The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump’s travel ban on ‘bad dudes’ actually keeps out women and children

Khulud Fidama, 26, of Dearborn, Mich., stands with her family outside the McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport to speak against President Trump's travel ban on refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations, Jan. 29. (Elaine Cromie/Detroit Free Press via AP)

A 70-year-old Iranian woman with a green card was detained overnight at the Dallas airport. A Syrian woman who landed in Chicago to visit her cancer-stricken mother was forced to turn around and fly back. An Iraq-born doctor coming home to California was held nine hours before reuniting with her husband.

After President Trump signed a sprawling executive order Friday, closing the borders to refugees and other travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, such stories surfaced at airports across the country.

It’s still unclear how many people were detained or sent away this weekend, though estimates peak at about 375. According to a senior Department of Homeland Security official, about 109 travelers were denied entry to the U.S. and 173 were not allowed to board planes to the country.

After protests erupted around the country over the weekend in opposition to Trump's order, the president clarified his intent in an early Monday tweet: He wanted to block what he referred to as bad “dudes.”

In the U.S., “dudes” colloquially refers to men. The Trump administration would not respond to requests for additional information, but the president has previously specified men when speaking about “extreme vetting.”

“You look at the migration, it’s young, strong men,” Trump told Yahoo News last year. “We cannot take a chance that the people coming over here are going to be ISIS-affiliated.”

While it’s true men carry out the majority of mass murders and terrorist attacks, Trump’s measure could largely affect women and children.

Of the roughly 4.9 million registered Syrian refugees, for example — people who are indefinitely banned from entering the U.S., under Trump’s order — just 25.6 percent [that's about proportional to their numbers in the general population] are men between the ages of 18 and 59, according to United Nations data. (A federal judge blocked part of the order Saturday night, asserting refugees held at airports in the U.S. cannot be pushed back to their home countries.)

Among all immigrants to the U.S., 37.5 percent were men between the ages of 15 and 59 in 2015, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Women and girls make up the majority — about 51 percent.

The order places a 120-day ban on refugees from countries other than Syria from resettling in the U.S. Citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen, meanwhile, are also prohibited from entering the country, regardless of visa status, for 90 days.

A July report on the experiences of 90 Libyan refugees from Amnesty International, a human rights group, found that girls and women in conflict zones faced a heightened risk of sexual violence. “Many said rape was so commonplace that they took contraceptive pills before traveling to avoid becoming pregnant as a result of it,” the authors wrote.

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, 12 Islamic militant attackers have committed murder on American soil, said David Sterman, a security policy analyst at New American, a left-leaning Washington think tank. The gender breakdown: 11 men and one woman (Tashfeen Malik, who carried out the 2015 San Bernadino, Calif., mass shooting with her husband.)

“None emigrated or came from families that emigrated from countries covered by the ban,” Sterman added.