Travel ban 2.0 exempts Iraqis, U.S. permanent residents

Thursday, March 9, 2017

On Monday, U.S. president Donald Trump signed in the Oval Office a revised version of his executive order barring entry to the United States by refugees and individuals from certain Muslim-majority countries. While the previous ban, which caused chaos at airports and drew considerable criticism from within and outside of the U.S. government, covered seven countries, this one names only six and specifically exempts legal permanent residents and anyone who already has a visa to enter the country, or a visa revoked by the earlier executive order.

Residents of Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen must now wait 90 days for visas. Iraq was removed following concerns that people who had helped the United States military and Iraqi government during and after the Iraq War might be left in danger. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said this was because the U.S. State Department and Iraqi government improved the vetting process, though he did not say what exactly changed. The Iraqi government also lobbied heavily. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi spoke with President Trump by phone and Vice President Pence in person. A senior official with the Trump administration also told reporters the Iraqi government had promised "timely repatriation" for Iraqi nationals whom the U.S. has decided to deport.

There is still a 120-day moratorium on accepting refugees into the U.S., though the ban on Syrian refugees is no longer indefinite. The new order omits language that gave priority to religious minorities, which critics such as National Public Radio's Domenico Montanaro read as "Christians." Claims of religious discrimination against Muslims contributed to the first order's overturn by the judiciary.

Under the previous travel ban, permanent residents in possession of a green card were concerned that if they were to visit their home countries they might be barred from returning to the United States. The new executive order exempts them.

Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said both orders have "the same fundamental flaws." Representative Andre Carson of Indiana, who is Muslim, referred to this as "Muslim ban 2.0" on Twitter. Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, called for the order's repeal, saying, "A watered-down ban is still a ban."

Not all of the response has been negative. "I have always shared President Trump's desire to protect our homeland," said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican and a critic of the first executive order. "This Executive Order will achieve the goal of protecting our homeland and will, in my view, pass legal muster."

The order is set to go into effect on March 16. The White House continues to affirm that the original travel ban was legal and the issue may still be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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