Following an original order which caused chaos in airports, inspired nationwide protests and was eventually blocked by the courts, President Donald Trump signed a new travel ban Monday aimed at correcting the legal issues of the first while keeping potential terrorists out of the United States.
The revised order is narrower, specifying a temporary halt on entry of people from six countries, rather than the previous seven, who are seeking new visas. The 90-day ban on those seeking entry into the United States from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen does not apply to those who already have valid visas. Previously, the ban included those who had valid visas but were outside of the country when the order was signed, and Iraq was removed from the former list of targeted countries.
As part of the new order, Syrian visitors, immigrants and refugees will be treated the same as citizens of the five other countries, rather than be barred from the United States indefinitely. The one feature that remains the same in the new order, however, is the four-month halt to refugees entering the country, much to the dismay of the International Rescue Committee.
The IRC helps oversee refugees’ transition into America, providing humanitarian aid overseas and resettling them throughout 28 U.S. cities. The US is home to 26 IRC offices; there are six offices in California, one of which opened in Turlock in 2004.
In a released statement, IRC President and CEO David Miliband called the order “a ban that heartlessly targets the most vetted and most vulnerable population to enter the United States. This ban doesn’t target those who are the greatest security risk, but those least able to advocate for themselves. Instead of making us safer, it serves as a gift for extremists who seek to undermine America.”
An estimated 60,000 refugees who have already been vetted for resettlement to the United States will be stuck in an indeterminate state thanks to the new travel ban, said Karen Ferguson, executive director of the IRC’s Northern California offices.
“A refugee’s life while they’re waiting for resettlement is a place where their life is in limbo and often peril,” she said. “Not everyone will make it through four months.”
Ferguson added that the new order will throw many refugees’ clearances into disarray. By the time the refugee suspension is over, many refugees’ security clearances to enter the country will be timed out, and they will be pushed to the back of the waiting line.
Another aspect of the first travel ban that hasn’t changed in the second is the limit on how many refugees are allowed into the country during the fiscal year, which is 50,000. Ferguson said that to date, 37,500 refugees have been admitted into the United States, leaving room for just 12,500 more.
“That’s 12,500 people left in refugee status that won’t be able to come until after the four-month suspension,” said Ferguson. “Four months can mean living in very, very hard circumstances during that time.”
In Turlock, the IRC plans to bring 400 refugees into the city over the course of the fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2016. The organization is already between halfway and two-thirds of the way to achieving that number, according to Ferguson. That means fewer refugees will be able to be resettled into Turlock for the remaining months, and since funding is based on the number of people the IRC resettles, the organization will receive less money, making it difficult to maintain services for their clients.
Rather than rely on the courts to halt the order again, Ferguson encourages those opposed to the ban to advocate their position.
“What we’ve seen with the first executive order is that people don’t believe this stands for American or constitutional values and I expect the community to have a very strong voice about that,” she said.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a statement on the new travel ban, applauding Trump’s decision to rescind his original “unconstitutional and un-American” travel ban while promising to protect those who may be affected by the new ban.
“It represents a major victory for the thousands of lawful permanent residents and visa holders in California, as well as all those across our nation who cherish our Constitution, diversity, tolerance and fairness,” said Becerra.
Becerra added that his team is carefully reviewing the legality of the advised ban, making sure it represents the Constitution and American way of life.
“No one will or should soon forget the Trump Administration’s multiple, public promises to ban Muslims from the country,” he said.