Travel ban redux to be challenged
President Donald Trump on Monday signed a reworked version of his travel ban, aiming to withstand court challenges while still barring new visas for citizens from six Muslimmajority countries and temporarily shutting down America’s refugee program.
Here in Tennessee, the order was praised by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., but criticized by local immigration attorneys and activists.
“We all share a desire to protect
the American people, and reviewing our nation’s screening and vetting procedures is an appropriate step,” Corker said in a statement Monday afternoon. “Following a thorough review and implementation of necessary security enhancements, I am hopeful these programs will be reinstated.”
But Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, countered that, “contrary to speculation last week that the president was ‘softening’ his approach to immigration, today’s executive order makes clear that his administration is intent on taking a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty.”
The revised travel order leaves Iraq off the list of banned countries but still affects would-be visitors and immigrants from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya.
Trump privately signed the new order Monday, while Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally unveiled the new edict. They did not take questions from reporters.
The low-key rollout was in contrast to the first version of the order, which Trump signed a week after his inauguration in a high-profile ceremony at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes as Secretary of Defense James Mattis stood by.
Trump officials said that even with the changes, the goal of the new order hasn’t changed: keeping would-be terrorists out of the United States while the government reviews the vetting system for refugees and visa applicants from certain parts of the world.
Tillerson described the new order Monday morning as “a vital measure for strengthening our national security.”
The original travel ban caused chaos at airports around the country as Homeland Security officials scrambled to interpret how it was to be implemented and travelers were detained before being sent back overseas or blocked from getting on airplanes abroad. The order quickly became the subject of several legal challenges and was put on hold last month by a federal judge in Washington state. The original order was rescinded Monday.
Kelly said Congress and others have been briefed about the order, which won’t take effect until March 16, and there should be no surprises. He called the effort “prospective” and reiterated that it applies only to refugees who aren’t already on their way to the United States and people seeking new visas.
The White House dropped Iraq from the list of targeted countries after pressure from the Pentagon and State Department, which noted Iraq’s role in fighting the Islamic State group. An Iraqi spokesman said the change marks a “positive step” and shows the countries have a “real partnership.”
Syrians also are no longer subjected to an indefinite ban, despite Trump’s insistence as a candidate that Syrians posed a serious security threat.
Immigration attorneys in Chattanooga said they expect the order to be quickly challenged in court.
“I think the same core problem exists: overall, the ban is unconstitutional,” said Brittany Faith, an attorney with Grant Konvalinka & Harrison. “With the [March 16] notice, this time it won’t be quite as chaotic, people won’t be rushing to the airports to protest.”
Attorney Terry Olsen said he has a client from Yemen who was hoping to get a visa to bring his family to the U.S., but now won’t know whether that will happen for another six months. The family “has been waiting to get an interview scheduled for the last six months for an immigrant visa, and now they will have to wait even longer,” said Olsen, who is chairman of the immigration section of the state bar of Tennessee.
Olsen downplayed the impact of the new executive order compared to a previous order that allows federal customs agents to deny visas to those who have been charged with a crime or committed elements of a crime, even if they have not been convicted. That has greatly broadened an agent’s leeway to bar someone, Olsen said.
Immigration lawyer Martin Lester said the latest order has the same problem as the first version that was stalled in court — the administration has not made a clear connection between the terms of the order and its stated goals, keeping terrorists out of the U.S. Lester noted a recent Department of Homeland Security report that concluded citizens from the six banned countries had no record of causing a large number of terror attacks. The Sept. 11 attackers, he said, were from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, which are not on the travel ban list.