On Friday, Jan. 20, Donald J. Trump took his oath to become the 45th President of the United States of America.
The ceremony and swearing in themselves did not deviate from the norm, but the protests outside of the National Mall and the
12 executive orders that President Trump signed within the first five hours in his new position, is what made the 2017 inauguration festivities stand apart.
“One unfortunate aspect of the protest was that some of the security gates had to be shut down, and many people weren’t able to get in,” said Richard Yawn, Political Science professor and LEAP Center director at SHSU. “That would have been awful if we had driven twenty hours to get there only to find that we couldn’t actually attend, so I felt bad for the people who weren’t able to see what they had traveled so far to see.”
The 12 executive orders signed by President Trump on the night of the inauguration included multi-faceted orders on border security and immigration, the revival of the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline, a reinstatement of the “Mexico City Policy” and hiring freezes for government workers among others.
On Jan 27, he added a 90-day ban against refugees and residents from seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia) that would keep them from entering the country legally or illegally.
These orders have spurred protests across the country and the world – from the Women’s March to the anti-ban marches that have broken out at major airports since Saturday, January 28.
“An executive order is a unilateral and binding act by the President that applies to federal agencies,” Yawn said. “It does not need ratification by Congress.”
Yawn said that it is important to distinguish executive orders from executive acts – which has more types of acts including those that don’t need to be publicized.
Because of this some of this information is not public, Yawn said it’s difficult to determine which presidents are using unilateral actions more than others.
“The most significant of the orders was the withdrawal from the TPP, but I think was actually an executive action,” Yawn said.
The TPP – or the Trans-Pacific Partnership – is a trade agreement between twelve countries that make up about 40 percent of the world’s economic output that would eventually create a single market similar to the European Union.
“This was a key achievement for President Obama but, interestingly, repealing it has at least some support from Bernie Sanders,” Yawn said. “Also, as the campaign progressed, Hillary Clinton came out in favor modifying it in important ways.”
The TPP was criticized for being secretive and favoring big business and cannot go forward in its current form without U.S. involvement.
Another order President Trump signed was the authorization to build the wall he promised on his campaign that will cover the entire span of the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The intent to build a wall along the Mexican border is a momentous signal,” Yawn said. “But it carries little weight without congressional approval. Simply put, Trump will need Congress’s support because they will have to fund such an undertaking.”
Throughout his campaign, the president promised that Mexico would pay for the wall’s construction, but the White House has now proposed a 20 percent increase on taxes for Mexican imports – meaning that tax payers and citizens will foot the bill for the wall if it comes to fruition.
President Trump has maintained his position that Mexico will reimburse the U.S. for the construction of the wall, but Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has maintained that Mexico will not pay for the wall.
Nieto declined to attend a meeting with President Trump, but did hold a phone call with him on Jan. 27.
The order that has garnered the most attention, however, is President Trump’s ban on nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations entering the country.
The ban will withhold many refugees and residents from these countries – including those with legal visas and green cards – to enter the country for 90 days.
This has led to students being stranded after visiting their homes for the holidays as well as Muslims from those countries that are legal residents of the U.S. who were visiting those countries at the time the ban was enacted.
The information of how many people, exactly, have been detained at U.S. airports is unknown, but at least four were detained at George Bush Intercontinental in Houston over the weekend.
These detentions have caused protestors to mobilize – with hundreds taking to the streets near Discovery Green in Houston and reaching capacity at IAH on Jan. 29, and thousands protesting at airports across the country.
President Trump released a statement on Jan. 29 supporting the “extreme vetting process” the executive order called for.
American citizens without ties to these countries, however, are not likely to feel the effects of these orders immediately.
“In short, the executive orders at this point won’t have a large impact on American residents,” Yawn said. “But they signal a large shift in presidential priorities.”
Yawn said that President Trump seems to be going “full speed ahead”, and that could bring big changes in the future.
“What’s different in many ways, I think, is that presidential candidates have long made rather ambitious claims during campaigns about what will or won’t happen when they become president,” Yawn said. “Typically, they get in office and, either with the benefit of more full information or because they have a larger and more moderate constituency now (the whole country) undertake a watered-down version of their original goals.”