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Tip sheet: Iraqi citizens are off the travel ban, but questions remain as to the ban's overall effectiveness

March 8, 2017

The Trump administration’s new executive order that redefined an immigration and travel ban targeting Muslim-majority countries is designed to avoid the chaos of the first travel ban in late January. Among the new provisions: Iraqi citizens have been dropped from the embargo.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Iraq, which agreed to install new security measures, is off the list of countries whose citizens are banned from travel to the United States because it is “an important ally in the fight to defeat ISIS.”

That’s a crucial point, said George Mason University’s Ahmet S. Yayla, a professor of counterterrorism in George Mason’s Criminology, Law and Society Department, particularly for American and Iraqi fighters on the ground in Iraq.

“When you fight side-by-side, you need to know that the other guy has your back,” Yayla said. “You have to trust each other.” The lifting of Iraq from the travel ban intensifies that trust, he said.

In addition, once Iraqi immigrants settle in America, they make a significant contribution to the United States economically and culturally, said Monica Gomez Isaac, executive director of Mason’s Institute for Immigration Research.

“The removal of Iraq from the listed countries affected by the travel ban reinforces the contributions of these individuals to our economy,” she said.

But it goes further than just Iraqi immigrants.

“Taking the time to use credible evidence and understand how immigrants of all backgrounds help the U.S. is the first step to creating an economically, socially and culturally strong nation,” Isaac said.

The travel ban, in general, remains problematic and fraught with possible negative outcomes, according to Mason’s Peter Mandaville.

“I wonder if this new policy really gets at the problem it purports to address,” said Mandaville, a professor of government and politics at Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government and co-director of Mason’s Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies.

“There have been virtually no instances of citizens from the six designated countries attempting terrorist attacks in the United States in recent memory. Moreover, most of the countries whose citizens have actually been convicted on U.S. homeland terrorism charges—and we’re only talking about a total of about 40 cases since 9/11—are not included in this new travel ban.”

Heightened vetting, he suggested, tries to measure “what visitors to the U.S. think and believe. The actual terrorists will have no problem circumventing such measures, and they will likely discourage many people from traveling here who don’t want to be subjected to such indignities.”

Ahmet S. Yayla can be reached at ayayla@gmu.edu.

Monica Gomez Isaac can be reached at mgomezis@gmu.edu or 703-993-5833.

Peter Mandaville can be reached at pmandavi@gmu.edu or 703-993-1054.

For more information, contact Buzz McClain at 703-727-0230 or bmcclai2@gmu.edu.

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 35,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.