tuesday, 7 march of 2017

Trump’s new travel order bars citizens from 6 Muslim nations

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday that prohibits citizens from six predominantly Muslim nations from entering the US in a second attempt at a travel ban after his first botched effort in January was knocked back by the courts.

The order bars citizens of Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days while the administration reviews visa vetting procedures. It takes effect on March 16 and will not apply to people who obtain a US visa before that date. It also excludes Iraq, which was on the original list of seven nations, to avoid punishing those who assisted the American-led effort in Iraq after the invasion.

The move marks an effort by Mr Trump to fulfil his pledge to introduce “extreme vetting” for Muslim-majority nations while tackling criticisms raised by the courts, which blocked his January 27 order after it sparked travel chaos around the world.

Rex Tillerson, secretary of state, said it was a “vital measure” to strengthen national security and that Mr Trump was using “his rightful authority to keep our people safe”.

The original order sparked criticism that it amounted to a Muslim ban, which critics said contravened US constitutional prohibitions against imposing religious tests. US officials said the new order targeted nations where it was harder to screen for possible terrorists. They said the replacement would also remove a provision in the original order that gave priority to refugees who were religious minorities.

“This is not a Muslim ban in any way, shape or form,” said one US official. “This is a temporary suspension of nationals from six countries that are failed states or state sponsors of terror,” the official added, noting there were more than 1bn Muslims around the world “who are free to come to the United States”.

While the new order temporarily suspends the main US refugee programme for 120 days, it removes the original blanket ban on refugees from Syria and subjects them to the same conditions as refugees from other nations.

“We cannot risk the prospect of malevolent actors using our immigration system to take American lives,” said John Kelly, homeland security secretary.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, an expert on immigration law at Cornell University, said that despite the changes the new order was “essentially old wine in a new bottle” in that it assumed that people from the six countries posed a security risk, despite a draft homeland security report that had found little evidence to back up that claim.

“The revised executive order will not quell litigation or concerns. US relatives will still sue over the inability of their loved ones to join them in the United States. US companies may sue because they cannot hire needed workers from the six countries,” said Mr Yale-Loehr. “In sum, the immigration controversy will continue.”

Republicans welcomed the narrower ban and the fact that it was unveiled in a less chaotic way. “This revised executive order advances our shared goal of protecting the homeland,” said Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives. “I commend the administration and Secretary Kelly in particular for their hard work on this measure to improve our vetting standards.”

While it was too early to say if the new order would satisfy the courts, Democrats and human rights groups lambasted the move. David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, said it was a gift to extremists, calling it “a ban that heartlessly targets the most vetted and most vulnerable population to enter the United States”.

“President Trump is handing Isis recruitment gold and is putting American lives at risk,” said Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut. “Our enemies’ dream is to paint a picture of global war between Islam and the west, and today’s travel ban plays right into their hands.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said the new order meant the Trump administration had conceded that its “original Muslim ban was indefensible” but had replaced the measure with “a scaled-back version that shares the same fatal flaws”.

The order also met criticism from some companies, including Uber, Yahoo and Airbnb. Uber said the ban was “unjust and wrong” while Brian Chesky, chief executive of Airbnb, tweeted that “barring people from entering our country because of where they’re from was wrong the first time around — still wrong”.

“American businesses like Yahoo need certainty, particularly around the ability to hire and retain top talent,” said April Boyd, head of global public policy for the company. “A piecemeal approach leaves question marks for companies and employees. We encourage the administration to work with Congress on a thoughtful, lasting approach to bring positive change to the current immigration system.”

The order was rolled out in a more orderly fashion than its predecessor, which was issued on a Friday with no advance warning, sparking confusion around the world as airlines refused to allow passengers with visas to board flights bound for the US.

“You should not see any chaos or alleged chaos at airports,” said one US official. “We are going to have a very smooth implementation.”

The original order also sparked criticism for appearing to include green card holders, who are permanent US residents.

The decision to implement the order on March 16 — 10 days from the announcement — was designed to avoid some of the confusion that surrounded the original order.

Under the terms of the order, the US government will review the information that each of the six countries provides Washington to help adjudicate applications for visa and refugee status. Each country will then be given 50 days to comply with requests from the US that arise from the original review.

(Published by Financial Times - March 6, 2017)

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