Analysis of Executive Order 13780

Note: In this article, I discuss the Executive Order 13780 signed by President Trump on March 6, 2017. For brevity, I’ll refer to this Executive Order as EO13780.


Is the true aim of EO13780 to begin the process of reducing non-European immigration? Since I am not a member of the Trump administration, I can’t answer that question definitively. But, the data tells me that EO13780 is not designed to protect our country from the threat of foreign terrorism. The only thing that EO13780 does consistently is to reduce non-European immigration, mostly by low-income refugees.

To learn more about my analysis, read on.  Or, download the PDF.

EO13780 is not a ban on Muslims

It is true that a majority of the population in all six countries included in EO13780 (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen) is Muslim. So, it is tempting to conclude that EO13780 is a ban on Muslims. However, there are at least 17 other countries not included in EO13780 where a majority of the population is Muslim. If the administration intended to ban Muslims, EO13780 isn’t very effective.

Source: Mapping the Global Muslim Population, created by the Pew Research Center

EO13780 is not a ban on countries that have been compromised by terrorism

The administration has provided an explanation regarding why they chose the six countries to include in EO13780: In summary, the administration states that countries included in EO13780 support terrorist groups, sponsor terrorist acts or do not cooperate with the United States in counterterrorism efforts. In addition, these six countries have governments that are in crisis due to terrorism. They may have an active combat zone within their borders, for example, or be unable to secure large portions of their borders.

The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) ranks 163 countries affected by terrorism. The higher a country ranks on this terrorism index, the more likely the government is to be in some level of crisis. The countries in EO13780 are in the top 30% of countries affected by terrorism in 2016. Their ranks are Iran (47), Libya (10), Somalia (7), Sudan (18), Syria (5), Yemen (6).

However, there are 16 Muslim-majority countries in the top 30% of countries affected by terrorism that are NOT included in EO13780. Those countries, and their GTI ranks are: Iraq (1), Afghanistan (2), Nigeria (3), Pakistan (4), Egypt (9), Turkey (14), Bangladesh (22), Lebanon (24), Mali (25), Palestine (28), Saudi Arabia (32), Tunisia (35), Kuwait (37), Indonesia (38), Algeria (42), Bahrain (44).

The administration has indicated that countries with governments in some level of crisis due to terrorism are not able to properly vet and document their citizens. It’s for this reason that Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are listed in EO13780. If the administration intended to ban countries with governments in crisis, EO13780 isn’t very effective.


EO13780 is not a ban on countries with citizens who have attacked the United States

Some have pointed out the nationalities of the terrorists who have carried out attacks in the U.S. since 2001, noting that none of those countries are on the list. A Politifact article indicates that, since 2001, terrorists from these countries attacked people in the U.S.: Afghanistan (2), Egypt (9), Iran (47), Kyrgyzstan (84), Lebanon (24), Pakistan (4), Saudi Arabia (32), Somalia (7), United Arab Emirates (103). I’ve included the GTI for each country. Out of the nine countries on this list, only two (Iran, Somalia) are included in EO13780.

An analysis by the Cato Institute goes further back, listing the nationalities of all foreign-born terrorists who committed attacks in the United States from 1975 to 2015. There are 44 nationalities represented, but only four of those countries are included in EO13780 (Iran, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen).

Interestingly, Libya and Syria are included in EO13780, but no one from either of these countries has killed anyone in the United States in a terrorist attack from 1975 to 2015, according to the Cato Institute’s analysis.

If the administration intended to ban countries with citizens who travel to the United States and commit terrorist attacks, EO13780 isn’t very effective.


Both liberals and conservatives have published their own lists of terrorist attacks and the nationalities of the attackers. These lists differ in how they define a terrorist attack, which accounts for some the differences in the lists. I have tried to locate the sources I feel are most credible. If you would like to suggest another source, please contact me via Twitter or Facebook.

EO13780 does not impact countries where Trump has known business interests

Without Trump’s tax returns, it’s impossible to know every country with which he has business ties. But, based on his FEC filings, we know he has business interests in these countries: Canada (66), China (23), Dominican Republic (83) , Egypt (9), Georgia (87), India (8), Indonesia (38), Ireland (55), Israel (33), Panama (130), Philippines (12), Saudi Arabia (32), South Korea (112), St. Martin (no GTI), Turkey (14), United Arab Emirates (103), United Kingdom (34), Uruguay (130). I’ve included the GTI for each country.

None of these countries are included in EO13780, even though

  • 9 of these 18 countries are in the top 30% of countries that are affected by terrorism
  • 5 of these 18 countries have Muslim-majority populations
  • Foreign-born nationals of 8 of these 18 countries committed terrorist attacks in the U.S. between 1975 and 2015

Trump’s business interests may have had some effect on which countries were included in EO13780. But, they do not explain why other countries that are comprised by terrorism or whose citizens have committed terrorist attacks were not included in EO13780.


What the countries in EO13780 have in common

We know what EO13780 doesn’t do well: It doesn’t ban Muslims; it doesn’t ban countries compromised by terrorism; and it doesn’t ban countries whose citizens have committed terrorist attacks. So, what does it do?

