Five takeaways from Trump’s new travel ban

Five takeaways from Trump’s new travel ban
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President Trump issued an updated travel ban on Monday aimed at moving past the legal battles that have consumed his young administration.

Legal experts say the revised executive order, which prohibits people from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days and halts U.S. refugee resettlement for 120 days, is far more likely than the old one to stand up in court.

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New language, such as dropping Iraq from the list of banned countries, isn’t the only major difference this time around. Trump signed the order behind closed doors, for example, and the policy won’t take effect for 10 days.

Here are five takeaways from Trump’s new travel ban.

 

Court ruling served as playbook

It’s clear that the Trump administration used a ruling from a federal appeals court as a playbook for reviving the order.

States challenging the original ban argued that their residents were directly harmed because families were being separated, green-card holders were stranded abroad and foreign scholars and students with valid visas in the U.S. were afraid to leave the country. 

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and put the policy on hold nationwide.

But the revised order explicitly exempts legal permanent residents and those who already have a valid visa to come to the U.S. That language could take away a major chunk of a state’s legal standing for bringing a lawsuit.

“This is a much improved draft,” said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University Law School. “This order takes the edges off.”

Another key change is that the ban removes an indefinite restriction on the admission of Syrian refugees and instead just halts all refugee admissions to the U.S. for four months. 

The administration also stripped language that would give preference to religious minorities — such as Christians from the Middle East — once refugee resettlement resumes. That provision gave fuel to critics who labeled the previous order a Muslim ban.

The new policy also includes a specific list of who may qualify for a waiver to the executive order, which can be provided on a case-by-case basis.

The examples appear squarely aimed at some of the most controversial cases of travelers being turned away, such as an Iranian baby with a serious heart defect whose family was en route to get medical care in the U.S. when they got caught up in the initial travel ban.

 

The White House learned from its mistakes

The White House has learned its lesson from the first messy rollout, which ignited dozens of legal challenges and sparked chaos at airports across the country.

Key officials and GOP lawmakers were reportedly not briefed before the original ban took effect, while some travelers en route to the U.S. were detained at airports amid confusion over whom the policy applied to. 

The administration said it has worked closely with all relevant agencies to ensure a smooth implementation this time around.

Instead of taking effect immediately, the ban won’t take hold until March 16, giving customs agents, travelers, airlines and airports more than a week to prepare.

The White House also briefed reporters hours before Trump signed the order and said it will be issuing further guidance to airlines and other stakeholders.

“[Customs and Border Protection] will hold executive level calls with airlines in order to provide guidance, answer questions, and address concerns,” the administration said in a fact sheet.  “CBP will issue guidance and contact stakeholders to ensure timely implementation consistent with the terms of the Executive Order.”

The new ban also spells out exactly who is exempt, emphasizing “in transit” travelers will not be denied entry and that valid visas will not be revoked.

 

The original travel ban is dead

The new order revokes the original travel ban, effectively killing that policy.

“In my view, that first executive order is dead as Dillinger,” Turley said.

Justice Department officials insisted Monday that there was “nothing wrong” with the original ban but said that they expect legal challenges to the original order to be “mooted.”

“In order to avoid spending additional time pursuing litigation, I am revoking Executive Order 13769 and replacing it with this order,” the new order says.

That doesn’t mean Trump’s legal woes are over. Opponents can still re-file challenges to the new ban, and judges could implement another restraining order.

But Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D), who led the lawsuit against the ban, cautioned that they are still weighing their next steps before the order takes effect.

“It’s going to be a tougher case for the plaintiffs than before, no question about it,” said Jay Holland, civil rights attorney with Joseph Greenwald & Laake.

 

Question over terrorism threat is still key

One of the chief complaints from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was that the administration failed to prove that the nations listed in the original ban posed a heightened risk of terrorism.

And an internal report from the Department of Homeland Security found that few people from those countries had actually been involved in terrorism-related activities in the U.S. since 2011, adding that citizenship is not a reliable indicator of threat. 

The new policy makes a much greater effort to justify the travel ban but could still leave questions for the courts.

The order says “hundreds of persons born abroad have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes in the United States” since 2001 and points to two recent examples. 

It also cites 300 active FBI anti-terror investigations into individuals admitted into the U.S. as refugees.

But a senior Justice Department official said that the number was “global” and declined to provide specific information about the nationality of those 300 individuals — leaving it unclear how many are from the six nations with restricted travel.

 

It opens the door for other travel restrictions

The new policy opens the door for Trump to impose other travel restrictions in the future.

The White House plans to review national security risks and beef up immigration vetting procedures while travel for certain foreign nationals and refugees remains suspended.

After that, the Homeland Security and State departments “may submit to the President the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment, as well as the names of any countries that they recommend should be removed.”

Katie Bo Williams and Jordan Fabian contributed to this report.