Whatever the merits of its revised provisions, the new travel ban executive order signed Monday by President Donald Trump underscores how badly his administration bungled the first one, despite its claims to the contrary.
That rollout ended with Trump tweeting “see you in court” after a San Francisco panel of judges upheld a suspension of the order. That is now revealed as being an empty threat. The Trump administration initially insisted that the original ban would not be rescinded, but the new executive order does exactly that.
Here are ways in which the two orders differ:
- Timing — The first order, signed one week into Trump’s presidency, was rushed, the urgency explained as a matter of having to stop a huge flow of terrorists who would try to gain entry before new restrictions took effect. The new order includes a 10-day waiting period before it takes effect, to allow for better coordination with agencies, departments and others involved and hopefully to avoid the chaos that unfolded with the first order’s same-day start.
- Iraq — The country is no longer included among nations whose citizens will be banned for 90 days as vetting procedures are enhanced, after blowback from the U.S. military and members of Congress who said many Iraqis had risked their lives helping U.S. troops as translators and in other capacities. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Iraq “an important ally in the fight to defeat ISIS.”
- Visa holders — After being subject to the first order, which led to many temporary detentions at U.S. airports and denials to even get on flights originating in other countries, now holders of valid visas are exempted, an apparent belated recognition that banning such individuals probably was illegal.
- Green card holders — They, too, are now excluded, as was requested by Homeland Security director John Kelly when the first ban was announced.
- Christians — Language allowing entry for Christians from predominantly Muslim countries is gone, an apparent attempt to defuse criticism that Trump’s travel ban is actually the Muslim ban he promised repeatedly as a candidate.
- Syria — Refugees from the war-torn country now face a 120-day ban instead of an indefinite one, which could be Trump’s acknowledgment that already strict vetting procedures can be tightened to his satisfaction within a finite time limit.
- Coordination — In crafting the first order, the White House did not consult with key Cabinet members or Congressional leaders, contributing to the confusion. This time it did. In fact, the new order was delayed a week partly to allow the administration to coordinate its efforts with several federal agencies and departments.
None of this is to say that the new order does not have as many problems as the first. In fact, some changes create new problems.
To counter charges that Trump’s first order offered no evidence of a terrorism threat so acute as to require such a travel ban, the new version notes the existence of 300 terrorism-related investigations by the FBI of people admitted to the country as refugees. But it does not say how many of those involve people who were brought here as children and who radicalized years later, whether they would have been snared by enhanced vetting, or how many are from the six nations still included in the new order.
Making changes, in other words, doesn’t mean Trump got it right this time, either.