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Does Trump's 7-country ban violate U.S. immigration law?

President Trump's recent executive order banning people from seven countries from entering the United States has caused an uproar in Florida and throughout the country. The order prohibits all immigration from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Sudan and Somalia - all of which are Muslim-majority nations.

The order is a clear violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act passed by Congress in 1965. That law provides that "no person shall receive any preference or priority or be discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person's race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence." There are some exceptions in the law, but none that would allow the sweeping ban ordered by Trump.

The Trump administration has argued that the President has authority under another federal law that allows the president to deny entry to "any class of aliens" if he determines their immigration "would be detrimental" to U.S. interests. This law was passed in 1952, however, and is thus limited by the nondiscrimination provision in the 1965 Act.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1952, in the case of Youngstown Co. v. Sawyer, that an executive order cannot violate a law passed by Congress. The Court in that case made clear that under the Constitution, the President's role is to execute laws passed by Congress, not make laws of his own. The President's rule in the lawmaking process is limited to recommending legislation to Congress and vetoing legislation he disagrees with.

Legal challenges to Trump's ill-advised order are already being filed in federal courts. The unambiguous language of the Immigration and Nationality Act, combined with Supreme Court precedent, make it likely the order will be set aside.

Source: New York Times, "Trump's Immigration Ban Is Illegal," David J. Bier, Jan. 27, 2017

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