US lawyers 'ready to litigate' Trump over new 'anti-Muslim' travel ban

Rachael Revesz
President Trump with Vice President Mike Pence (left) and James Mattis as he signs new order: Reuters

Donald Trump’s newly-reworded executive order to clamp down on immigrants from Muslim-majority countries has been declared equally discriminatory as the first ban and could still be challenged in the courts, according to lawyers.

The President’s new order scraps certain provisions of the first one, such as banning people from Iraq, indefinitely suspending Syrian refugees and ensnaring people with valid visas and green cards, but the "intent remains the same", according to Karen Tumlin, legal director of the National Immigration Law Center.

"So, Muslim Ban 1.0 has been revoked and replaced with this, equally discriminatory & unlawful version 2.0," she wrote on Twitter.

The order has sent a signal that it is "open season" for denigrating civil rights, said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg of the Legal Aid Justice Center. He fought to protect his clients from the first ban, including two Yemeni brothers who had been put on a return flight to Ethiopia as soon as they landed in the US last month.

He admitted that the scope of the new order has been widely reduced and would affect far fewer people than before - 60,000 visas were revoked the first time around - but it was still only being re-introduced to score political points, he said.

"The second ban is still totally based on anti-Muslim animus. The courts are not going to give Trump the benefit of the doubt the second time around," he said.

"We will be watching closely to see what happens at airports over the next few weeks, not because the ban does anything pursuant to its terms but more due to the message it sends to officers at airports who already did not have a stellar reputation, even before the Inauguration."

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Mr Trump was not above the Constitution.

"While the White House may have made changes to the ban, the intent to discriminate against Muslims remains clear. This doesn’t just harm the families caught in the chaos of President Trump’s draconian policies - it’s diametrically opposed to our values, and makes us less safe."

He said he "stand[s] ready to litigate" and his office was closely reviewing the new order.

Also in New York, the CLEAR Project, which offers free legal services and support, said the new order presented the same problem as the first one - "singling out six Muslim-majority countries without clear rationale."

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who was key in striking down the first order in Washington State after his lawsuit was upheld by Judge James Robart, said that his office was carefully reviewing the new order and any impact it would have.

"By rescinding his earlier Executive Order, President Trump makes one thing perfectly clear: His original travel ban was indefensible — legally, constitutionally and morally," he said.

Mr Trump was angry that his appeal to overturn Mr Robart’s decision was denied. The President read out the wording of his order at several events and said "even a bad high school student" could understand it, and attacked the decision of the "so-called judge".

The ban, first signed in late January, caused massive protests around the US as well as multiple lawsuits from civil rights advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union.

Advocacy groups have expressed outrage and concern at the anti-Muslim sentiment which has gained traction around the US during the campaign trail and after the new administrations stepped into office.

"As Trump administration officials have stated, this 'Muslim Ban 2.0' - which has been debunked by the Department of Homeland Security –- appears to be merely a retooled order aimed at the same long-stated goal of banning Muslims from entering the United States," said Lena Masri, the national litigation director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations.

Iraq was excluded from the new order, but immigrants from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are still impacted.

President Trump has mandated various government agencies to submit a report to him within 180 days which detail the long-term costs of accepting and supporting refugees in the US and advise him how to curtail those costs.

He also said the new order would start to be phased in on 16 March, contrary to the first ban which was effective immediately, to prevent any “bad dudes” from using a time window to enter the US.

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