New Travel Ban, Same as the Old Travel Ban

Trump’s new travel ban tries to fix some of the mistakes of the old travel ban, which the administration rolled out in January to mass confusion, lawsuits, and uneven enforcement.

The new ban, like the old ban, suspends visa processing for immigrants from six countries — minus Iraq — for 90 days. The new ban also suspends entry of refugees from those countries for 120 days, again, minus Iraq, but Syrian refugees will no longer be suspended indefinitely. Critics had charged that shutting out Iraqi refugees was unfair to them and harmful to our security interests because many such refugees had helped the American fight against terrorism in Iraq. And the new ban will take effect in a week, rather than immediately.

Of course, the new ban still suffers from the same problems of proof and justification. The Trump administration plucked the six (formerly seven) countries — Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and Libya — from an executive order issued by the Obama administration, and both the administration and its supporters suggest any criticism over the country selection should be levied at Obama. In fact, the Obama administration’s executive order was quite different. It wasn’t a blanket ban in the way that Trump’s order is; rather, these countries were added to an extant list of countries whose nationals needed a visa to enter the United States.

It’s also unclear what problem the travel ban is trying to solve. Trump has repeatedly claimed that the refugees entering the United States are completely unknown to us. This claim is demonstrably false: refugees are among the most vetted immigrants to the United States. They undergo 18-24 months’ worth of background checks by multiple foreign and domestic agencies.

The new travel ban cites examples of Iraqi refugees who were convicted of terrorism-related crimes in 2009, but of course, Iraq is no longer on the list. In public statements following the earlier travel ban, Trump and his surrogates emphasized the need to prevent domestic terrorism attacks caused by foreigners. These statements were quickly proven to be largely false. The majority of lethal “jihadi” domestic terrorist attacks in the United States were committed by native-born American citizens. The remainder were committed by lawful immigrants who came from countries not on the travel ban list. Exactly zero domestic terrorist attacks have been committed by immigrants from any of the countries on Trump’s travel ban.

The travel ban states that “hundreds of persons born abroad have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes” since September 11. That’s true, but of course, the figure doesn’t say what the crimes were or explain that many of these convictions involve near-entrapment situations where the FBI contacts someone with no previous connection to terrorism, provides them with all the equipment they’ll need to perform a (fake) terrorist attack, then nabs them for participating in the plot the FBI fabricated.

In summary, the new travel ban is a solution in search of a problem. And even if there were a problem, the travel ban’s ham-fisted implementation and slapdash assembly doesn’t solve it. If I were going to speculate, I’d say the whole notion of this travel ban was cooked up to appeal to Trump’s nativist, anti-Muslism supporters.