do not live solely in those countries, so it is inaccurate to fully categorize it as a Muslim ban.  It did ban people from majority Muslim countries, but if it truly was a Muslim ban wouldn’t have Trump people from all Muslim countries?

When questioned about how the Trump administration picked this list, Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus claimed that these were 7 countries identified by the Obama administration as “the seven most dangerous countries in the world in regard to harboring terrorists” (Politico).

Did Obama’s Administration Target These 7 Countries First?

The short answer is yes, President Obama targeted those 7 countries that Priebus references, but Obama’s administration did not label those countries as the “most dangerous” when it comes to terrorism as Priebus suggested.  In fact there were many more countries identified by the Obama administration.

What Priebus most likely was referring to is a law signed into law by Obama in December of 2015 which targeted the same 7 countries that Trump’s order did.  The purpose of this law was to restrict travel to people who visited or lived in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria since 2011.  This law was eventually amended to include Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as “countries of concern” (GPO.gov).

What is not mentioned, is that there is other 9 other countries that were specifically identified as Terrorist Save Havens that weren’t a part of that ban.  They are: The Trans-Sahara, The Sulu/Sulawesi Seas Littoral, The Southern Philippines, Egypt, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia, and Venezuela (State.gov).

It is completely true that the Trump administration targeted a list identified by President Obama as “countries of concern,” but they did not target those countries specifically called out as terrorist safe havens.  If the Trump administration really wanted to target the countries that are known to harbor terrorists, they would have also included the 7 included in that list.  It’s uncertain why they did not, what they were actually trying to target, or if it was just an oversight.

Would Trump’s “Travel Ban” Have Worked?

Trump’s travel ban, if left implemented or re-implemented, would prevent anyone from 9 of the 16 countries known as a “Terrorist Save Haven” from entering the countries for 90 days.  However, according to former CIA Director John Brennan (who was interviewed on CBS’s Face the Nation,) he doesn’t “think the travel ban is going to help in any significant way.”  He emphasized that the major changes needed to be done in cyber-security monitoring.

Since 7 out of the 16 terrorist haven countries would not have been prevented from sending people over to the US, it may have slightly inconvenienced those coming over to commit acts of terrorism, but ultimately radical organizations would have just recruited from the other 7 countries with terrorist ties.

Based on the protests, chaos, lawsuits, and legality questions of his executive order, it was most likely doomed to fail one way or another.  It just happened to be that the 9th Circuit struck him down first.


Donald Trump himself stated the reason he did not alert any agencies before the implementation of the order was because “if the ban were announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country’ during that week” (Trump Twitter).  This would suggest the originally goal behind the ban would not be accomplished if anything was done at this point.

There has also never been an attack on US soil by anyone from these countries that were part of Trump’s order, and many that were left off the list have had nationals a part of attacks such as the attack on 9/11. (The Atlantic).  This would suggest that the ban wasn’t stopping the countries behind the terrorist attacks on our country to begin with.

Now all we can do is wait and see what his administration does next.

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