Didn’t We Do This Already? An Early Analysis of the Replacement “Travel Ban” Executive Order

(This is the umpteenth installment of a series of articles unpacking the many executive orders issued by the Trump administration. Click here to read the installment on this order’s predecessor, issued in late January. Though I am not an immigration specialist, I am a legal generalist working with indigent populations professionally full-time. This article is not intended to form an attorney-client relationship or constitute legal advice, though it is my hope that it will help people understand what is going on.)

Hello from my lunch break! The administration put out a new version of January’s “travel ban” executive order yesterday, as well as a fact sheet that reads more like a form template responding to expected interrogatories than anything else. To save you some antacid, and because I’m preparing summaries on this topic anyway, I figured I’d let you know what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Same Garbage, Different Day…

Here are the provisions that look exactly the same, in all their still-terrible splendor:

  • Three Months without Travel. There is still a three-month travel ban for nonimmigrants from six Middle Eastern countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen). You’ll note this is one fewer than the old one, and more about that below.
  • Refugees Still Not Welcome. There is still a four-month cessation of refugee acceptance from all countries. It’s still unprecedented and longer than the one after 9/11, and they are still limiting refugee entry in fiscal year 2017 to 50,000 (which is less than half the amount set by the Obama Administration for the year).
  • Fuhrer Exception Still in Place. You can still get an exception to the ban for “the national interest,” which is just as vague as it was the first time.
  • Fingerprints and Photographs. The enhanced screening, including biometric screening on entry and exit, is still in place.

…But they added some Febreeze to mask the stench.

Here are the major changes made in the new version, which make it slightly more palatable but don’t change the biggest underpinnings:

  • Six is the New Magic Number. Iraq is no longer included in the list of countries banned from entry. They explain this in the executive order, in way more detail than you probably care to read, but it basically comes down to saying that Iraq is a “special case.”
  • There’s a Set Start Date. The new provisions go into effect March 16, which is presumably as much to avoid an embarrassing repeat of January’s confusion as anything else.
  • Syria No Longer Singled Out. There’s no indefinite prohibition of Syrian refugees, who presumably can reapply with everybody else after the four-month window passes. Unofficially, there may still be a prohibition in place for most refugees until FY 2018, though, because we had already cleared half the new 50,000 cap set for FY 2017 by December 2016.
  • Legal Status Apparently Means Something Again. Folks who have U.S. citizenship, lawful permanent residence, or a previously-issued legal visa now are supposed to be exempt from enforcement (though, of course, it remains to be seen if CBP will comply with the provision).
  • “Religious persecution” priority has been removed. There’s nothing to say this won’t still happen unofficially, but it’s no longer an explicit part of the executive order.

For more reading on this topic, I recommend this article put out by the New York Times, which contains a good compare-and-contrast summary. And on that note, it’s back to the law mines for me. I’m hoping to draft another essay about detainee free labor in the near future though, so watch this space.

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