A Reminder: The Travel Ban Was Supposed to Be Temporary

The travel ban that was upheld by conservatives on the Supreme Court yesterday is actually a revision of the one issued by the administration during the first week of Trump’s presidency. From the beginning, the contention has been that a ban would be temporary.

The Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. During the 120-day period, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall review the USRAP application and adjudication process to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States, and shall implement such additional procedures.

In other words, the administration claimed that the Muslim ban was necessary while they set up their “extreme vetting” system. The 120 days they set out for that to happen was up well over a year ago.

Since then, the executive order on the travel ban has been re-written twice due to court injunctions. Here is what the latest one says:

In light of the conditions in these six countries, until the assessment of current screening and vetting procedures required by section 2 of this order is completed, the risk of erroneously permitting entry of a national of one of these countries who intends to commit terrorist acts or otherwise harm the national security of the United States is unacceptably high. Accordingly, while that assessment is ongoing, I am imposing a temporary pause on the entry of nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen…

The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall conduct a worldwide review to identify whether, and if so what, additional information will be needed from each foreign country to adjudicate an application by a national of that country for a visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual is not a security or public-safety threat…

The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall submit to the President a report on the results of the worldwide review described in subsection (a) of this section…and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information, within 20 days of the effective date of this order.

That 20 days was over on March 26, 2017—15 months ago. What’s up with that?

This so-called “temporary pause” to allow the secretary of homeland security to make lists and develop procedures for extreme vetting seems to have turned into something more permanent. Did John Kelly and his successor Kirstjen Nielsen fall down on the job? Have they been too busy implementing Trump’s “deport ’em all” and “zero tolerance” policies to get to this one? Or was the idea that the travel ban would be temporary simply another lie among the thousands this administration has told?

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.