US President Donald Trump’s Travel Ban: What is it and who is affected?
Confusion has reigned since US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday temporarily banning incoming refugees and travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries. India Live Today takes a look at some of the biggest questions.
Who is affected?
Nationals of Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Libya are barred from entering the US for 90 days under the decree. The ban affects people from these countries even if they have already been issued a visa, with the exception of those holding diplomatic visas or visas issued for international organisations such as NATO or the UN.
There has been a great deal of confusion over the status of nationals from these countries holding permanent residence cards – commonly known as green cards. The initial order made no mention of an exception for green card holders and officials initially indicated they were included in the temporary ban. However, they have since changed tack and on Sunday Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly declared the entry of lawful permanent residents to be “in the national interest”.
Nevertheless, green card holders from the seven named countries can expect to be subject to increased border controls, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said.
The order also prohibits the entry of all refugees, regardless of their nationality, for 120 days. Beyond that date, the United States will admit a maximum of 50,000 refugees in 2017, more than halving the limit of 110,000 put in place by Barack Obama.
Separate rules apply for Syrians under the order, however. All Syrians, refugees or not, are forbidden from entering the United States until further notice. In the grip of a civil war that has raged since 2011, 4.8 million Syrians have fled the country in the past six years, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The situation of those with dual nationalities also remains unclear. US authorities have said that US citizens who also hold passports from one of the seven named countries will not be affected. On the other hand, dual nationals from other countries will be barred from entering the US under the order.
However, exceptions appear to have been granted for dual nationals of Britain and Canada – with both countries saying they have obtained assurances from high-ranking members of Trump’s government that their citizens will not be generally affected. Britain warned though that its nationals travelling to the US directly from one of the listed countries would be subjected to the ban.
Is the ban constitutional?
Civil rights NGOs, lawyers, Democrats and even some within the Republican Party say that the answer is no. They have denounced the presidential order as rash, contrary to American values and, according to them, a violation of the first amendment of the US constitution, which prohibits religious discrimination.
In a joint statement issued Sunday, Democratic attorneys general from 16 US states condemned Trump’s anti-immigration measures. “We are committed to working to ensure that as few people as possible suffer from the chaotic situation that it has created,” they said.
“The Trump executive order should not stand and must be confronted as a constitutional overreach,” said California attorney general Xavier Becerra. “It tramples on centuries of American tradition.”
On Saturday, US District Judge Ann Donnelly ordered a temporary halt to deportations of refugees and other travellers stuck at US airports as a result of Trump’s order, granting a request by the American Civil Liberties Union. Judges in several other states have since issued similar orders.
Trump, meanwhile, has defended the immigration ban as a necessary measure to keep “radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America”. As legal justification, the Trump cites the Immigration and Nationality Act, immigration law dating from 1965.
Trump’s administration has also rejected claims the order specifically targets Muslims, pointing out that there are many Muslim-majority countries not included in the temporary ban.
Did the White House consult border agencies and other authorities before issuing the order?
The White House has said it consulted the relevant authorities on the consequences of the executive order and on its constitutionality.
A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the press that “presidential advisers have been in contact for several weeks at the highest levels with the Departments of State and Interior” to prepare the order. The comment came in response to criticism, including from some Republicans, that Trump and his advisers had not adequately consulted the relevant authorities within the federal government before going ahead with the decree.
But the Ministry of Justice, whose lawyers and constitutional experts usually participate in the drafting of any presidential decree, were largely bypassed by the White House and therefore unable to provide operational guidance, according to numerous officials who spoke to CNN.