Posted on June 20, 2016

The Muslim Ban: It’s Been Done Before (a Lot)

Brendan Kirby, LifeZette

Citing authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the president moves to ban certain foreigners from entering the United States in order to counter human rights abuses in Syria and Iran.

A first 100 days action taken by a future President Trump?

Try President Obama, who issued the proclamation on April 23, 2012. He cited his authority under Section 212(f) of the immigration law to prohibit entry of people from Iran and Syria using computer technology to commit human rights abuses or threaten U.S. national security interests.


No vote of Congress was required. No court order was necessary. It was one of six times Obama has barred certain classes of foreigners from entering the United States. Each time, he asserted his authority using the same provision of the law that Donald Trump has vowed to use in order to temporarily suspend entry by individuals from high-risk areas of the world.


Language in the statute is quite broad:

“Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”


In response to the hostage crisis following the Iranian Islamic revolution, Carter in April 1980 ordered that–with a few exceptions for humanitarian reasons–visas of Iranian citizens would not be renewed.

Ronald Reagan used the authority four times to bar members of the Cuban government and Communist Party, to prohibit Cubans more generally except for certain exceptions, to block foreigners arriving at the borders by sea, and to ban Panamanians implementing the policies of strongman Manuel Noriega. That order also applied to their families.

Bill Clinton acted to ban Haitians–plus relatives–involved in a 1991 coup. He targeted people who supported Bosnian Serb forces, members of the Sudanese government, and armed forces and members of the military junta and their families in Sierra Leone. Later, he issued a broader ban of “anyone who plans, engages in, or benefits from the activities that support the Revolutionary United Front or otherwise impedes the peace process in Sierra Leone, and their families.”

George W. Bush issued six proclamations as president. Targets included anyone intimidating refugees from returning home in the Western Balkans and those responsible for “ethnic cleansing” in 1991. Members of the government of Zimbabwe and people with business dealings with the government also had their U.S. privileges revoked.