United States Revised Travel Ban Challenged in Federal Court

By Sarah Lafen
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, North America

 

WASHINGTON D.C., United States — On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang heard two hours of arguments challenging and supporting President Trump’s revised executive order banning travel from six Muslim-majority countries.  The revised order will suspend the U.S. refugee program for 120 days, prohibit the issuance of visas to those from Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Iran for 90 days, and decrease the number of refugees allowed to enter the U.S. in 2017 from 110,00 to 50,000.

Attorneys for the ACLU, National Immigration Law Center and members of the International Refugee Assistance Project speak outside of the U.S. District Court in Maryland court on Wednesday (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

Refugee rights organizations brought suit in federal court in Maryland claiming that the revised travel ban illegally targets a religious group.  Among others, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked Chuang to halt the order entirely, and argued that it represents a “pretext to discriminate against Muslims.”  Justin Cox, lawyer for the National Immigration Law Center, told Chuang that those affected feel the order targets Islam and condemns their religion.

The U.S. government responded to the claims made by refugee groups by saying that all references to religion have been eliminated from the revised order.  The government encouraged Chuang to focus on the exact wording of the order, and urged that the words indicate the ban is aimed at preventing terrorism.

The government also argues that people from the countries targeted by the travel ban “warrant additional scrutiny in connection with [the] immigration policies because the conditions in these countries present heightened threats.”  However, analysts at the Department of Homeland Security have indicated that citizenship is an “unlikely indicator” of ties to terrorism.

The hearing concluded without a ruling.  Chuang told court attendees that he “appreciated[d] everyone’s advocacy” and will issue a ruling as soon as possible.  According to ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, Chuang pressed both the advocacy groups and the government about their respective claims.  Chuang asked the government why he should not consider all of President Trump’s comments regarding Muslim immigration, and asked the refugee rights groups whether President Trump is forbidden from limiting immigration from anywhere in the world just because of comments he made during his campaign.  Gelernt also said that Chuang asked whether a nationwide ban or a limited halt would be the appropriate remedy.

Hawaii’s challenge to the revised executive order will soon be heard in federal court, and Washington is also requesting a hearing in federal court to challenge the ban.

 

For more information, please see:

The Guardian — Hawaii Judge to Issue Ruling on Revised Trump Travel Ban Before it Takes Effect — 15 March 2017

Independent — Donald Trump’s Revised ‘Muslim Travel Ban’ Under Scrutiny by US Federal Courts Day Before Introduction — 15 March 2017

USA Today — Clock Ticks as Trump’s Revised Travel Ban Faces Multiple Court Challenges — 15 March 2017

The Washington Post — Federal Judge in Hawaii Freezes President Trump’s New Executive Order — 15 March 2017

Trump Expected to Sign Refugee Ban Executive Order

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

 

WASHINGTON D.C., United States — Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order (EO) which would restrict immigration from several countries in the Middle East and Africa, five of which are countries that the U.S. bombed under the Obama administration.  The EO would also deny visas from applicants from countries the Trump administration deems high-risk.

A newly-built section of the border wall between the US and Mexico (Photo Courtesy of RT)
A newly-built section of the border wall between the US and Mexico (Photo Courtesy of RT)

According to sources within the administration, the EO is suspected to block Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. indefinitely, suspend all refugee admissions for 120 days while the Trump administration decides which countries are high and low risk, temporarily suspend visa issuances to applicants from countries with security screening that the Trump administration deems inadequate, and cap the total refugee admissions for 2017 at 50,000 (as opposed to the 11,000 recommended by the Obama administration).

Though the list of countries included in the EO is not yet finalized, however some of the countries that are under consideration include Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Trump’s proposed EO has been subject to criticism due to its possible implications on U.S. foreign policy.  Stephen Legomsky, previous chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Obama administration, explained that while the president has the legal authority to limit refugee admissions into the U.S., doing so would be a “terrible idea” from a policy standpoint because of the immediate humanitarian need for refugees.

This EO threatens a deal made with Australia in late 2016, in which the U.S. agreed to resettle over 1,000 refugees who are currently residing in Papua New Guinea and South Pacific nation Nauru on Australia’s behalf.  Though Australia will not comment on the nationalities of these refugees, sources working for the refugees told reporters that about one third of the asylum-seekers originate from countries that would be covered by the EO if it is put into place.

This move comes as part of a concerted effort on the part of the Trump administration to reduce the number if illegal immigrants who live in the U.S.  As part of this plan, Trump is also expected to direct the construction of a border wall along the U.S. Mexico border in the near future.

 

For more information, please see:

International Business Times — Donald Trump Muslim Immigration Ban: US Bombs Most Countries on Restricted Refugee List — 25 January 2017

Reuters — Trump Expected to Order Temporary Ban on Refugees — 25 January 2017

RT — Trump to Order Mexican Border Wall, Ban Refugees from 7 Muslim Countries —  25 January 2017

The Huffington Post — Trump Prepares to Halt Syrian Refugee Admissions, Limit Muslim Entry — 24 January 2017