President Donald Trump has issued a new travel ban that is a softer version of the previous one: Changes include limiting the ban to travelers without visas (green card and visa holders are now exempt), nixing Iraq from the list of targeted nations, removing exceptions for religious minorities, and no longer banning Syrian refugees indefinitely. The order will not happen immediately, but will go into effect on March 16 to allow for a more orderly implementation.
The revision has merit, but it’s not enough to stop Trump’s critics from continuing to call it a “Muslim Ban.”
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who filed suit against Trump’s original immigration ban, says he’s ready to litigate:
Courts across the country have made clear: President Trump is not above the Constitution.
While the White House may have made changes to the ban, the intent to discriminate against Muslims remains clear. This doesn’t just harm the families caught in the chaos of President Trump’s draconian policies — it’s diametrically opposed to our values, and makes us less safe. My office is closely reviewing the new executive order, and I stand ready to litigate — again — in order to protect New York’s families, institutions, and economy.
Sen. Chuck Schumer said in a statement,
A watered down ban is still a ban. Despite the Administration’s changes, this dangerous executive order makes us less safe, not more, it is mean-spirited, and un-American. It must be repealed.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi echoed this sentiment:
The Trump Administration’s repackaging has done nothing to change the immoral, unconstitutional and dangerous goals of their Muslim and refugee ban. This is the same ban, with the same purpose, driven by the same dangerous discrimination that weakens our ability to fight terror.
The President’s conduct over the weekend emphasizes how little regard he has for reality. As the leaked reports from Homeland Security exposed, the White House has desperately sought to invent an after-the-fact justification for its baldly prejudiced and unconstitutional Muslim and refugee ban. Protecting the American people requires us to be strong and smart, not reckless and rash.
The President claims he is strengthening our security, but his Administration’s dangerous and incompetent actions are making America less safe, not more.
Rep. Keith Ellison tweeted, “Trump’s Muslim Ban is still a Muslim Ban.”
Trump's Muslim Ban is still a Muslim Ban. https://t.co/WtL7B8eg75
— Keith Ellison (@keithellison) March 6, 2017
The second Muslim elected to Congress and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Andre Carson of Indiana, called it “Muslim Ban 2.0” in a tweet, including the hashtag #NoBanNoWall
— André Carson (@RepAndreCarson) March 6, 2017
Liberal commentator Keith Olbermann, who brags about being a part of “The Resistance,” piled on, tweeting that Trump hates Muslims:
Another travel ban Trump? You hate Muslims. We get it. But your Russia scandal will destroy you. ICYMI mine from 1/9 pic.twitter.com/O7P4tpcvWc
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) March 6, 2017
The Center for Constitutional Rights called the executive order “state-sponsored bigotry.”
The repackaging of Trump’s Muslim ban does nothing to undo its fundamentally repugnant character as an act of state-sponsored bigotry. Trump cannot erase the discriminatory stench that has been the driving force of the White Nationalist House – and its Islamophobic activist wing – all along. The attempted do-over should meet the same fate in the courts as the first.
Trump’s first Muslim ban was responsible for grave harm to thousands of individuals whose lives and families were upended, and Trump’s hateful rhetoric has triggered a predictable a spike in xenophobic and anti-Muslim acts of violence and harassment. State discrimination inevitably sends a signal of social acceptance for hate crimes and makes entire communities open targets to the nationalist rage Trump is fomenting. He will meet continued resistance in the streets and in the courts.
The Southern Poverty Law Center said the order is still a “Muslim Ban”:
This new executive order banning travelers from six Muslim countries continues to be President Trump’s promised Muslim ban dressed in facially neutral language.
This Muslim Ban 2.0 is still discriminatory, continues to target the Muslim community and will cause ripple effects felt by people perceived to be Muslim.
MoveOn.org’s Ilya Sheyman, executive director of the political action arm, also condemned the new order as “hateful,” releasing the following statement:
Once again, President Trump has signed a Muslim Ban that is a de facto religious test for immigrants and shuts our doors on refugees. While the Trump Administration has made some tweaks and changes to the executive order after a previous version was struck down by a federal district court, the intention and impact of the action remains fundamentally unchanged: This is the Muslim Ban that Trump promised during his campaign.
MoveOn members will continue to oppose this hateful and counterproductive proposal and to demand that our elected officials and courts defend the Constitution and strike down this Muslim Ban.
The Huffington Post‘s Willa Frej said “the new order represents a major political defeat for the Trump administration.” They also continue the fake news line that the original order discriminated against Muslims (it didn’t). “No more overt discrimination against Muslims,” one subheading reads.
Frej ended the article with a promise from the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project: “The discrimination that spurred the ban doesn’t simply disappear by the removal of a few words.”
Slate‘s Mark Joseph Stern said the new order makes a religious discrimination challenge difficult, but not impossible — if the focus remains, not on the policy itself, but on what Trump said on the campaign trail. This, of course, should have no bearing in the courts, but that hasn’t been the case.
The Establishment Clause unambiguously prohibits government action that favors one religious denomination over another, while equal protection forbids invidious discrimination on the basis of religion. To prove that the new order contains impermissible religious discrimination, challengers will now have to rely on the fact that the ban still focuses on Muslim-majority countries—as well as Trump’s own statements on the campaign trail about a “Muslim ban.” Both the 9th Circuit and a federal judge in Virginia cited Trump’s comments with concern, and the Virginia judge made them a centerpiece of her ruling. Whether courts will impute unconstitutional motive to the new order remains an open question.
Republicans have been more positive about the new order. House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “This revised executive order advances our shared goal of protecting the homeland.”
I commend the administration and Secretary Kelly in particular for their hard work on this measure to improve our vetting standards. We will continue to work with President Trump to keep our country safe.
House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, who criticized the former order, said of the new version:
I look forward to reading the details of the President’s new executive order and conducting oversight to ensure it is implemented smoothly. This month, I am also launching a bipartisan congressional task force focused on closing security gaps that might be exploited by jihadists to sneak into our country, and I hope the Administration will work closely with us to put in place new security checks to protect our people from the threat of terror.
Rep. Paul Gosar, of the House Freedom Caucus, said the order will “strengthen our immigration and refugee screening process.”
It’s refreshing to see an administration that isn’t ashamed to uphold the most important Constitutional responsibility of the federal government: to protect the American people. We can no longer ignore the facts that leaders from the FBI, National Counterterrorism Center and the Department of Homeland Security have testified before Congress that they do not have the necessary resources to thoroughly vet immigrants and refugees from terrorist strongholds. There is no question that the Constitution and federal law grant the president the authority to take these necessary actions, which will not only protect the homeland but also safeguard refugees and legal immigrants.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who opposed the original travel ban with Sen. John McCain, said the new order doesn’t discriminate but it focuses on travelers from “compromised governments and failed states.”
I have always shared President Trump’s desire to protect our homeland. This Executive Order will achieve the goal of protecting our homeland and will, in my view, pass legal muster.
Besides getting a few Republicans on board, it looks like the new order has done little to appease Trump’s critics. But, then again, maybe that’s an impossible task.