Trump’s new version of the same old racist ban

October 13, 2017

The latest version of the Trump administration's Muslim travel ban is about to go into effect--but it's every bit as racist as previous ones, reports Nicole Colson.

THE TRUMP administration is back with a new anti-Muslim travel ban--and like the first two, this third version is rooted in bigotry and xenophobia. "Ban 3.0 has roughly the same grossly disproportionate impact on Muslims that Bans 1.0 and 2.0 had," Cornell law professor Michael Dorf wrote.

The latest travel ban actually affects more people than the original over time, and more severely. Instead of a 90-day ban (and a 120-day ban on refugees), Trump's latest order bars most travel from seven countries indefinitely, along with new restrictions on travel from two others.

As of October 18, most people wanting to travel from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea will be barred from entering the U.S., and some of those coming from Iraq or Venezuela will face additional security restrictions.

The ban applies in most cases to tourists, families of American residents and even people seeking medical visas--though Iranian students and those seeking business or tourist visas from Somalia may be allowed to enter the U.S. if they receive extra screening.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump (Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith | Wikimedia Commons)

People with permanent residency status are exempt, along with those who already have visas--but visa holders will not be allowed to renew them once they expire.

TRUMP'S FIRST travel ban, signed soon after he took office, was met with outrage and large, often spontaneous, demonstrations at airports across the country that brought out thousands to stand in defense of the rights of Muslims and refugees. That tidal wave of protest and public disgust pressured the courts for decisions that put the ban on hold.

The Trump administration came back with a slightly altered but equally racist ban in March that targeted six countries instead of seven--Iraq got left off the list--all of them with populations over 90 percent Muslim.

The second ban was also put on hold by multiple federal judges on the grounds that it clearly targeted all Muslims. A decision from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated in May that Trump's ban "drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination."

Enter the Supreme Court: In June, the high court lifted previous stays on the ban, allowing the most important sections to go into effect. The ban on travel from six countries as well as the entire U.S. refugee program was upheld--but with an exception for those with "a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."

As Mukund Rathi wrote at "The Court's decision that the ban's supposed benefits to national security outweigh its possible harms is the height of imperial arrogance and cruelty: A message to people fleeing civil wars and sectarian bloodshed that have killed millions that their lives matter less than the remote chance than an American might be killed by a Muslim 'terrorist.'"

With the previous ban about to expire, the Trump administration rushed a new one into place, even before all the legal appeals of the last one were dealt with.

As Mariko Hirose, litigation director of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), said in a statement to Politico:

This case is certainly not moot for our clients and for all of those who continue to be discriminated against by this shameful order and its updated version. IRAP and our partners are not done fighting for the rights of refugees, Muslim Americans and their families. We will be back in court next week to challenge the most recent iteration of the Muslim ban. This administration should know that we will not give up until they're held accountable for their discriminatory actions.

IN THEORY, the new version of the ban will only remain in place until listed countries meet certain security requirements demanded by the Department of Homeland Security and prove they no longer have a "significant terrorist presence within their territory."

But meeting those standards will be difficult if not impossible, simply because of lack of technology in some cases.

There's also no clear understanding of what the latest ban will mean for those seeking to enter the U.S. as refugees--the latest order doesn't apply to them.

However, the Trump administration signaled to Congress recently that it will cap the total number of refugees allowed into the U.S. at 45,000 next year--the lowest number since 1980, when presidents first began setting a cap.

The cap was 110,000 during the last year of the Obama administration--and even that was woefully inadequate given the untold millions around the globe who have been forced to flee their homes as a direct result of U.S. economic and military actions in the Middle East and beyond.

Now, the addition of North Korea and Venezuela to the list of targeted countries--though with limited restrictions, especially for Venezuela--reflects Trump's current political preoccupations with the hostile, nuclear-armed regime Kim Jong-un and the legacy of left-wing governments in Venezuela.

But there is another cynical purpose to the administration's action: Providing a possible legal counter to claims that the ban is unconstitutional because it discriminates on the basis of religion by primarily targeting Muslims.

In reality, there should be no doubt about the Islamophobia at the heart of the latest ban, any more than there was in previous versions. As Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement:

Six of President Trump's targeted countries are Muslim. The fact that Trump has added North Korea--with few visitors to the U.S.--and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn't obfuscate the real fact that the administration's order is still a Muslim ban. President Trump's original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list.

IF VERSION 3.0 of the travel ban was really about restricting entry of people from countries with a known terrorist presence, then it would include U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The fact that the ban doesn't proves that the Trump administration's claims are as bogus now as they have been all along.

The indefinite time frame of this new action is especially troubling. "There is no light at the end of the tunnel anymore," Mirriam Seddiq, an immigration lawyer and founder of the American Muslim Women Political Action Committee, told Vox. "Before, the argument was, 'This is only 90 days; why are you freaking out?'"

Likewise, the administration's decision to separate out the issue of refugees is likely an attempt to curtail popular anger--and the threat of a repeat of the kind of mass protests that hit airports when the first ban was announced.

At those protests, hundreds--and in some cases thousands--turned out to demand that refugees and others traveling to the U.S. be allowed to enter. In some cases, lawyers and other immigrant rights advocates set up makeshift offices to help secure the release of vulnerable people caught in transit.

And in many cities, those first airport protests led directly to demonstrations of thousands more in the following days. It was one of the most inspiring examples of solidarity of the early days of the Trump presidency.

Now, as the latest ban gets set to take effect, activists are organizing a "No Muslim Ban Ever" day of action on October 18, sponsored by several immigrant rights groups. A return to the kind of protests we saw after the first ban will be necessary in the days and weeks ahead to halt this recycled version of Trump's racist policy.

Further Reading

From the archives