Impact One:
It places a temporary travel ban on citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The countries have several common characteristics:

  • Geography: They are located in either Africa or the Middle East.
  • Income: They are poor – ranking in the bottom half of countries based on GDP per capita. (Source 1, Source 2)
  • Refugees: Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Syria rank in the top 10 of 51 countries sending us refugees in 2015. If you add in Yemen, refugee immigration from these five countries accounts for 18% of the people admitted as refugees to the U.S. in 2015.
    • Note: No Libyan citizens entered the U.S. on refugee visa in 2015. However, the number of Libyans obtaining lawful permanent resident status in other ways has been increasing steadily over the past few years.

Impact Two:
Second, EO13780 reduces legal entry into the U.S. by refugees from all countries to a maximum of 50,000 per year. This reduction will stay in place until such time as the President “determines that additional entries would be in the national interest” (Sec 6b). In 2016, the U.S. granted entry to more than 90,000 refugees, so this change represents a 44% drop from last year.

These are the 10 countries that sent the U.S. the most refugees in 2015, with a rank of 1 being the most refugees:

  • Myanmar (Burma): Rank = 1, Region = Asia
  • Iraq: Rank =  2, Region = Middle East
  • Somalia: Rank =  3, Region = Africa
  • Congo, Dem. Rep.: Rank =  4, Region = Africa
  • Bhutan: Rank =  5, Region = Asia
  • Iran: Rank =  6, Region = Middle East
  • Syria: Rank =  7, Region = Middle East
  • Eritrea: Rank =  8, Region = Africa
  • Sudan: Rank =  9, Region = Africa
  • Cuba: Rank =  10, Region = Caribbean

Citizens of these countries are the most likely to be affected by this reduction in refugee visas. These 10 countries, like the six named countries in EO13780, rank in the bottom half of countries based on GDP per capita.


My Analysis

It appears that EO13780 targets citizens of some low-income African and Middle Eastern countries the most – temporarily stopping any immigration, and permanently reducing refugee immigration. Citizens of two low-income Asian countries will also be affected by the reduction in refugee visas put in place by EO13780, as would refugees from Cuba.
The true impact of EO13780 does not have anything to do with terrorism. It appears to target refugee immigration from particular geographies. Why would the Trump administration create an executive order that does not do what its title says it will do, and in fact, does something very different?

Apparent Connection to White Ethno-Centrism

Many Americans are familiar with David Duke, notorious for his former role as Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. In 2016, he unsuccessfully ran for a U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana. With his website and radio show, he continues to publish his racist ideas. Only now, he seems to prefer the term “Western Man” instead of “Whites”.

Richard Spencer is not as well known, but the 2016 presidential election is providing him a larger platform than he’s had in the past. Spencer is President and Director of the National Policy Institute, an organization that describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.” In November 2016, Richard Spencer gave an interview to NPR. When asked what policies he’s pushing for, Spencer had several ideas, including the desire to “take a break from mass immigration” and prioritize European immigration. He ended his interview by indicating that his is a long term effort to legally change our immigration system to favor European immigration.

Appalled by Duke and Spencer’s ideas, many people hope that they are simply on the fringes of society. In 2017, it’s become clear that there are others who feel the same, and they currently hold positions of power in our government.
For example, on February 2, 2017, Richard Spencer tweeted about Steve Bannon, Trump’s Chief Strategist, and Stephen Miller, Senior Adviser to the President for Policy, regarding their support for the idea of a moratorium on immigration.


The Vox article that Spencer mentions provides a transcript of a podcast between Bannon and Miller that makes clear that both men are very concerned about current levels of legal immigration.

On March 12, 2017, Representative Steve King (R-IA) tweeted his agreement with Wilders, a far-right presidential candidate from the Netherlands.


When asked about this statement in an interview with Tucker Carlson, Rep. King clarified that we need to restore “Western civilization”, and that immigration from other countries that are not like us will hurt our society.

Reframing Old Ideas:

Based on statements from David Duke, Richard Spencer and Steve King, it seems that white supremacists from decades ago are reframing their message with words like “European” and “Western”, instead of simply White vs. Black.



It is truly concerning that people in positions of power in our government (Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Steve King) are on record spinning immigration as something that is going to hurt our country. It is telling, I think, that none of the countries named in EO13780 are European. Similarly, of the countries that will be most affected by the restriction on refugee immigration, none of them are European.

Is the true aim of EO13780 to begin the process of reducing non-European immigration? Since I am not a member of the Trump administration, I can’t answer that question definitively. But, the data tells me that EO13780 is not designed to protect our country from the threat of foreign terrorism. The only things that EO13780 does consistently is to reduce non-European immigration, mostly by low-income refugees.


I acknowledge that EO13780 does not ban immigration from all non-European countries that rank in the bottom half of countries based on GDP per capita and send a high number of immigrants to the United States. Perhaps this correlation between the countries affected by EO13780 and their geography, GDP per capita and immigration levels is just that – a correlation, not a cause.

Based on my analysis, I predict that the Trump administration will eventually try to ban travel and immigration to the U.S. for citizens of these countries:

  • Burundi
  • Central African Republic
  • Colombia
  • Congo, Democratic Republic
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • And although they do not rank as highly on GTI, also possibly Rwanda and Eritrea

I chose these countries because they rank in the top 20 countries that send refugees to the U.S., they are low-income based on GDP per capita and they rank higher on the Global Terrorism Index.