The Trump administration said no existing visas will be revoked under the new order. (Sept. 25, 2017)
The Trump administration's third attempt at crafting travel restrictions that it says are necessary to boost national security ran into fresh opposition Monday from civil liberties groups and others who said it still amounts to a "Muslim ban."
The new limits add North Korea to the list of targeted nations alongside six majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa. Zainab Chaudry, a spokeswoman for the Maryland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the inclusion of the largely closed Asian nation was mere window dressing.
"Realistically speaking, the practical implications of this executive order are going to predominantly affect Muslims," she said.
The ban covers Chad, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. Government officials from Venezuela and their families are also included. Unlike a prior ban, which was intended to be temporary, the new restrictions are set to continue indefinitely.
During the presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown" on Muslims entering the United States. The White House has always said the travel bans were not an attempt to turn that pledge into policy, but opponents have seized on the language, as have federal judges who concluded earlier versions of the restrictions were likely unconstitutional.
The Trump administration said the new restrictions were formulated after an extensive review of U.S. security procedures by the Department of Homeland Security. Countries could be removed from the list should they meet security standards set by the United States, the White House said.
Rep. Andy Harris, the lone Republican in Maryland's congressional delegation, said he stood behind the president's efforts to secure the country's borders. He said the new travel policy will help authorities have better control over who comes into the country.
"President Trump's most recent executive order targets specific nations that have repeatedly failed to comply with information-sharing standards, have harbored terrorists, and have openly threatened the well-being of the American people," Harris said in a statement.
The first version of the ban was rushed out in the early days of Trump's presidency, but the more deliberative approach to the new policy — which doesn't take full effect until Oct. 18 — seems unlikely to mollify opponents of the restrictions.
Rep. John Sarbanes, a Baltimore County Democrat, said the policy could actually hurt the nation's security by diminishing its standing around the world.
"No matter how the Trump Administration dresses up its travel ban policy, the core of this proposal cuts against our nation's values," he said in a statement.
The first version of the ban went into effect in January. It led to widespread confusion at airports with people unclear about whether they could enter the country, and mass protests as lawyers fought to dislodge travelers stuck in limbo. The administration revised the ban in March after the first version was blocked by the courts.
Chaudry said that each time a new version of the ban goes into effect, people with relatives in the affected countries are left feeling confused and vulnerable once more.
"That fear and uncertainty that accompanies that fear is something that has tremendous implications for many individuals," she said.
Chaudry said that while the White House talks about the restrictions as a security measure, she sees darker implications in the policy.
"It's hard not to see this as President Trump pandering to white supremacist organizations," she said. "It seems like an indicator that he is trying to make our country into a one-dimensional, monolithic nation."
Parts of the second version of the rules were also halted, including by a ruling from a federal judge in Maryland, before the Supreme Court issued a preliminary decision allowing them to go into effect with modifications. The court was scheduled to hear arguments on the case in October, but canceled them Monday after the new policy was issued. The court asked lawyers in the case to say whether it was still worth moving forward.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the suit challenging the second ban in Maryland, and other immigrants-rights advocates said they would go back to court to challenge the new presidential proclamation. And the constitutionality of Trump's policy is likely to go back to the Supreme Court in a few months.
Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, said the group would review the implications of the new policy and submit its thoughts to the justices.
"The ban has been repeatedly held unconstitutional and illegal by the courts, and those decisions remain in place today," he said.
Brian E. Frosh, Maryland's attorney general, joined the litigation against the travel bans. A spokesman for Frosh said Monday that he was considering his next steps.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, said the effort to impose successive versions of the ban was simply a way to mitigate the administration's setbacks in the courts.
"Despite numerous losses in court, the Trump Administration insists on repackaging its Muslim and refugee ban just so it can claim a political victory," Cummings said. "This new ban is still dangerous, immoral, and un-American. Republicans need to start doing their jobs and join Democrats in protecting American values and keeping Americans safe."
People in oppostion to President Trump's immigration plan protested at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. (Video by Ken Lam)