New York Times Editorial
March 6, 2017
President Trump was centre stage when his administration hastily rolled out a sweeping travel ban targeting Muslims in late January, vowing it would ensure “we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas.”
He was out of sight on Monday as administration officials unveiled a downscaled, but still pernicious, version of the ban, which targets refugees and travellers from six predominantly Muslim nations. It’s not hard to see why. The Muslim Ban Lite is an implicit acknowledgment that the Trump administration stumbled spectacularly in its first major attempt to deliver on a campaign promise.
And yet, as administration officials made the case on Monday for the revised measures, there was no hint of contrition and plenty of reckless fear mongering. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the president was exercising his “rightful authority to keep our people safe.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned, without providing context or evidence, that more than 300 people admitted to the United States as refugees had been investigated by the F.B.I. for possible terrorism links. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, meanwhile, lamented that “our enemies often use our own freedoms and generosity against us.”
The administration has failed to make a reasonable — let alone persuasive — case for barring people from the six nations. Intelligence experts at the Department of Homeland Security found that “country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity,” according to a memo leaked to The Associated Press.
Yet, as Mr. Trump has pressed ahead with this dangerous campaign promise, he has missed his own deadline to unveil a secret plan to defeat ISIS. That plan remains a mystery.
The initial ban, which was imposed through an executive order issued on Jan. 27, locked out all travellers from seven predominantly Muslim nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It indefinitely suspended the admission of Syrian refugees and temporarily halted the entrance of all other refugees. The order indicated that Christian refugees would get priority over Muslims.
In February, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked key portions of the original travel ban, rejecting the administration’s arguments that the exclusions were lawful and necessary to keep the nation safe.
The new order no longer bans citizens of Iraq. It also exempts people from the remaining six countries who have a valid American visa. The revised ban includes no mention of religious preferences and makes the ban on Syrian refugees temporary. Like the initial order, the new one reduces the number of refugees the United States is willing to admit this year to 50,000, down from last year’s ceiling of 110,000.
While it may disrupt fewer lives, the new ban, and its justification, conveys the same spurious messages: that Muslims are inherently dangerous and that resettling refugees represents a dire threat. As part of the new order, the government intends to disseminate data on “honour killings” committed by foreigners in the United States. This step, and Mr. Sessions’ unsubstantiated claim about refugees under F.B.I. investigation, can be read only as a cultural smear.
Resorting to these bunker mentality tactics, which are being peddled with plenty of innuendo and little convincing evidence, will do lasting damage to America’s standing in the world and erode its proud tradition of welcoming people fleeing strife. While these steps are being sold as a means to make the nation safer, they stand to do the opposite.