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New Trump travel order remains a Muslim ban: top US rights group

US President signs new travel ban targeting six mostly Muslim nations

Image Credit: Reuters
US President Donald Trump signs a revised executive order for a US travel ban on Monday, leaving Iraq off the list of targeted countries, at the Pentagon in Washington, US, January 27, 2017.

WASHINGTON: America's leading civil rights organisation on Monday slammed President Donald Trump's revised immigration order as a "Muslim ban" in all but name, and vowed to keep fighting it in court.

"The Trump administration has conceded that its original Muslim ban was indefensible. Unfortunately, it has replaced it with a scaled-back version that shares the same fatal flaws," said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrant Rights Project.

"The only way to actually fix the Muslim ban is not to have a Muslim ban," Jadwat said in a statement. "Instead, President Trump has recommitted himself to religious discrimination, and he can expect continued disapproval from both the courts and the people."

Trump signs new travel ban targeting six mostly Muslim nations

Trump signed a revised ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority nations Monday - one with a reduced scope so Iraqis and permanent US residents are exempt.

The White House said Trump signed the order - which temporarily freezes new visas for Syrians, Iranians, Libyans, Somalis, Yemenis and Sudanese citizens - behind closed doors "this morning".

The order places a 120 day freeze on all refugee arrivals.

The revised ban, which comes into effect on March 16, said the six countries were targeted because their screening and information capabilities could not meet US security requirements.

Officials said that, unlike in the initial January 27 executive order, all pre-existing, valid visas from the six countries would be honored.

"The motivating factor here is a desire for greater security," said a senior State Department official.

The Trump administration's wide-ranging initial travel restrictions were slapped down by the federal courts, after sparking a legal, political and logistical furor.

The State Department cancelled 60,000 visas under the original order, and hundreds of people were reportedly detained at US airports.

What's new in the revised order?

Iraq, which was targeted by the original January 27 travel ban, is excluded. Six other countries remain: Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, and Iran. The US says that none of the six can supply adequate identity and security information on their citizens to satisfy US needs to safely vet visa applicants.

People with pre-existing, valid visas from the six countries will still be able to come to the United States. The original ban had extended to people with valid visas and even those with permanent residency, causing havoc at airport arrival halls and sparking a large number of legal challenges.

Why a revised order?

A Washington state judge halted implementation of the original order on February 3, accepting legal challenges that said it violated the constitutional rights of immigrants and their families by specifically targeting Muslims. The judge was supported by an appeals court, forcing the Trump administration to redraft the order.

How long does the new order last?

Ninety days from its implementation date, March 16. The aim is to give the six countries time to improve their databases and screening systems to boost US confidence in the visa issuance process. But officials said there is no guarantee that the bans will be lifted after 90 days. It depends on how well the countries comply with US requirements.

What about refugees?

Trump's new order places a 120-day ban on refugee arrivals from any country. Officials say they need to strengthen vetting procedures for refugees to prevent potential terrorists from entering the country. They said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating 300 refugees already inside the United States for suspected terror links or sympathies.

At the same time, the order - like its predecessor - cut the number of refugees the government will admit this year to 50,000 from 110,000 originally envisaged.

Is this a ban on Muslim arrivals?

The US government rejects the notion, pointing out that visa issuance and arrivals remain unchanged from Muslim-majority countries like Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Pakistan, as well as those in Northern Africa.

But critics continue to point to Trump and other administration official statements made during and after last year's presidential campaign to argue that the intention has always been to screen out Muslim arrivals.

"The Trump administration has conceded that its original Muslim ban was indefensible. Unfortunately, it has replaced it with a scaled-back version that shares the same fatal flaws," said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrant Rights Project.

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