President Trump, on Friday, Jan. 27, signed an executive article banning travelers from seven middle eastern countries. Odds are, you’ve heard of this by now, possibly in very spectacular fashion, as protests rage across America in response to this executive order.
If you don’t know much about the ban, here’s a quick recap: On Jan. 27 Trump signed an executive order banning certain people from entering the U.S. These countries are Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia. This executive order was to last 90 days in order for Trump to institute a “vetting process” to ensure “those coming into America love and support it.” He cites 9/11 and other terrorist activities as a driving factor in these decisions and claims that this ban is only to protect America from “bad people.”
Regardless of its intentions or efficiency, the ban has become a center piece for controversy in the U.S., sparking praise and protest alike. It has been awhile since America has reacted so strongly to an executive order, and the reaction has been strong indeed. Take for example a protest in West Palm Beach Florida, which, according to CBS, drew more than 3000 people. Here protestors spent hours protesting Trump’s decisions, shouting anti-Trump slogans and even going so far as to decorate a coffin for “democracy” (as though it had died) and parade it around. While the coffin may have been fairly heavy handed, these protestors in West Palm Beach are not alone in the country, as protests have raged from sea to shining sea since the announcement.
While the order was only in effect for a few days, stories of stranded travelers, loved ones unable to return home and Americans feeling betrayed by the country they moved to poured into media and onto social media alike. All in all, many Americans were disgusted and incensed by a ban which they felt was entirely un-American and unconstitutional. Yet, in perhaps a beacon of constitutional light, a federal Judge in Seattle has recently placed a hold on the travel ban in his judicial dissent. Essentially, this past Monday the courts met and have heard arguments for and against the ban, and if the state wins, the executive order will be nullified entirely.
This is a simple case of the Judiciary branch of the American government excising its right to place checks on the executive branch of the government. Therefore, other than moral or political opinions on the nature of Trumps executive order, what is striking about this order, the process in which it has been placed on hold, is the use of the American checks and balances system. A system that Trump has been more or less ignoring in these first few weeks of his Presidency.
You see, Trump has made wanton use of executive power in his term so far. He has issued 13 executive orders in as many days in office. While every president has made use of executive orders to bypass Congress, Trump’s liberal use of this most direct application of executive power in such a short period of time is a powerful statement about that power. His statement is that he does indeed have considerable executive power and is more than willing to wield it, even push the limits of that power, even if wielding that power is against established, if not legal, traditions regarding the overuse of executive orders.
When you consider the nature of these executive orders, his have often been broad and effect major people groups and organizations, his statement becomes even clearer. For, it is one thing to pass an executive order dictating that American steel must be used in pipelines, but it is another entirely to pass one dictating that all people from seven countries may no longer enter the U.S. Trump certainly seems to have set the pace for his presidency. Trump, however, is not the first president to make healthy use of executive power, even if we are not to look at presidents like FDR who issued thousands. President Obama, for example, pushed the envelope with executive orders, in many instances even sparking dissent against what many felt took presidential power too far, as with his own immigration executive order in 2014. Yet, it certainly could be argued that where Obama took an inch, Trump intends to take a mile, and how far he intends to go, and how far the other branches of government intend to let him go, remains to be seen.
Yet, regardless of how you feel about Trump’s executive orders, especially his travel ban, what they have revealed is a very important fact about our constitutional system: it is still alive and well, and there are still checks and balances, even if they feel a little weaker in the face of a president so unafraid to wield his power. Indeed, no matter what happens, Trump is not our emperor, he is our president. As our president, he is still beholden, and always will be beholden (barring something radical), to all the same laws and regulations as every other American, and president, in our storied history.