Previous US restrictions on Iraqi refugees and Iranian citizens

Former US president Jimmy Carter and Mr Obama greeting each other at Mr Trump's inauguration earlier this month.
Former US president Jimmy Carter and Mr Obama greeting each other at Mr Trump's inauguration earlier this month.PHOTO: REUTERS


In justifying his executive order for a temporary ban on visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries, US President Donald Trump said that it was "similar to what President (Barack) Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months".

Why was it issued?

A news report by ABC News, quoting federal officials in 2013, said the move came after two Al-Qaeda terrorists were found living as refugees in the United States.

It cited Federal Bureau of Investigation agents as saying that "several dozen suspected terrorist bombmakers, including some believed to have targeted American troops, may have mistakenly been allowed to move to the United States as war refugees".

But The Washington Post's Fact Checker report on Sunday noted that the Obama administration did not announce that there was a ban on visa applications from Iraq.

Instead, officials said they re-examined the records of 58,000 Iraqis who had settled in the US. The administration also imposed new, more extensive background checks on Iraqi visa applicants.

When did it end?


How similar was it to Trump's order?

It affected only Iraqi visa applicants, and those who were permanent US residents holding green cards were not prevented from travelling to the US. Those who already had visas were also not affected.

US State Department records show that there was a significant drop in refugee arrivals from Iraq that year. There were 18,251 in 2010, 6,339 in 2011 and 16,369 in 2012. But The Washington Post said it was unclear if that was due to an actual six-month pause in visa processing, rather than a dramatic slowdown in approvals as new rules were put in place.


Why was it issued?

During the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 to 1981, in which Iran held 52 American diplomats for 444 days, then President Jimmy Carter placed retaliatory sanctions on Iran, reported ABC News.

At a press conference in April 1980, Mr Carter told his administration to "invalidate all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States", according to a transcript of the event kept by the American Presidency Project.

When did it end?

The temporary ban was a diplomatic manoeuvre related to resolving the crisis, so Iranian immigration to the US resumed in 1981 after the hostage situation ended.

How similar was it to Trump's order?

While the Iranian ban bears some resemblance to the new Trump action, Mr Carter's action was specific to a single crisis with an adversarial government, ABC News quoted Professor Stephen Legomsky of the Washington University School of Law in St Louis as saying.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2017, with the headline 'Previous US restrictions on Iraqi refugees and Iranian citizens'. Print Edition | Subscribe