The new travel ban President Trump signed Monday is no less misguided and damaging to those trying to travel to the U.S., or to those seeking refuge from war-torn regions of the world, than the original. The two new executive orders implementing the ban also show that Trump learned little from the policy debacle of the first go-round. The courts will decide whether he has fixed all of the legal shortcomings with this new, narrower version (the original was put on hold by several federal judges), but it still will disrupt the lives of thousands of people while doing nothing to advance U.S. national security interests. In fact, it feeds into propaganda by Islamic extremists that the Western world is at war with Islam. None of that has changed with this scaled-back version.
The new orders suspend travel to the U.S. from six predominately Muslim nations (Iraq was dropped from the original list) for 90 days and freeze the resettlement of refugees from around the world for 120 days, ostensibly to give the administration time to review vetting procedures. Trump issued the first orders without offering credible evidence or a persuasive argument that there is a problem with the vetting, and he offers none here. Although it is reasonable to expect the government to conduct routine reviews of programs and procedures, that's no justification for freezing visas and the resettlement of refugees while that review is underway.
Even the timing of the new orders suggests how unnecessary they are. Trump said he rushed the original orders into effect because "if the ban were announced with a one week notice, the 'bad' would rush into our country during that week." Yet it's been more than five weeks since Trump issued the now-enjoined orders, with no indication that terrorists have somehow taken advantage of that window to evade vetting by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security. And the new ban doesn't go into effect until March 16, presumably to avoid the kind of disastrous rollout that marked the original ban. So much for urgency.
The new orders, like the old ones, are just so much Trumpian showboating. People from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen who were issued a visa before Jan. 27 — the date of the initial orders — will be let in, but pending and new applications will be frozen for 90 days, the same time frame in the original order. But if the review of the vetting process is so critical to national security, one would presume it is already underway, so why a 90-day suspension for the new orders if the government already has spent more than 30 days on the review?
In fact, no one from the six affected countries has been implicated in a fatal terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, according to a review by Politifact. The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute reported two years ago that 784,000 refugees were resettled in the U.S. in the 14 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, yet only three were later convicted on terrorism-related charges — two of them for plotting against an overseas target, and the third for hatching "plans that were barely credible." In issuing the new freeze on refugees, the administration cited the case of someone brought here as a child who was radicalized after becoming a naturalized citizen. What kind of vetting could possibly anticipate that?
At least the ban will not affect noncitizens with lawful permanent resident status (green-card holders) if they travel abroad. Yet the ban still may run afoul of the courts. Although the new orders drop the exemption for religious minorities suffering persecution in the countries affected by the ban, which raised constitutional questions, they still target nations that are predominantly Muslim, and immigrant-rights groups are poised to renew their legal challenges.
Ultimately, much like his proposed database to publicize crimes committed by immigrants in the country illegally, Trump's aim here is not to improve national security, but to ostracize. And it will be to Americans' shame if he gets away with it.