A Climate of Fear: The Social Impact of the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies

By Dalal Hillou

On February 25, 2017, police detained Muhammad Ali Jr. – son of the legendary Muslim-American boxer Muhammad Ali – upon his arrival at a Florida airport.[1] The Philadelphia-born forty four year-old Muslim man was questioned about his religion during his two-hour detention.[2] According to his lawyer, the detention of his client shows that President Trump’s previous travel ban – dubbed the “Muslim Ban” by many, due to the fact that people from seven Muslim-majority countries were its focus — is still being enforced.[3] However, legal challenges managed to strike down the Muslim Ban.[4] Several states opposed the Ban, with some blocking certain aspects of it, until three judges from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit suspended it completely.[5]

Donald Trump’s controversial Muslim Ban, signed as an executive order on Friday, January 27, forbade all Syrian refugees from entering the country until further notice, banned any other refugees for 120 days, and barred foreign nationals from seven primarily Muslim countries from visiting for ninety days.[6] The Muslim Ban is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Trump’s terrifyingly discriminatory immigration policies. In his January 25, 2017 order where he outlines building a wall on the US-Mexico border, Trump calls for the immediate detainment and deportation of illegal immigrants.[7] In another order, he demanded that federal funding be pulled from “sanctuary cities”, which are essentially safety zones for undocumented immigrants from federal immigration policies.[8] In response to the initial failure of the Muslim Ban to stifle the legal challenges presented by several courts, Trump announced that he would release a revised executive order within the coming weeks.[9]

The Muslim Ban and Trump’s other immigration policies have affected American society and created a culture of fear amongst immigrant communities to the point where even children are tearful and anxious.[10] For example, Trump’s promise to void the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (“DACA”), which provides short-term work permits and shields undocumented youths from deportation, resulted in the detention of a twenty three year-old undocumented immigrant.[11] Now, student recipients of DACA are terrified after years of feeling safe and accepted.[12] Immigration lawyers are telling their clients of all legal statuses to avoid traveling unless it is absolutely necessary.[13]

Trump’s policies have gone so far as to affect the health of children as they fear for their parents, who could at any time be taken into custody or deported.[14] This new social policy of fear troubles more than simply children – it haunts the streets.[15] In the suburban Washington area alone, more immigrants are avoiding going out in public, stores are vacant, and once-lively commercial areas are emptier than usual.[16] Fear surrounds American society now, and has become one with it.

In response to President Trump’s array of executive orders regarding immigration, the American public is fighting back through peaceful methods.[17] These methods include boycotting Trump products; participating in one of the hundreds of protests that have occurred since the inauguration; writing to or calling political representatives; volunteering in places like the airport; and donating to organizations like Planned Parenthood.[18] From the United Nations to France to Sudan, the world has responded negatively to Trump’s agenda.[19] Lawyers have been at the forefront of the resistance against Trump’s policies; when the Ban was initially released, lawyers flooded the airports to provide pro bono services, and more than fifty lawsuits were filed within a few days.[20] At the rate Trump’s policies are going, more lawsuits are certainly likely in the foreseeable future.


[1] Don Melvin and Dolly Roecker, Muhammad Ali Jr. Detained at Airport, Asked About Being Muslim: Lawyer, NBC News (Feb. 25, 2017, 4:41 PM), http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/muhammad-ali-jr-detained-airport-asked-about-being-muslim-lawyer-n725571.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Scott Simpson, Muslim Ban Update Alert – Monday, Feb 20, 10:00 a.m. ET, Muslim Advocates (Feb. 20, 2017, 10:00 AM), https://www.muslimadvocates.org/muslim-ban-update-alert/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter.

[5] Matt Zapotosky, Federal appeals court rules 3 to 0 against Trump on travel Ban, Washington Post (Feb. 9, 2017), https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/federal-appeals-court-maintains-suspension-of-trumps-immigration-order/2017/02/09/e8526e70-ed47-11e6-9662-6eedf1627882_story.html?utm_term=.11c3a1a14b05.

[6] ACLU, Here Is Some of the Human Misery Caused by President Trump’s Muslim Ban From Those Most Impacted, ACLU (Jan. 30, 217, 5:30 PM) https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/here-some-human-misery-caused-president-trumps-muslim-ban-those-most-impacted.

[7] Rebecca Harrington, Trump has already signed 25 executive actions — here’s what each one does, Business Insider (Feb. 9, 2017, 5:25 PM) http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-executive-orders-memorandum-proclamations-presidential-action-guide-2017-1/#executive-order-january-25-cutting-funding-for-sanctuary-cities-15.

[8] Id.

[9] See Muslim Ban Update, supra note 4.

[10] Jenee Desmond-Harris, “Crying is an everyday thing”: life after Trump’s “Muslim ban” at a majority-immigrant school, Vox (Feb. 16, 2017, 8:00 AM) http://www.vox.com/identities/2017/2/16/14584228/muslim-ban-trump-immigration-ban-children-kids-schools-anxiety.

[11] Chetanya Robinson, After a detention, DACA recipients live in fear, Crosscut, (Feb. 23, 2017)  http://crosscut.com/2017/02/after-a-detention-daca-recipients-live-in-fear/.

[12] Id.

[13] Miya Shay, Local immigrants fear effects of Trump order, ABC 13 Eyewitness News (Jan. 30, 2017) http://abc13.com/news/local-immigrants-fear-effects-of-trump-order/1729269/.

[14] Olga Khazan, The Toxic Health Effects of Deportation Threat, The Atlantic (Jan. 27, 2017) https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/01/the-toxic-health-effects-of-deportation-threat/514718/.

[15] Arelis R. Hernandez and Patricia Sullivan, ‘It’s fear, fear, fear’: As enforcement increases, more immigrants avoid public places, Washington Post (Feb. 26, 2017) https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/fewer-immigrants-at-stores-food-pantries-day-labor-centers/2017/02/26/a9704336-fa02-11e6-9845-576c69081518_story.html.

[16] Id (reporting that Trump’s crackdown on immigrant communities is having a negative effect on the Washington area’s suburbs as immigrants fear being in public).

[17] Brandi Neal, 9 Peaceful Ways People Have Been Resisting Donald Trump’s Presidency, Bustle (Jan. 30, 2017), https://www.bustle.com/p/9-peaceful-ways-people-have-been-resisting-donald-trumps-presidency-34011.

[18] Id (providing a list of peaceful and creative methods of resistance that protestors have been utilizing in response to Trump’s policies).

[19] Amanda Erickson, Here’s how the world is responding to Trump’s ban on refugees, travelers from 7 Muslim nations, Washington Post (Jan. 28, 2017)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/01/28/heres-how-the-world-is-responding-to-trumps-ban-on-refugees-travelers-from-7-muslim-nations/?utm_term=.a1810ddac946 (sharing statements from the United Nations, which asked Trump to revoke the Ban; France, which argued that the Ban was isolationist; and Sudan, which stated that the Ban was unfortunate).

[20] Reid Wilson, 50-plus lawsuits filed against Trump refugee order, The Hill, (Feb. 2, 2017, 3:07 PM) http://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/317822-50-pus-lawsuits-filed-against-trump-refugee-order.