Understanding the Muslim Bans

Understanding the Muslim Bans

Last updated JULY 26, 2018

The Muslim bans are a series of discriminatory executive orders and proclamations that the Trump administration has implemented. The first version, Muslim Ban 1.0, was signed and went into effect on Jan. 27, 2017. Within a day of this first executive order being signed, thousands of individuals across the country rushed to the airports in protest, and significant portions of it were immediately blocked by the federal courts. The administration has continued to issue multiple versions of the Muslim ban, significant portions of which have been temporarily blocked by the federal courts because they are blatantly anti-Muslim, unconstitutional, and an abuse of the president’s power. The fight to challenge the most recent Muslim bans continues.


Despite intense opposition and criticism from the public, allied legislators, and the federal courts, the Trump administration has also pushed forward other discriminatory policies that share the same goal as the Muslim bans and target Muslims and other immigrants and communities of color.

Extreme Vetting (or the Backdoor Muslim Ban). On Mar. 15, 2017, the U.S. secretary of state called for enhanced screening of nationals of the six countries included in Muslim Ban 2.0. On May 23, 2017, the Office of Management and Budget approved discretionary use of “extreme vetting” questions, including inquiries into social media accounts and extensive biographical and travel information from the last 15 years. Impacts of the policy include a dramatic decline in visa applications, further delays in visa issuance to nationals of Muslim-majority countries targeted by the Muslim Bans, and discriminatory practices while issuing visas.

Ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Sudan and Limiting It for Syrians, Yemenis, and Somalis. On Sep. 19, 2017, a few days before Sudan was removed from the list of banned countries under Muslim Ban 3.0, the Trump administration announced an end to TPS for Sudan, effective Nov. 2, 2018. Sudanese TPS- holders may be forced to return to a country that is still unstable. Since that announcement, TPS was extended for Syrians (on Jan. 31, 2018), Yemenis (on July 5, 2018), and Somalis (on July 19, 2018), but only for those who had already applied for the program, denying protection to anyone from those countries who arrived more recently, despite the fact that they fled the same dangerous conditions.

Slashing Legal Immigration and Cutting Diversity in Our Immigration System. On Feb. 7, 2017, Senators Cotton (R-AK) and Purdue (R-GA) introduced a bill that would cut the availability of green cards by more than half and end our family-based immigration system. If passed, the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, would cut current levels of legal immigration by over 50 percent, and eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which provides opportunities for countries that send few immigrants — often those with a majority of Muslim and/or Black populations — to apply for a green card. These anti-family, anti-Black proposals are also actively promoted by the White House.

Slashing Annual Refugee Admissions. On Sep. 27, 2017, the Trump administration drastically lowered the annual refugee admission cap from 110,000 to 45,000, the lowest cap since 1980; Muslim Ban 4.0 specifically targets countries that account for approximately 80 percent of all Muslim refugees resettled in the U.S. in the past two years. In addition, refugees are being processed at such a slow rate that the program is currently on track to resettle fewer than 50 percent of the new annual cap, effectively reducing the admission of refugees to a mere trickle.

To download this issue brief as a PDF, which also includes a table that provides more information, click on the PDF icon, above.

The information provided in this document is just a basic summary and is not legal advice. Every person’s situation is different. For legal advice, please contact an attorney. For more information regarding the Muslim bans, please contact Subha Varadarajan, Muslim Ban Legal and Outreach Fellow, at varadarajan@nilc.org. A project of Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, CAIR San Francisco Bay Area, and the National Immigration Law Center.