The So-Called "Muslim Ban" Does Not Really Apply to Muslims

By Nayla Rush on July 12, 2017

The so-called  "travel ban" took effect this June 29 at 8 pm ET, three days after the Supreme Court ruled (partly) in favor of President Trump's executive order, "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States" (EO-2). No visas will be issued for 90 days to nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen unless they show "a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States".

The refugee resettlement program is to be suspended for 120 days. Refugees with ties to a U.S. person or entity, however, will still be considered for resettlement.

The mitigated Supreme Court order will undoubtedly be subject to various interpretations and "is likely to generate more litigation until the Court issues its final ruling on the matter," as my colleague, Andrew R. Arthur, and Justice Thomas have surmised.

As we watch this legal saga unfold, another matter of contention is worthy of attention. The temporary "travel ban" has been denounced by many as being nothing short of a "Muslim ban". But is it really? Let's try to put things into perspective.

Muslim Immigrants in the United States

Following Census Data analyzed by the Pew Research Center and reported in the news, "[a]s of 2012, there were 781,235 residents of the US who were born in countries affected by the ban — just 2% of all immigrants."

Still relying on research by Pew, "[t]he most common countries of origin among Muslim immigrants in 1992 included Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh. Those countries, as well as Iraq, also were among the most likely birthplaces of Muslim immigrants to the U.S. in 2012."

So, apart from Iran, the countries of origin of most Muslim immigrants in the United States are not on the "travel ban" list.

More insight comes from Pew:

[T]he Pew Research Center's 2011 survey of U.S. Muslim adults found that 63% were born abroad. The largest single country of origin was Pakistan (9%), followed by a number of other countries, including Iran, Bangladesh, Yemen, Jordan and Iraq.

Pew also calculated the number of new green card holders from the most common countries of origin for Muslim immigrants:

Number of New Permanent Residents from Selected Countries, 1992 vs. 2012    
Country 1992 2012
Bangladesh 3,740 14,705
Iran 13,233 12,916
Iraq 4,111 20,369
Jordan 4,036 4,099
Pakistan 10,214 14,740
Yemen 2,056 2,620
Total 37,390 69,449
Source: Office of Immigration Statistics, Department of Homeland Security  



Let's exclude Iran and Yemen since they are on the 90-day "travel ban" list.

This leaves us with a total of 53,913 out of 69,449 (77.6 percent) green card holders in 2012 from Bangladesh, Iraq, Jordan, and Pakistan, countries that are not subject to travel restrictions under the president's executive order.

Again, this so-called "Muslim ban" would still allow the vast majority of Muslim immigrants into the United States.

Iranian Refugees Resettled in the United States

Furthermore, as Pew rightfully observed, "the religious makeup of migrants differs from the religious composition of the overall population in their country of birth." This definitely applies to Iranian refugees resettled in the United States.

According to the U.S. Department of State's Refugee Processing Center, from the beginning of FY 2017 (October 1, 2016) to June 29, 2017, 2,365 Iranian refugees have been resettled in the United States. Their religious affiliations are shown below.

  • Atheist: 28
  • Bahai: 368
  • Baptist: 2
  • Catholic: 6
  • Christian: 861
  • Evangelical Christian: 1
  • Jehovah Witness: 2
  • Jewish: 41
  • Kaaka'i: 27
  • Moslem: 19
  • Moslem Shiite: 122
  • Moslem Suni: 32
  • No Religion: 122
  • Orthodox: 2
  • Other Religion: 18
  • Pentecostalist: 18
  • Protestant: 497
  • Sabeans-Mandean: 122
  • Zoroastrian: 91
  • Total: 2,379

Of these 2,379 Iranian refugees, 1,389 were Christians (58.4 percent) and 173 Muslims (7.3 percent).

Others were members of various religious minorities.

Let's revisit the past and look at the numbers of this past decade.

From October 1, 2007, until June 29, 2017, the United States has resettled a total of 32,646 Iranian refugees. Of those, 19,000 were Christians (58.2 percent) and 1,773 were Muslims (5.4 percent).

It is clear that, for refugees from Iran, this "Muslim ban" is, rather, a Christian one.

Australia's Unwanted Muslim Iranian Refugees

For Australia's unwanted refugees (mostly Muslim Iranian nationals) detained in offshore processing centers on the small island nation of Nauru and on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, the "travel ban" does not apply. I previously elaborated on the Australia-U.S. deal to resettle Australia's unwanted refugees made between the outgoing Obama administration and Malcolm Turnbull's government, and being carried out by the Trump administration.

The temporary "travel ban" will prevent a majority of Christian refugees from Iran from entering the United States, but Muslim Iranian refugees from Australia's offshore detention centers will be allowed to resettle here.

All Refugees Resettled in the United States

Since this temporary "travel ban" does not just apply to Iranian refugees, but to all refugees, let's look at the religious affiliation of all refugees resettled in the United States this past decade.

From October 1, 2007, through June 29, 2017, the United States resettled a total of 666,906 refugees.

Of those:

  • 45.6 percent were Christians;
  • 32.7 percent Muslims; and
  • 14.9 percent Buddhists and Hindus.

Again, the majority is Christian and 60.5 percent are Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus.

So by pausing the refugee resettlement program for 120 days, it is non-Muslim refugees who will be affected the most.

This sure doesn't look like a "Muslim ban" to me.