While President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial had been wrapping up, he expanded one of his most controversial and inflammatory policies with little fanfare and minimal opposition: the travel ban on people from multiple Muslim-majority countries.
The previous version, which has been approved by the Supreme Court after it was rewritten multiple times, strictly barred immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela. In court and in public, the administration defended the extreme and disruptive measure being based on national security considerations, though it was clearly an instantiation of Trump’s bigoted campaign promise to end all Muslim immigration to the United States. When the ban was first enacted, it triggered chaos at airports and prompted widespread protest and legal challenges, and it continues to impose devastating costs on families and people who wish to come to the U.S.
Now, though, the ban has been expanded to include Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania, and the public reaction has been subdued. Perhaps this is because, given the Supreme Court gave it’s blessing on the previous version of the ban, opponents fear there is little that can be done to restrain Trump now.
But Daniel Larison, writing a piece for the magazine The American Conservative that denounced the policy as “cruel,” argued that the new expansion is transparently unnecessary.
“There is no legitimate security reason for such sweeping restrictions, and the new list seems like a grab-bag of countries that have large Muslim populations with nothing else linking them together,” he wrote. “Like previous versions of the ban, this is an attempt to use phony national security justifications to make changes to immigration policy that Congress wouldn’t approve.”
And Larison pointed out that there’s not even any evidence that Nigeria, or the other countries now targeted, export terrorism to the United States, which is ostensibly the reason for the ban. At the same time, a country that actually has seen its nationals commit terrorist acts in the U.S. — Saudi Arabia, a close ally of the Trump administration — is conspicuously missing from the list. Clearly, the point is just to limit immigration, even though Nigerian immigrants “have had great success in the U.S.,” Larison wrote.
New York Times Columnist Jamelle Bouie said that “the only explanation for adding Nigeria to the travel ban is as an act of racial control.”
“The entire expanded travel ban needs to be ended as soon as possible,” said Larison. “Rescinding this ban should be one of the first things that the next administration does.”
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