Maryland, USA: A second federal judge blocked U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest travel ban on Tuesday, just hours before the policy was set to take effect. U.S. District Judge Theodora Chuang of Maryland said the White House had failed to show “that national security cannot be maintained without an unprecedented eight-country travel ban.”
The open-ended ban, announced in September, targeted people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as certain government officials from Venezuela. It was the latest version of a policy that had previously targeted six Muslim-majority countries but had been restricted by the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu, who had blocked an earlier version the ban in March, was the first federal judge to take action against Trump’s latest policy on Tuesday. Watson argued in federal court that federal immigration law failed to give Trump the authority to impose the restrictions.
According to Watson, the latest policy “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
Following expiration of the original measure, The Trump administration earlier nannounced details of the new sweeping travel ban which will come into effect on 18 October, saying it now limits travel from eight countries namely, Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. Seven of the countries face wide-ranging restrictions, while the limits imposed on Venezuela will only apply to a group of government officials and their families. North Korea, Chad and Venezuela are newcomers to the list of targeted countries while Sudan has been dropped.
Unlike the administration’s previous travel bans, which were intended as temporary measures as homeland security officials were instructed to review vetting procedures, the new restrictions are not time-limited.
The proclamation marks the administration’s third move to limit travel into the United States after Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the US on the campaign trail.
The first ban, which was chaotically rolled out in January, targeted refugees and seven Muslim-majority countries and was subsequently abandoned by the administration after a series of federal courts blocked it on grounds it violated the US constitution’s protection of religious freedom.
The second order, issued on March 6, targeted six of the same countries. A limited version of the ban was allowed to come into effect over the summer following a temporary ruling by the supreme court. Donald Trump used an executive order on March 6, 2017, called “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” to ban foreign nationals from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US – unless they had a relationship with a person or entity in the country. The countries included in the March list included Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Syria as well as refugees across the world.
It was created as a temporary measure designed to give officials a few months to assess the vetting of visa applicants and what information other countries could or could not provide.
Trump said on Twitter: “Making America Safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet.”
As well as adding new countries to the ban, the new executive order broadens restrictions of people from the original list.
The proclamation said: “In some cases, these countries also have a significant terrorist presence within their territory.
“As President, I must act to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people.
Only those with a “bona fide” exception, such as the foreign grandparents of US citizens, can apply for visas before the October 18 comes into effect.
No current validly issued visas or travel documents will be revoked.
In most cases travel will be suspended, while in others travellers will undergo enhanced screening and vetting requirements.
The Department of Homeland Security had recommended the president sign off on new, more targeted restrictions on foreign nationals from countries it says refuse to share information with the U.S. or haven’t taken necessary security precautions.
The recommendations are based on a new baseline developed by DHS that includes factors such as whether countries issue electronic passports with biometric information and share information about travelers’ terror-related and criminal histories. The U.S. then shared those benchmarks with every country in the world and gave them 50 days to comply.
Trump called for a “tougher” travel ban after a bomb partially exploded on a London subway.
“The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!” he tweeted.
Critics have accused Trump of overstepping his authority and violating the U.S. Constitution’s protections against religious bias. Trump had called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” during his campaign.
The new policy is likely to throw a major hurdle in front of the ongoing supreme court challenge to Trump’s second order. The nation’s highest court was due to hear arguments in that case on 10 October. The two groups of challengers, a collective of Democratic states and migrant legal advocacy groups, have argued Trump has exceeded his legal authority and has deliberately targeted Muslims.
But Trump’s updated order, which includes now includes non-Muslim majority countries, will likely affect the arguments in the case.
“I expect that the supreme court will seek briefing from the parties on how the new guidance affects the appeal and specific legal issues raised in the appeal,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, who added the proceedings could be delayed as a result.
Nonetheless, advocates seized on Trump’s evening announcement to call for continued legal opposition to the travel ban.
Naureen Shah, senior campaigns director for Amnesty International USA said:
“Just because the original ban was especially outrageous does not mean we should stand for yet another version of government-sanctioned discrimination. It is senseless and cruel to ban whole nationalities of people who are often fleeing the very same violence that the US government wishes to keep out. This ban must not stand in any form.”