Trump has now issued two executive orders that target immigration and refugees from predominantly Muslin countries. To the relief of many Idahoans, neither has passed the scrutiny of federal judges. When Trump issued his first executive order, civic leaders in Idaho’s refugee communities expressed great concerns. “People are fearful and anxious and don’t know what to expect — they feel they have been pointed out for discriminatory treatment,” explained Jan Reeves, the director of the Idaho Office for Refugees, a private organization that coordinates with the federal government to resettle refugees in the Boise area. Trump’s first executive order also prompted roughly 600 Idahoans to gather in the Boise airport to voice their protest.
Mr. Reeves and these Idahoans have been relieved—twice. After the first order was struck down, the softer, second order was issued on March 6, 2017. In Trump’s own words, it was a “watered down” version of the first. It contains some changes President Trump and his legal team obviously hoped would allow it to survive the courts’ examination. Trump has been disappointed again. Federal district judges in Hawaii and Maryland have either blocked the entire order or key provisions.
The first executive order kept citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia) from coming into the United States for 90 days, regardless of their visa category. It also suspended the admission of refugees from any country for 120 days, and it indefinitely suspended refugees from Syria.
The March 6, 2017 executive order, entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” revoked the first order and had some significant changes. The new order does not affect lawful permanent residents (people holding Green Cards). It also had a future implementation date, March, 16, 2017, to help avoid a lot of the confusion when the first order was issued and effective immediately. Iraq was also removed from the list of targeted countries. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson explained that Iraq was removed after the State Department conducted an intense review to improve vetting of Iraqi citizens in collaboration with the Iraqi government. The second order also does not contain language prioritizing religious groups, one of the reasons federal judges did not approve of the first ban. Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the new order, stating that it was “not any way targeted as a Muslim ban” and that it was a “lawful and proper exercise of presidential authority.”
But even these changes to the second executive order were not enough. Just hours before it would have taken effect, a federal judge in Hawaii, Judge Derrick K. Watson, issued a temporary restraining order putting the order on hold. His order explains that Hawaii, who challenged the first executive order, will likely succeed and show that the order violates protections against religious discrimination and would also hurt Hawaii’s businesses, its tourism industry, and its universities. The order states that, based in part on statements Trump has made in the recent past, “a reasonable, objective observer … would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.”
U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang in Maryland took a similar position. He did not agree with the federal government’s argument that the second executive order “doesn’t say anything about religion” and “doesn’t send a religious message.” He blocked key parts of the travel ban, ruling that the order’s purpose, like the first order, was to discriminate against Muslims for political reasons. Similarly, to support this ruling, he cited President Trump’s own words.