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A Setback for the Preposterous Travel Ban

When Trump issued the third version of his travel ban last month, I saw a number of articles that claimed that this one would be much harder to defeat in the courts because of the changes that had been made to it. So far, two different federal judges have blocked it [1]:

A judge in Maryland has become the second federal judge in the country to block the Trump administration’s latest travel ban hours before it was set to take full effect.

U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang granted a nationwide preliminary injunction late Tuesday, after U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii blocked the revised ban.

These rulings may be overturned by a higher court, but it is worth noting that both of these rulings hold that the third version of the ban suffers from the same fatal flaws that plagued the last two. The arbitrary addition of Venezuela and North Korea and the baffling inclusion of Chad have not changed the fact that the main effect of the policy is to institute a blanket ban on visits from these countries’ nationals based solely on their nationality. The judge in Hawaii said [2] that this amounts to unlawful discrimination, and if that interpretation is right there is no legal way to impose a ban as sweeping and arbitrary as this.

Even if the travel ban isn’t illegal, it remains a stupid and unnecessary policy. It is designed to counter a wildly exaggerated threat in a massive piece of security theater that bars people that pose no danger to the U.S. from traveling here. The inclusion of Chad has illustrated just how preposterous the ban is, since in their case it is being applied to a state that has closely cooperated with the U.S. on counter-terrorism. Including them in the ban may have already contributed [3] to harming regional security:

Chad has not explained publicly why it has been withdrawing its forces, which were fighting Boko Haram militants in the region as part of a multinational task force, and was first reported by Reuters. But security analysts and former defense officials said it was likely connected to its inclusion in President Donald Trump’s new travel ban, which Chad’s government said “astonished” and “baffled” them.

“Chad did say at the time that they would review their security commitments, and it makes perfect, logical sense that they are signaling to the US ‘How about you experience us backing off for a while and see how you like it?’” said Alice Hunter Friend, the Pentagon’s former principal director for African affairs who is now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

The national security justification for this policy has never been credible, and banning Chad’s citizens from the U.S. just underscores how irrational and ill-conceived the policy has been from the start.

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6 Comments To "A Setback for the Preposterous Travel Ban"

#1 Comment By CharleyCarp On October 18, 2017 @ 12:40 pm

One of the judges — I forget which — observed in connection with one of the earlier iterations that it would ban a Syrian national who’d spent the last 30 years living in exile in Switzerland, but would not ban a Swiss national who’d spent the last six months living in Syria. (This is from memory, but I know I have the point if not the exact details.)

#2 Comment By CharleyCarp On October 18, 2017 @ 12:44 pm

Which betrays, perhaps, a certain ‘blood and soil’ kind of thinking?

#3 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On October 18, 2017 @ 2:06 pm

I agree that the way they have done this is stupid, but I’m very concerned about the judges jumping into what they should avoid as a political question.

#4 Comment By Mike Ehling On October 19, 2017 @ 4:08 am

I’m as grumpy about this as you are, Grumpy Old Man. Yeah, it’s stupid, but it’s not something that the courts should be getting into. In fact, I don’t see it as just a “political question.” It’s also a very dangerous intervention by the courts into the making of foreign policy.

The inclusion of Venezuela and North Korea, for example, could be seen as U.S. pressure on the leadership of these two countries. In fact, these restrictions (however ridiculous some or all of them might be) can be seen as pressure on various foreign governments.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think the U.S. should mind its own business both in Venezuela and the Korean peninsula. But for the courts to get involved in these issues sets a precedent for extremely dangerous interference by a multiplicity of individual district court judges in foreign policy decisions which in some future case may need to be made expeditiously.

Whether I like or dislike the current president and congress to whom foreign policy is entrusted, I’m even less comfortable with some appointed black robe muddying up the waters ever worse.

#5 Comment By One Guy On October 19, 2017 @ 6:21 pm

I guess I’m unique in that I like “checks and balances”. I think it’s a good idea for one branch of government to check and balance another. Me and that Madison guy.

#6 Comment By 24AheadDotCom On October 19, 2017 @ 6:56 pm

I accurately described how Muslim ban would fail right after Trump announced it in Dec 2015. I then described a policy that would work. I crafted questions that would show how the ban would fail and urged Trump’s supposed opponents to ask him or his proxies.

I got almost no help with that (aside from a @Rosie RT and maybe a little). I got a lot of pushback from Trump fans (including at iSteve, Breitbart, etc.)

When people don’t cooperate on things that’d help solve problems, bad things happen.