President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, announced today, is the same shit sandwich, served in a different wrapping. Really, there is no amount of packaging that can obscure the policy’s racist origins.
The initial executive order, issued January 27, blocked travel to the U.S. by residents and visa-holders of seven majority-Muslim countries, while banning Syrian refugees except for religious minorities (read: Christians).
The ban sparked nationwide demonstrations and was eventually struck down by federal judges. In attempting a do-over, the administration tried to manage optics differently. Trump signed the order Monday morning without any media present, and left Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to announce it as a news conference. This was a clear attempt to project coordination between departments, which was sorely lacking in the chaotic rollout of the previous executive order.
Some of the other key differences of the new ban are:
- The removal of Iraq from the list, an attempt to avoid more stories of people who have assisted the U.S. military in that country being denied entry.
- The new order applies only to non-visa holders.
- It will not go into effect until March 16, in an effort to avoid the chaos that the last order triggered.
- It removes the exception for religious minorities.
The delayed activation of the order could defang or deflate protests and resistance, and the removal of the religious minorities exception does not erase the Trump camp’s explicit call for banning Muslims: On Dececember 15, 2015, candidate Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” The news release announcing that proposal remains on his campaign’s website today. On January 27 of this year, a grinning Rudy Giuliani revealed on Fox News that Trump had told him that he wanted a “Muslim ban” and was looking for “the right way to do it legally.”
Activists are not impressed with the Trump administration’s new attempt to thwart immigration. “This is a transparent effort to put lipstick on a pig,” Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program at NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, said in a statement. “The American people and the courts are not likely to be fooled. There was no national security justification for a travel ban on January 27, and nothing has happened in the weeks since then to create one. Banning people from this country on the basis of their religion is against everything this country stands for. Bigotry does not make us safer.”
Steven Choi, executive director of New York Immigration Coalition, one of the main groups that helped to mobilize the January protests at John F. Kennedy International Airport, said in a statement Monday: “President Trump’s new ‘backdoor Muslim ban’ executive order is simply a mask for the same old hatred, fear and incompetence.”
As the NYIC noted in its news release, “Today’s revised order bars family members, students, travelers, workers, and others from the six designated countries from obtaining any visas for at least the next 90 days. In addition, all refugee resettlement will be halted for 120 days.”
Democratic leaders expressed instant disapproval. “This is the same ban, with the same purpose, driven by the same discrimination that weakens our fight against terror,” Nancy Pelosi tweeted. Chuck Schumer added: “Despite the Administration’s changes, the #MuslimBan2 makes us less safe, not more, it is mean-spirited & un-American. It must be repealed.”