Trump's New Travel Ban: Same Hateful Policy in a New Package

Posted March 8, 2017

MP3 Interview with Kevin Martin, president of Peace Action, conducted by Scott Harris


President Trump issued a revised travel ban on March 6, more than a month after his initial Jan. 27 executive order provoked massive protests at airports from coast to coast. What many labeled as Trump’s “Muslim Ban” suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days and prohibited travel from seven Muslim majority nations for 90 days. The order also blocked all refugees from Syria indefinitely, and reduced the total number of refugees admitted into the U.S. during the 2017 fiscal year to 50,000, down from the previous cap of 110,000. In response to the filing of lawsuits, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked key provisions of that travel ban based on likely violations of the U.S. Constitution.

The new order, which takes effect on March 16, maintains a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of six of the seven original nations targeted, dropping Iraq. Travelers from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen are effected, but the new ban exempts citizens from these countries who are legal U.S. permanent residents or have valid visas to enter the U.S. – including those whose visas were revoked during the original implementation of the ban.

Many immigration advocates said that Trump’s revised ban still discriminated against Muslims and failed to address some concerns with the previous order. Joanne Lin, the ACLU’s senior legislative counsel, pledged that the group will pursue all legal remedies through the courts and elsewhere to make sure the new executive order won’t go into effect on March 16. Between the Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Kevin Martin, president of Peace Action, who takes a critical look at Trump’s revised travel ban, explaining why he believes the measure makes the country less safe. [Rush transcript]

KEVIN MARTIN: Well, I think they're playing a game of political chicken here. I guess I'll start with that first, because to me I think that's more important than the substance. It was somewhat tweaked to possibly address some of the legal concern, but also some of the protest and the backlash. And in that regard, people who have been resisting this awful travel ban – Muslim ban – should feel somewhat good that the administration was forced to back off a little bit.

But my sense is they're playing political chicken in that they tweaked it enough that they can claim it's different and say that they're trying to address the problems. And of course – they would never admit this – but they rushed it forward before and it was a naked Muslim ban and that was what they were trying to fulfill, a campaign promise. I think they're banking on the courts having such deference to the presidency – to the executive branch – that they will let this fly. That the courts will not once again try to strike it down. That's just my guess, that's just speculation. But I think that's they think. They think, well, "We'll back off an inch or two and the courts are going to defer to the president." They're not going to tell the president, "no" twice. That's what I think is going on here politically.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What do you think the response should be from people who are rightly outraged at Trump's rhetoric during the campaign, where he talked about banning Muslims blatantly, of course, that first executive order put that campaign rhetoric into action. Now this may be a little more diluted, a little more subtle, but the objectives, according to a lot of people who are looking at this new executive order think it's really the same thing in new packaging. What do you think the response should be from civil society to this thing?

KEVIN MARTIN: Well, I think that's very true and I think people should not be giving an inch. They should say, "Well it was wrong before, and this slightly tweaked version is also wrong, but should also have some confidence that we can win or that we are winning. I just happened to scan a few colleague organizations to see what their statements were today as well as our organizational statement about this. And the four or five that I checked out are also condemning this Muslim ban 2.0.

But one, the Council on American Islamic Relations – the one thing that they did put in it, was that the folks who had resisted the first version should feel confident that this was a bit of a victory, not necessarily, substantively, because they only changed a few things. They dropped Iraq from the seven countries; it's now six. It won't affect permanent green cardholders. They say it's only going to be temporary for 120 days, which is what the other one said, too. But, it's clear that for some of these countries, they're going to try to make it permanent.

So substantively, it wasn't that much different. But again, CAIR was saying that people that resisted the first one should feel that this is a bit of a victory politically that the administration had to back off a little bit. But they're not at all advocating that people be quiet about it. They're still advocating militant resistance and opposition.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What are the rationales for this Muslim ban? During the campaign, and when the first executive order was issued was to say there's an urgency to stopping travel from certain countries because they pose a dire threat to the United States. Now all that seems to be laughable from the fact that when the federal court that actually struck down this initial travel ban, asked the Trump administration to produce evidence to back up their claim that this was urgent for national security, they could not produce anything. And now, of course, this new travel ban, 2.0 looks to be a weeks' long implementation, and doesn't seem at all urgent.

KEVIN MARTIN: Well, that's very true, but it's also they've had to deal with contradictions – you know, fact-based contradictions – which, of course, they don't like very much from the government. So even though the Department of Homeland Security, Trump's own advisers now at DHS, sent a recent report that "a person's country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity."

And the other thing, too, is the horrible irony that four of these six countries, the United States is engaged in militarily. So we're helping to create refugees from some of these countries. It is just Orwellian. You don't have to listen to peaceniks like me – you have hard-nosed national security experts with whom I would not agree about a lot of things, saying not only is this not going achieve what the purported reason for it is. It's going to make America less safe.

This is feeding into radical extremist groups thinking that the United States hates Muslims. You know ISIS has called this the "blessed ban." So that tells you a lot right there in terms of the 'counterproductivity' of this. And it really has nothing to do with making Americans safer. It's part of this very fearful, racist xenophobia that I don't want our country or society to be known for.

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