On 5 December 2017, the US Supreme Court allowed a ban on six Muslim-majority countries to go into full effect, pending legal challenges.
What happened to the original immigration order?
After chaos at airports and legal challenges around the country, the main sections in United States President Donald Trump’s initial immigration order – issued on 27 January 2017 – were eventually blocked by a court in Washington.
The order suspended the US’s refugee intake, blocked Syrian refugees indefinitely and banned entry to citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations.
The state of Washington, joined by the state of Minnesota, challenged the original order based on numerous constitutional and legal grounds.
They requested a temporary injunction on the basis that they were likely to succeed in their suit against the president, and that their states would suffer “irreparable harm” in the meantime.
The court agreed and granted the order – effectively suspending the travel ban for the entire country.
The court has not had the chance to fully hear the case and decide on the constitutionality of the original order – after the injucnction the government said it would no longer to contest the case and would instead issue a new executive order.
In their filing documents, Washington and Minnesota argued that the January ban violated the first, fifth and tenth amendments of the US Constitution – along with numerous other laws.
The laws violated the constitutional right to due process, lawyers said, arguing that sections of order targeted individuals for “discriminatory treatment based on their country of origin and/or religion, without lawful justification”.
It was noted that in 2016, Donald Trump had campaigned on the promise to ban Muslim immigration to the US.
“The Executive Order was motivated by animus and a desire to harm a particular group,” lawyers said.
The plaintiffs also argued that the executive order violated the first amendment by preferring one religion over another.
“Together with statements made by Defendants concerning their intent and application, are intended to disfavour Islam and favour Christianity,” lawyers wrote.
Washington and Minnesota also argued that the laws violated the Immigration and Nationality Act, forced states to violate their anti-discrimination laws, and contravened several other federal laws.
They sought a declaration that the order was unconstitutional and unlawful, as well as a ‘Temporary Restraining Order.’
“As a result of the Executive Order, Washington residents have been separated from their families,” the plaintiff’s submission said.
“One Somali refugee, who has lived in Seattle for 12 years, went to Sea-Tac Airport to pick up her husband who was flying from Somalia through Vienna, but never saw him before he was sent back on a flight to Vienna,” lawyers said.
“Another individual who was detained is related to a Sea-Tac Airport worker. A third detainee, the sister of a blind Iraqi man who lives in Seattle, was prevented from seeing him after 15 years apart.”
What about the second version?
On 6 March 2017, after the injunctions and chaos of the first immigration order, the Trump White House unveiled its replacement. The second order was intended to entirely revoke and replace the first order and was drafted with changes designed to limit legal issues.
The revised order imposed a ban on entry to the country by citizens from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Sudan. Iraq, which has been included in the previous order, had been removed. The refugee program was set to be suspended for 120 days, but Syrian refugees were no longer subject to an indefinite ban. The second order also dropped a heavily criticised exemption for religious minorities, seen by lawyers as a backdoor attempt to prioritise Christian asylum seekers.
The bans were necessary to allow time for the government to ensure adequate security and vetting measures were in place, the White House argued. Before the ban could go into effect, it was again blocked by a Federal Court judge. As with the block on the first immigration order, it was a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement while the courts considered the case.
On 26 June 2017, the Supreme Court partially reversed the decision, temporarily allowing most of the ban to be implemented while cases worked through the courts. An exemption was granted for travellers who had “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”
Who does the third version of the travel ban affect?
In September 2017 Mr Trump issued an official proclamation updating the list of banned nationalities. The second ban was due to be considered by the Supreme Court and many of its restrictions were due to expire anyway.
The third revision applies to citizens from eight countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen and Somalia (although the Venezuela ban only applies to certain government officials).
After opponents had successfully characterised earlier versions of the ban as a potentially unconstitutional ‘Muslim ban’, critics said the addition of North Korea and Venezuela was merely a fig-leaf to avoid accusations of religious motivation.
The Trump administration has said the banned nationalities were selected after a security review showed they could not adequately vet new arrivals. Rather than expiring after 90-days, the bans in the third order apply indefinitely.
The third ban was also blocked by a federal judge, who wrote that it “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor.” But on 4 December 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that the third version could take effect while cases against it work their way through the legal system.
The majority of citizens from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen and Somalia now face either outright bans from entering the united states, or significant restrictions and additional scrutiny.
Will the refugee program continue?
On 24 October 2017, Mr Trump signed an executive order resuming the refugee program which had been temporarily suspended under his earlier order. The order said that a review of the vetting system had been completed and improvements had been implemented.
While on the campaign trail in 2016, Mr Trump had promised to enforce “extreme vetting” for refugee arrivals. The government identified 11 nationalities that were marked as posing additional security risks. Refugee applications originating from those countries would be delayed for 90 days.
The Trump administration did not release the list of countries, but according to Reuters they include Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (and Palestinians who lived in those countries).
Those nationalities account for just over 40 per cent of recent refugee admissions in the US.
“The refugees from these countries are fleeing the very terror that the US is trying to fight: the Islamic State and other militants in the Middle East and North Africa,” Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, a group attempting to block the order, said.
“Rather than make America safer, the order abdicates America’s status as a global humanitarian leader and damages our credibility with our allies in the region.”
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