The Trump administration on Monday announced a new executive order that temporarily blocks migrants from six Muslim-majority countries and suspends the American refugee program for 120 days. This new order follows a similar one issued in January that caused chaos at airports, nationwide protests and dozens of lawsuits.
Here are more details from NPR’s Camila Domonoske:
Unlike the original order, the ban announced Monday no longer includes Iraq, explicitly doesn’t apply to lawful permanent residents (green card holders) or existing visa holders, and will have a delayed implementation — going into effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on March 16. Syrian refugees are not banned indefinitely, like they were in the Jan. 27 order, and refugees already formally scheduled for travel to the U.S. will be permitted to enter the country.
Worldview host Jerome McDonnell discussed the new executive order with Doris Meissner, senior fellow and director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. Meissner also served as commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service during the Clinton administration. Below are highlights from their conversation.
Jerome McDonnell: Do you see anything in this document that makes (this executive order) more bulletproof in the courts?
Doris Meissner: Well it certainly does read much more now like a document written by lawyers that are professional at doing this kind of work. And it does take care of a number of the issues that have been in litigation prior to this time. So I expect that this order will probably be litigated again, but it may be that the new order is more immune from court intervention.
What it does is it takes out the most probably, legally questionable part of the earlier order, which is that there is no mention in here of favoring any religious groups. That was a real issue in the earlier order. It does also restate the same authority that the president has (that) was stated in the earlier order, which is a very broad authority to restrict or prohibit the entry of aliens or any class of aliens whose entry might be detrimental to the interest of the United States. That remains in the new order.
The countries themselves that are named have, with the naming of them, an explanation why they’re of concern to the administration. That’s a new feature of this order that hadn’t been in the other order. Then, of course, this order does eliminate Iraq from the list. That is a change based on, I think, quite strenuous objection by the Defense Department and the State Department.
McDonnell: Do you think that the logic for this is better explained now? Can a new (executive order) fix the perception?
Meissner: The new one may fix some of the legal and foreign policy issues with Iraq, but I think you raise a very important point: This still is a travel ban. It still is a complete shutdown — except in certain unusual cases — of the refugee admissions program.
So the bigger question for the country, and the bigger question for people who are digesting this, is whether this kind of a policy really makes any difference in protecting us. It certainly says that it’s allowing for applause and allowing for time to review vetting procedures, but you can review vetting procedures in ways other than shutting down travel. So the earlier objection to the ban had a very interesting byproduct, which was a lot of expert national security people objecting and actually signing statements that a ban of this kind — directed at the countries that it was directed at — actually can do the very opposite. It gives ammunition and propaganda to terrorists to argue that the United States really is rejecting Islam. So the bigger objection remains, I think, even with a travel order that might be improved legally.
McDonnell: Almost everybody heard cases where people who you would think would not get hassled coming in and out of our country got hassled coming in and out of our country. How do you (execute this executive order) so you are not hassling everybody?
Meissner: First of all, they (did) put an effective date 10 days away, so they have conceded that it takes some time to put something like this into place in a way that avoids some of the chaos. Presumably during this 10 day period between now and when it’s implemented, there will be very careful instructions sent to airlines, to consulates, to refugee assistance organizations, to other international organizations, to people in the United States who are inspectors at ports of entry so that they know who they can admit and who they cannot admit.
But there is also another feature to this executive order that we did not see before. And that is a very elaborated list of exceptions to the order … They say very clearly that waivers can be issued on a case by case basis. But they have all kinds of exceptions in the order which, frankly, are (for) the kinds of people that have been getting visas to come to the United States: people who have a long-term business purpose here, people who have relatives in the United States who were legally admitted, people who happen to be on a visa that is a valid visa but they’re abroad and they need to come back to the United States. So they’ve created a whole set of conditions under which people can be admitted to the country, or can even be issued a visa to come to the country, that (was) not a part of the earlier order. So it may be that in practice, this becomes a little bit closer to business as usual.
I think perhaps the more dramatic part of the order does continue to be the refugee sections which pretty much closes out refugee admissions, certainly for 120 days … Cutting the refugee program by more than half, even if it is reinstated — that’s a dramatic longer-term shift and one for which there’s been a tremendous amount of negative reaction in the United States that I expect will continue.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Hit play above to listen to the entire segment.