New York Times
By Glenn Thrush
March 6, 2017
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Monday signed a revised version of his executive order that would for the first time rewrite American immigration policy to ban migrants from predominantly Muslim nations, removing citizens of Iraq from the original travel embargo and scrapping a provision that explicitly protected religious minorities.
The order, which comes about a month after federal judges blocked Mr. Trump’s haphazardly implemented ban in January on residents from seven Middle Eastern and African countries, won’t affect people who had previously been issued visas — a change that the administration hopes will avoid the chaos, protests and legal challenges that followed the first order.
But it did little to halt criticism from Democrats and immigrant rights groups, which predicted a renewed fight in the courts. Mr. Trump’s initial, hastily issued order on Jan. 27 prompted protests across the country, leaving tearful families stranded at airports abroad and in the United States.
The new measure will be phased in over the next two weeks, according to officials with the Department of Homeland Security.
John F. Kelly, the Homeland Security secretary, said the order was “prospective” and applied “only to foreign nationals outside of the United States” who do not have a valid visa.
“If you have a current valid visa to travel, we welcome you,” said Mr. Kelly, appearing alongside Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building in Washington early Monday — before leaving without taking reporters’ questions.
“Unregulated, un-vetted travel is not a universal privilege, especially when national security is at stake,” Mr. Kelly added.
The indefinite ban on refugees from Syria also has been reduced to a 120-day ban, requiring review and renewal.
Mr. Trump signed the first ban with great fanfare, in front of reporters at the Pentagon. “We don’t want them here,” Mr. Trump said of Islamist terrorists. “We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country, and love deeply our people.”
This time, he signed the order in private, with the White House releasing a photo of the seldom-silent president signing the order, alone at his desk in the Oval Office.
His staff offered no explanation for the decision to opt for a lower-key rollout this time. But administration officials said the president wanted to emphasize that the rewrite was a collective effort, not like the secretive one by the White House advisers Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller that resulted in the botched implementation of the first order.
Justice Department lawyers said the revisions rendered moot legal cases against the original travel ban.
But opponents said that the removal of a section that had granted preferential treatment to victims of religious persecution — a provision that immigrant rights attorneys argued was intended to discriminate against Muslims — was a cosmetic change that did nothing to alter the order’s prejudicial purpose.
“This is a retreat but let’s be clear — it’s just another run at a Muslim ban,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, one of the groups that sued to stop the first order.
“At its core, the second order looks very similar to the first and I expect it will run into the same problems from the courts and the public that the first one did. They can’t un-ring the bell.”
The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, described the new order as a “watered-down ban,” that was still “mean-spirited and un-American.”
Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a statement that the new order would “cause extreme fear and uncertainty for thousands of families by, once again, putting anti-Muslim hatred into policy.”
A wide array of people are still affected by President Trump’s order.
Congressional Republicans, who were split over the first travel ban, had a more muted reaction. But House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who backed the first order, released a statement saying the revised order “advances our shared goal of protecting the homeland.”
Citizens of Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya will face a 90-day suspension of visa processing as the administration continues to analyze how to enhance vetting procedures, according to a Homeland Security summary of the order.
The removal of Iraq from the list came after talks with security officials in Baghdad, at the urging of State and Defense department officials, who felt the ban would undermine the stability of the United States-allied government.
“On the basis of negotiations that have taken place between the Government of Iraq and the U.S. Department of State in the last month, Iraq will increase cooperation with the U.S. Government on the vetting of its citizens applying for a visa to travel to the United States,” Homeland Security officials wrote in a fact sheet given to reporters.
The Iraqis agreed to improve the quality of travel documentation and to bolster their sharing of information about potentially dangerous nationals, officials said.
The new order was delayed for about a week as the White House sought to better coordinate its activities with federal agencies and to maximize its public relations impact, according to three administration officials.
In a conference call with reporters on Monday morning, officials with Homeland Security, the Department of State and Department of Justice defended Mr. Trump’s original order and said the rewrite was intended to address legal concerns quickly so they could deal with what they repeatedly characterized as an urgent national security threat.
The timing of the ban seemed intended to reset the White House political narrative, after a tumultuous week that began with a well-received address to a joint session of Congress. That success was quickly overshadowed by the controversies over Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s failure to inform the Senate of his contacts with a Russian diplomat and Mr. Trump’s unsupported accusation that President Barack Obama tried to wiretap Mr. Trump’s phones during the 2016 campaign.
Mr. Trump’s pledges to crack down on illegal immigration and prevent terrorist attacks on United States soil were cornerstones of his appeal to white working-class voters.
“The vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country,” the president said last Tuesday, during the address to a joint session of Congress in which he reiterated his promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico and “win” wars against ISIS and “radical Islamic terrorism” — a phrase President Obama avoided in his public utterances.
“We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America,” he added. “And we cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.”
Critics argue that Mr. Trump’s vow to impose “extreme vetting” on migrants, especially those from war-torn Syria, disregards a stringent screening protocol already in place, and the fact that none of the recent terrorist attacks or mass shootings on American soil were perpetrated by attackers from the nations listed in the ban.
Last week, The Associated Press reported that it had obtained a draft Department of Homeland Security assessment concluding that citizenship was an “unlikely indicator” of a threat.
Homeland Security officials, speaking to reporters on Monday, pushed back against that news report, arguing that it was culled from public sources and excluded classified information that paints a more dangerous picture.
An official, speaking on the call, said that the Justice Department had identified 300 “refugees” who were being investigated for their links to radical Islamic terrorist groups or pro-ISIS positions. Some of those people already have permanent resident status, according to the official.
But Homeland Security and Justice Department officials refused to provide any further details, and wouldn’t say how many of the 300 investigation targets came from any of the countries covered by the revised travel ban.
Since 2001, 18 of the 36 Muslim extremists who have engaged in attacks inside the United States were born in the United States, while 14 migrated here as children and wouldn’t have been stopped by the new vetting process, according to an analysis by Charles Kurzman, a professor at the University of North Carolina.
None came from the banned nations; Muslim extremists have accounted for 16 out of 240,000 murders in the United States since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com