President Trump to Issue Revised Executive Order—Will It Be Better or Worse?
Yesterday President Donald Trump announced that he will issue a new executive order next week "which will comprehensively protect our country" and be "tailored" to the federal court’s decision on his January 27 executive order. In a filing yesterday with the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, government lawyers reported that “the President intends in the near future to rescind the Order and replace it with a new, substantially revised Executive Order to eliminate what the panel erroneously thought were constitutional concerns.”
Hopefully the president means that the new order will not discriminate against Muslim immigrants, travelers, or refugees, and not simply that it will be “tailored” to achieve the same end without using language that so clearly signals discriminatory purpose.
The United States certainly has the capacity to review its security vetting processes and can add any enhancements without initiating dramatic and disruptive bans that divert already approved travelers, block visiting grandmothers, separate families, and leave refugees stranded even though they have already been vetted and approved by U.S. government officials. Given the courts’ rulings, and the fact that bans are not needed to add to existing vetting, the various bans and suspensions should not be included in the revised order.
The president should, in his revised order, abandon his cruel and harmful ban on Syrian refugees, as well as the broader resettlement suspension and cuts. Former CIA Directors, National Security Advisors, and Secretaries of Defense, State and Homeland Security have explained again and again that resettling refugees actually advances U.S. national security interests, and that halting refugee resettlement harms U.S. national security.
These same former officials have also stressed that refugees are subjected to the most rigorous vetting. This vetting is already extreme and includes extensive and often grueling interviews as well as multiple rounds of security vetting with a wide array of U.S. and international intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
In his press conference yesterday the president said, “Extreme vetting will be put in place and it already is in place in many places,” noting as well that “in the meantime, we’re vetting very, very strongly. Very, very strongly.” In recent Congressional testimony, DHS Secretary John F. Kelly hinted at additional layers of questioning relating to finances, websites, and social media, including requests for passwords.
The United States has the most rigorous security vetting procedures of any country in the world. Any additions to these already rigorous processes that are included in the new order should be truly necessary measures, and not simply hurdles designed to block or deter legitimate refugees or keep out Muslims.
The revised order should not, as one section of the January 27 order appeared to direct, require or rely on data from repressive regimes and dysfunctional states, and the United States should not look to these regimes to vet the very refugees and political dissidents who have fled those countries.
The devil is always in the details, so the actual impact and intent of the new executive order—not just the legal wordsmithing—will matter. The president’s promise that the new order will be tailored to the court’s decision by “some of the best lawyers in the country” to “get just about everything” and “in some ways, more” is not exactly reassuring.