How Trump and Obama's executive orders on Muslim refugees and immigrants are similar and different

President Trump talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin
(Image credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Reacting to criticism about his broad, chaotically rolled-out executive order indefinitely banning refugees and immigrants from Syria, suspending entry of all refugees for 120 days, and putting a 90-day stop to all travelers from six other majority-Muslim countries, President Trump protested that former President Barack Obama did it first. "My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months," Trump wrote. "The seven countries named in the executive order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror."

There is some truth to that. But as Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler said in awarding Trump two "Pinocchios" for the Obama comparison, the comparison is "facile" and misleading. If you don't remember Obama's 2011 executive order — the administration did not publicize it — it involved slowing down the approval of new visas for Iraqi nationals, following investigative findings that two Iraqi refugees were implicated in making improvised bombs targeting U.S. troops in Iraq. The policy also included re-vetting 58,000 Iraqi refugees already settled in the U.S., as then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano explained to Congress in September 2011.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.