Following large-scale demonstrations against Trump’s travel ban, the 9th Circuit court’s decision, on February 9, to uphold a national wide stay of the executive order was met with widespread, albeit hesitant, optimism.
The order, which was signed on January 27, blocked valid visa holders, including green card holders, and refugees from entering the United States, a decision hastily made and ill-conceived as “even those within the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration of the U.S. Department of State, the bureau that processes incoming migrants, were uninformed.” A number of lawsuits were immediately filed against the order, including one on behalf of the States of Washington and Minnesota, which resulted in a nation-wide stay on February 3.
In the hope that “‘potentially time-consuming litigation’” could be avoided, according to The Hill, the Trump administration is working to draft a new travel ban that will pass legal scrutiny.
Based on a recent State Department memo, it seems the new order will not affect green card holders, although the White House has insisted its ban on incoming Syrian refugees will remain in place.
All seven countries listed in the original ban – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Sudan – will reportedly be part of the revised ban, despite criticisms about the arbitrary nature of including these countries, possible violation of the 1965 Amendment to the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, and the clear intent to discriminate against citizens of these countries based on religion.
As journalist Spencer Ackerman reported for The Guardian, White House Policy Director Stephen Miller, who is leading the revision process, “is going through the domestic policy council, which does not include most of the government’s foreign policy or security-related agencies.” The decision to exclude the National Security Council from the process means efforts will likely focus on altering language to avoid legal challenges, instead of on “relax[ing] [the ban] restrictions or consider[ing] any deleterious consequences it has on national security.” As Melanie Zanona of The Hill also reported, “any new travel ban is sure to spark a fresh set of lawsuits around the country, and it remains to be seen whether rescinding the old order will be enough to end the current legal challenges…against it.”
There have been persistent fears that revisions to the ban could broaden the list of impacted countries. Shortly after Trump signed the initial executive order, Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, expressed concerns that his country would be added, after White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, suggested Pakistan presented similar concerns regarding terrorism, as the seven countries.
The revised ban is likely to impact people from a broad array of Muslim-majority countries, even if they are not included in the list of prohibited states. Indeed, following the original order, several travelers from countries not affected by the ban were detained at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Attaee Abdullah, who spent eight years working for a private U.S. military contractor in Kabul, was traveling with his family to LAX on a special immigrant visa. Upon arrival, Abdullah and his family were detained at the airport for over seven hours and questioned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, even though Afghanistan was not included in the original executive order.
While the ban threatens thousands of immigrants, many of them refugees, it will also have significant domestic effects. Immigrants not only drive economic growth in the United States, but they also play an important role in providing services to American citizens. As Dr. Andrew Gurman, president of the American Medical Association, has noted, foreign medical students “‘have been a resource to provide medical care to areas [in the United States] that don’t otherwise have access to physicians,’”; as part of the J-1 visa, which allows more than 6,000 international medical trainees to participate in residency programs in the United States each year, graduates are required to work in an area of the United States that has a shortage of doctors for three years, or else return home.
White House officials seem confident that their new travel ban will pass legal muster. While the language of the text may change, the order is likely to continue to generate public opposition for some time to come.