US President Donald Trump signed a new executive order on immigration, Monday. The revamped order, which is to take full effect on 12:01 ET March 16th, will officially revoke the initial order signed in January. While maintaining its predecessor’s fundamental roots, the new directive presents revisions on controversial clauses which caused airport chaos, nationwide protests, international criticism, and a slew of lawsuits.
One glaring revision is the removal of Iraq from the banned list. The new order still suspends US Visa issuance to citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days. The exclusion of Iraq is claimed to have stemmed from the Iraqi government’s pledge to “…increase cooperation with the U.S. government on the vetting of its citizens applying for a visa to travel to the United States. “ Another cited reason is Iraq’s active involvement in addressing ISIS. Adding or removing more countries to / from the banned list in the future is a possibility acknowledged by the White House.
The new travel ban changed its tone about religious minorities, as well. The old policy specifically instructed vetting authorities to “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality”. This language, which earned the old order its infamous tag “Muslim ban”, does not exist now. Many, however, still consider the new policy a Muslim ban as it still zeroes in on Muslim-majority countries.
Learning from the initial roll-out’s mistakes, the new order is not going to take effect immediately. Keen on having a more orderly implementation this time, the administration is giving a 10-day transition to put structure around the new immigration policy. This also means that all US visas issued before March 16th will be honoured regardless if the visa holder is from any of the named countries.
Perhaps the biggest legal weakness of the initial order was its entry-refusal from those who hold valid US visas, green cards, and citizenships. The White House clearly specified that the new immigration ban will not affect US residents, green card holders, citizens (including those with dual citizenship), and those travelling with valid US visas. It also implied reinstatement of visas, residencies, and citizenships which were revoked during the implementation of the first travel ban.
Another key change in the new approach is its treatment of Syrian refugees. Under the revised policy, a blanket vetting procedure is to be applied on Syrian refugees just like any other refugees fleeing from their country. US refugee program is still on hold for 120 days and now has a cap of 50,000 against the limit of 110,000.
Trump has said incessantly that the ban is necessary to strengthen the country’s national security by banning “high risk” aliens from entering the country and by firming up vetting protocols used in the Refugee Admission Program. As it is an extremely popular campaign promise, the executive order was just a matter of time from the moment he took office.