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President Trump’s “travel ban 2.0” is the closest thing to admitting he’s made a mistake

The new executive order avoids chaos within the US — but it’s still bad news for refugees abroad

Protestors Rally At Chicago's O'Hare Airport Against Muslim Immigration Ban Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

On Monday, President Trump took a second swing at his most controversial immigration policy: a temporary ban on allowing people from several majority-Muslim countries, and all refugees, from entering the US.

The new order is designed to avoid most of the disruption and chaos that the earlier one created. It won’t put people currently in the US who are planning to travel abroad at risk of being unable to return home at the end of the trip. And it shouldn’t result in the widespread airport detentions that sparked mass protests and several successful lawsuits in the wake of the first order.

President Trump is by nature loath to admit a mistake, but it’s hard not to read the changes to the executive order as an admission that the rollout of the original travel ban was a legal and political disaster. What his administration has replaced it with is a policy that’s still liable to disrupt the lives of thousands of aspiring immigrants and travelers from several countries — and tens of thousands of refugees whose resettlement in the US will delayed for months or longer — and sets the stage for an eventual, indefinite ban that could be broader still.

But if the order is properly followed by airlines and border agents, it won’t cause visible chaos within America, or for people already here.

  • For 90 days, visas will not be issued to people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. In the original executive order, Iraq was also on the visa blacklist — but it’s been excluded in the new version, thanks in part to lobbying from top defense officials including Secretary of Defense James Mattis. The new executive order also makes it clear that people from the six affected countries can apply for waivers to enter the US in particularly urgent circumstances.
  • The new executive order will not affect green card holders — or anyone else who already has a visa, either in the US or abroad. The new executive order won’t affect people — either permanent residents or temporary visa holders — who’ve already been admitted to the US. Furthermore, people who haven’t yet come to the US but who have been issued visas already will still be allowed to enter. This means the new order doesn’t authorize the widespread detention of people at airports, and barring of people from boarding US-bound flights, that marked the first executive order — though that doesn’t mean that Customs and Border Protection agents won’t continue to be aggressive in detaining immigrants entering the US.
  • For 120 days, the US won’t bring any new refugees into the country. The new executive order reinstates a 120-day ban on refugee admissions. (The new order, like the original, makes an exception for refugees already “in transit” to the United States.) While the original executive order made an exception for refugees who were members of “persecuted religious minorities” in their home country, saying they could enter the US during the pause, the new order eliminates that loophole. After 120 days, though, refugees will be allowed to enter the US from any country — another change from the original executive order, which banned refugees of Syria’s bloody civil war from entering the US indefinitely.
  • The temporary bans will create space for permanent changes to the refugee and visa process. Like the original executive order, the new order directs the Department of Homeland Security to set new standards for how much information other countries will have to give the US when their citizens apply to come here. Countries that can’t meet that standard will be placed on a permanent blacklist, which will replace the 90-day one. Refugees will also be subject to those higher standards, and the US will accept only 50,000 refugees in the current fiscal year — half of what the government originally planned to accept under the quota set by the Obama administration last fall.

All of these provisions were in the original executive order, and they’re not much changed in the new version. The Trump administration might be taking a mulligan on the temporary, immediate measures in its travel ban, but it’s still laying the groundwork for a permanent tightening of visas in the medium term.