Donald Trump’s revised travel ban still faces legal challenges

This second travel ban was different even before it was unveiled.

For 24 hours, officials briefed journalists and members of Congress on its key points, such as an exemption for Iraqis and for anyone already with a visa, including Green Card holders and those with a right to live in the US.

Then there was the signing itself, away from the cameras, in private.

Instead Donald Trump – who so memorably during the campaign promised to ban foreign Muslims from entering the US – turned the new executive order over to three of his newly minted cabinet secretaries to present to the world.

The White House strategy is clear. After the botched introduction of the original travel ban at the end of Mr Trump’s first week, this time will be different.

There is a lead-in period to ensure no more headlines about grannies being detained as they step off planes. The airlines can be briefed and the relevant agencies prepared. Less chaos.

And by giving the launch to Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, John Kelly, head of the Department of Homeland Security, and John Sessions, Attorney General, the administration is demonstrating it now has a team in place to defend the ban. More control.

Its provisions have also been altered in an effort to withstand a legal challenge.

The number of affected countries has been reduced from seven to six. The removal of Iraq avoids awkward questions about how America treats allies in the fight against Isil. The first legal challenge last time around came in response to the detention of an Iraqi man who had worked as a translator for US armed forces in the country.

There is no longer any mention of special preference for Christian refugees fleeing persecution the Middle East, a clause which opponents said breached the First Amendment and its prohibition on favouring one religion over another.

But by far the most important change is the exemption for Green Card holders and anyone with a pre-existing visa.

When the original executive order was suspended it came as the result of a challenge by Washington State. Its attorney general argued that the interests of the state were harmed by the travel ban.

Bob Ferguson listed the harms: separating Washington families, damaging the local economy, hurting companies based in the state and ultimately undermining “Washington’s sovereign interest in remaining a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees”.

His argument brought an emergency stay on the executive order, a decision later upheld by an appeal court. Judges sided with his point that the state, as a victim of the order, had a right to be heard.

That case will be much harder to make now.

The exemptions mean legal foreign residents of the state, those with work or student visas and so on, will still be allowed into the country when the new order comes into force on March 16. Washington State will have a tougher time showing that it has been harmed.

That does not mean the ban cannot be challenged. Already civil liberties and human rights groups have dismissed the new order as the same old thing in fresh packaging.

The ban is still an effort to make good on Mr Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the US, with all the First Amendment problems that brings.

The new version is certainly more considered. Its language is more scholarly. Its implementation will be smoother. And it omits the most egregious injustice: That of legal American residents being turned away.

But at its heart, the suspicion remains that it is an unAmerican effort to control entry to the US based on religion. Mr Trump still has a battle on his hands.


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