What to expect from Donald Trump’s revised travel ban

The US president has promised to sign a new order this week, tailored to the federal court decision that suspended his ban on travellers from seven mainly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen

People carrying posters at a rally against President Donald Trump's executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, in New York's Times Square on February 19, 2017. Andres Kudacki/AP Photo
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New York // Donald Trump’s revised travel ban will exempt visitors who already hold an entry visa as well as dual citizens of the US and the seven countries subject to restrictions, according to emerging details of a new executive order.

The original ban remains suspended after mass protests and a string of legal challenges.

Mr Trump has promised to sign a new order this week, tailored to the federal court decision that suspended his ban on travellers from seven mainly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — and suspended indefinitely the arrival of all Syrian refugees.

An administration official told the Associated Press the same seven countries would still be targeted but Syrian refugees would no longer be automatically rejected. Travellers holding US passports and green cards would also be allowed in.

A leaked draft, obtained by The Wall Street Journal, also suggested it would drop a clause prioritising entry of refugees from minorities subject to religious persecution — interpreted as discriminating in favour of Christians in the Middle East.

Jeanne Zaino, professor of political science at Iona College, said the president’s powers included broad authority to determine who was and was not allowed into the country.

His mistake, she said, was to issue an overly broad ban, which had not been subject to the usual legal scrutiny, and which included a religious test.

A more specific order, framed using statutes describing the president’s powers, would have a good chance of getting through the courts.

“They need to make sure the new order is properly vetted by all of the cabinet and agencies, and that it follows proper procedures,” she said.

“People who have already been vetted, given their visas they are not going to come under the ban.”

The original order was designed as a “pause”, according to administration officials, to allow time to tighten vetting procedures. It banned arrivals from the seven countries for 90 days and halted refugee resettlement for 120 days.

However, its sudden introduction meant hundreds of people arriving with valid visas were detained and, in some cases, deported. Tens of thousands more had their visas cancelled.

Its broad latitude — ensnaring residents with green cards, students and refugees who had undergone years of checks — provoked a round of legal challenges.

US allies around the world condemned the move and technology firms joined the legal fight complaining many foreign skilled workers were affected.

Earlier this month, a federal appeal court upheld a decision by a lower court to suspend the executive order.

A panel of three judges in San Francisco said the government had not shown that individuals from the seven countries represented an elevated threat. They also found that US states had legal standing to bring suits because their residents were being harmed by the policy.

“The states’ claims raise serious allegations and present significant constitutional questions,” the judges concluded in their written ruling.

Legal analysts said a more narrowly defined ban, excluding residents or those on student visas for example, may prevent such lawsuits.

Last week, Mr Trump used a chaotic news conference to say he planned to issue a new executive order based on the appeal court’s judgement.

“We can tailor the order to that decision and get just about everything, in some ways, more,” he said. “We have some of the best lawyers in the country working on it.”

US media report he is now working with Jeff Sessions, his attorney general who had not been sworn in at the time of the original order, and John Kelly, his homeland security secretary, who was not consulted the first time around.

Even without an executive order, Mr Trump has full discretion to control the number of refugees entering the US. He has already set a cap of 50,000 this year, a significant slowdown from Barack Obama’s target of 110,000.

Civil rights campaigners and Muslim groups say they will protest against any new order.

More than 1,000 people gathered in New York’s Times Square on Sunday to show their support for America’s Muslim population.

The city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, and actress, Susan Sarandon, were among those who addressed the crowd in protest at Mr Trump’s immigration policies.

Chelsea Clinton was also present at the “I Am a Muslim Too” rally.

Russell Simmons, who founded the record label DefJam and who helped organise the protest, said unity was the only thing that could make America great.

“Our Muslim brothers and sisters have not only been demonised but they have been the victims of terrorism and they are our greatest allies in fighting terrorism, as you know,” he said.

“So we are here today to show Middle America our beautiful signs and through our beautiful actions and intentions that they have been misled, that the seeds of hate that were small — and maybe just ignorance — will not be watered, that the hate will not grow.”

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

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