Despite Changes, Immigration Ban Still Clashes with Law

As a result of the public and judicial backlash against its previous immigration order, the Trump administration released an updated version of the travel ban on March 6. Despite the modifications to the original executive order, significant opposition remains. By March 13, seven states challenged the new order in court, arguing that even in its current form the order remains unconstitutional, or at a minimum, illegal.        

The new list of affected countries no longer includes Iraq, though the ban still bars citizens from the other six countries on the list from entering the United States for 90 days. The ban also no longer subjects Syrian refugees to an indefinite ban, and the U.S. will no longer favor religious minorities. However, the general 120-day refugee ban remains. In a notable change from the original order, the ban does not affect refugees already granted asylum and immigrants who already have valid visas, said NBC News. Ultimately, the new ban is far less expansive than its predecessor.

Will these changes save the order in the courts? The president has a significant amount of power in issues of foreign affairs: the Constitution provides the executive with considerable leeway in matters of foreign policy, and Congress passed legislation in the mid-twentieth century providing the president with broad authority on matters of immigration. Numerous Supreme Court cases have upheld the right of the president and the U.S. government as a whole to ban large groups of people. The Supreme Court ruled that those outside the United States have no rights under the Constitution. This casts considerable doubt on claims that President Trump’s order violates the Constitution.

However, the ban itself seems to violate an immigration law passed in 1965 which barred discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin. The recent order, which bases the exclusion of non-citizens on their country of origin, appears to be a direct contradiction to this law. This does not bode well for the efforts of the government to assert the legality of the new ban. Indeed, early signs point to its eventual demise: two judges have already halted the execution of the order, setting up future battles in higher courts.