President Donald Trump issued a revised travel ban Monday that attempts to address several of the most glaring errors from the original January executive order. But it does nothing to fix the original’s existential flaws: It attempts to fix a problem that does not exist, while offending American ideals and making the country less safe in the process.
Monday’s executive order suspends the U.S. refugee program for 120 days and imposes a 90-day ban on new visas for citizens of six majority-Muslim nations; a seventh, Iraq, was removed from the original plan. The new travel order no longer targets travelers who already have valid visas, people with U.S. green cards, or those who have been granted asylum or refugee status. Those are all welcome changes.
The executive order was also improved by degrees by the removal of language that explicitly protected religious minorities, which seemed to favor Christians over Muslims in the Middle East. The indefinite ban on Syrian refugees has been reduced to a 120-day ban. And it will avoid some of the chaos that ensued in the sudden implementation in January; this policy won’t go into effect until March 16.
And yet: Trump’s insistence on a travel ban at all is a mistake.
Trump lacks compelling evidence that this order will make America safer. Refugees already undergo a vigorous vetting before coming to the U.S. In addition, last month, the Intelligence and Analysis branch of the Department of Homeland Security concluded that citizenship of a specified country itself is an “unlikely indicator” of danger to the United States. The same report also found that very few people from the targeted nations have been linked to terrorism in the U.S. over the past six years. The U.S. intelligence community also notes that the most serious terrorist threats to this nation are from U.S. citizens who have been radicalized by Islamic State propaganda, not new entrants.
Obviously, Trump has not let facts get in the way of the new order, which is more a bone thrown to his political base than an effective homeland security strategy. Although Trump wants a global review of immigration and travel safeguards, it is not at all clear what he hopes to accomplish that the high level of vetting already in place has not accomplished.
And the president’s insistence on barring refugees is an affront to the ideals of the United States, which has long been a beacon of liberty to the world’s persecuted and oppressed.
Trump’s original executive order was frozen by the courts. The president excoriated the move, but Americans should be grateful for a system that pushed this administration to bring a more thoughtful approach to a significant rewrite of immigration policy.
We can hope that this experience taught Trump to be more deliberate with policy execution in the future. As misguided as these executive orders are, the botched rollout of the original made the experience all the worse.
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