Revised immigration order still draws criticism

MONTPELIER— Republican President Donald Trump’s revised executive order on immigration has failed to win over Vermont’s congressional delegation, while Gov. Phil Scott says he is encouraged that it is more narrowly crafted but remains concerned with other elements of Trump’s immigration policy.

The president signed a new executive order at the White House on Monday without fanfare — or the press — that replaces another one signed in late January that was part of a series of orders dealing with immigration and border security. The original executive order prevented citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days and prevented all refugees from entering for a period of 120 days. The original order singled out Syrians for an indefinite ban.

 (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

President Donald Trump (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

That original order was challenged in federal court and stayed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, essentially preventing the administration from carrying out the goals of the order.

Trump’s new order still prevents immigrants from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, but no longer includes Iraq. The ban still includes Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Hoping to avoid legal challenges that have sidelined the original order, the Trump administration’s new executive order exempts anyone who holds a current visa and eliminates indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, instead reducing that ban to 120 days. The administration also made clear that any lawful permanent residents of the U.S. are excluded from the ban.

Another departure from the original order includes a 10-day waiting period before it takes effect. The inclusion of the implementation period undermines the immediacy the president sought in the original order because he feared foreigners would flood into the country before it took effect.

“It’s terrible. He’s trying to dress it up. He tried to put lipstick on a pig. Bottom line, he made it very clear on the campaign that he wanted to ban Muslims. This order does that,” Rep. Peter Welch said in a telephone interview Monday. “It’s the same bad policy in the form of a new executive order.”

Welch, a Democrat, said the president’s policies will harm efforts to keep the U.S. safe and hurt the country’s ongoing battle against terrorism.

“A Muslim ban is going to make us less safe, not more safe. It’s really contrary to what our battlefield commanders have been saying. We have to have good relationships with Muslim countries to defeat ISIS,” he said. “He’s doing things that are making us less secure, not more secure. It’s a religious ban.”

Welch also decried Trump’s order for reducing the total number of refugees allowed into the country each year by about half, to 50,000.

“ I just wish Donald Trump could meet refugees like the folks in Rutland and make it real so he sees who these people are and the kind of vetting they’ve gone through and suffering,” the congressman said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, said the president’s attempt to ban some foreigners from entering the country is not about keeping America safe.

“Let’s call it what it is. This ban is a racist and anti- Islamic attempt to divide us up. A president who respected our traditions of religious freedom would not have resorted to hateful, anti-Islamic rhetoric to justify a ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries,” Sanders said in a statement. “Even the Department of Homeland Security has said that citizenship is not a factor in terrorist threats. This isn’t about keeping America safe. A president responsible for keeping our citizens safe would not hand over ideological ammunition to terrorists seeking new recruits to kill Americans.”

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy also rejected the new order.

“The latest version of the president’s travel ban — the latest outgrowth of his call for an entry ban on Muslims — is another shameful attempt to fulfill a misguided campaign promise. Like the previous ban, this new ban targets individuals in Muslim-majority countries,” Leahy said. “Recent reports from the president’s own Department of Homeland Security have revealed just how ineffective and irresponsible this type of blanket travel ban is to preventing terrorism. Refugees are already the most stringently vetted travelers to the United States. Our country’s ideals and commitment to religious freedom should not be sacrificed so the president can attempt to save face.”

Republican Gov. Phil Scott, one of the most outspoken GOP critics of Trump’s immigration policy, is “encouraged” by the revised order but remains concerned with the constitutionality of some provisions, according to spokeswoman Rebecca Kelley.

“The governor is encouraged to see the latest order is more narrowly crafted and specific to reviewing protocols for national security purposes. However, the constitutionality concerns addressed by S.79 persist, as the potential for the federal government to seek agreements that would commandeer state resources to perform additional federal enforcement functions remain intact in two separate executive orders issued in late January,” she said.

The Vermont Legislature is currently considering S.79, at the urging of Scott and Democratic Attorney General T. J. Donovan, which seeks to prevent local, county and state law enforcement from performing enforcement of federal immigration law. Under the legislation, only Scott as governor could enter into agreements with the federal government.

neal.goswami@timesargus.com

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