US judge bars deportations under Trump travel ban

Police corral protesters who gathered in opposition to US President Donald Trump’s ban on immigration and travel outside Terminal 4 at JFK airport in Queens, New York City on Saturday. (REUTERS/Joe Penney)
Updated 30 January 2017
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US judge bars deportations under Trump travel ban

WASHINGTON: A federal judge issued an emergency order Saturday night temporarily barring the US from deporting people from nations subject to President Donald Trump’s travel ban, saying travelers who had been detained had a strong argument that their legal rights had been violated.
US District Judge Ann Donnelly in New York issued the emergency order after lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union filed a court petition on behalf of people from seven predominantly Muslim nations who were detained at airports across the country as the ban took effect.
As the decision was announced, cheers broke out in crowds of demonstrators who had gathered at American airports and outside the Brooklyn courthouse where the ruling was issued.
The order barred US border agents from removing anyone who arrived in the US with a valid visa from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. It also covered anyone with an approved refugee application.
It was unclear how quickly the order might affect people in detention, or whether it would allow others to resume flying.
“Realistically, we don’t even know if people are going to be allowed onto the planes,” said ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt. “This order would protect people who they allow to come here and reach US soil.”
Under Trump’s order, it had appeared that an untold number of foreign-born US residents now traveling outside the US could be stuck overseas for at least 90 days even though they held permanent residency “green cards” or other visas. However, an official with the Department of Homeland Security said Saturday night that no green-card holders from the seven countries cited in Trump’s order had been prevented from entering the US
Some foreign nationals who were allowed to board flights before the order was signed Friday had been detained at US airports, told they were no longer welcome. The DHS official who briefed reporters by phone said 109 people who were in transit on airplanes had been denied entry and 173 had not been allowed to get on their planes overseas.
In her three-page order, Donnelly wrote that without the stay “there will be substantial and irreparable injury to refugees, visa-holders and other individuals from nations subject to the Jan. 27, 2017, executive order.”
Trump billed his sweeping executive order as a necessary step to stop “radical Islamic terrorists” from coming to the US It included a 90-day ban on travel to the US by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen and a 120-day suspension of the US refugee program.
Trump’s order singled out Syrians for the most aggressive ban, indefinitely blocking entry for anyone from that country, including those fleeing civil war.
The directive did not do anything to prevent attacks from homegrown extremists who were already in America, a primary concern of federal law enforcement officials. It also omitted Saudi Arabia, home to most of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
As a candidate Trump pledged to temporarily ban Muslims from coming to the US, then said he would implement “extreme vetting” for people from countries with significant terror concerns. He told reporters Saturday the order is “not a Muslim ban.”
“It’s working out very nicely,” Trump said of the implementation of his order. “We’re going to have a very, very strict ban and we’re going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years.”
The order sparked protests at several of the nation’s international airports, including New York’s Kennedy and Chicago’s O’Hare and facilities in Minneapolis and Dallas-Forth Worth. In San Francisco, hundreds blocked the street outside the arrival area of the international terminal. Several dozen demonstrated at the airport in Portland, Oregon, briefly disrupting light rail service while hoisting signs that read “Portland Coffee Is From Yemen” and chanting anti-Trump slogans.
US lawmakers and officials around the globe also criticized the move. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said while Trump is right to focus on border security, the order is “too broad.”
“If we send a signal to the Middle East that the US sees all Muslims as jihadis, the terrorist recruiters win by telling kids that America is banning Muslims and that this is America versus one religion,” Sasse said. “Our generational fight against jihadism requires wisdom.”
In Tehran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran would stop issuing new visas to US citizens in response to Trump’s ban, but that anyone already with a visa to Iran wouldn’t be turned away.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter Saturday afternoon to say that refugees were welcome in Canada, “regardless of your faith.”
Two of the first people blocked from entering the United States were Iraqis with links to the US military. Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi were detained by immigration officials after landing at New York’s Kennedy airport Friday night. Both had been released by Saturday night after their lawyers intervened.
The government can exempt foreign nationals from the ban if their entry is deemed in the national interest. But it was not immediately clear how that exemption might be applied.
Diplomats from the seven countries singled out by Trump’s order would still be allowed into the US
Those already in the US with a visa or green card would be allowed to stay, according to the official, who wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the details of how Trump’s order was being put in place and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Trump’s order also directed US officials to review information as needed to fully vet foreigners asking to come to the US and draft a list of countries that don’t provide that information. That left open the possibility that citizens of other countries could also face a travel ban.
The US may still admit refugees on a case-by-case basis during the freeze, and the government would continue to process requests from people claiming religious persecution, “provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said it would challenge the constitutionality of Trump’s order.
“There is no evidence that refugees — the most thoroughly vetted of all people entering our nation — are a threat to national security,” said Lena F. Masri, the group’s national litigation director. “This is an order that is based on bigotry, not reality.”
John Cohen, a former Department of Homeland Security counterterrorism official who worked under Democratic and Republican administrations, said the order didn’t address America’s “primary terrorism-related threat” — people already in the US who become inspired by what they see on the Internet.
Trump’s order drew support from some Republican lawmakers who have urged more security measures for the refugee vetting program, particularly for those from Syria.
“We are a compassionate nation and a country of immigrants. But as we know, terrorists are dead set on using our immigration and refugee programs as a Trojan Horse to attack us,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said in a statement Friday. “With the stroke of a pen, he is doing more to shut down terrorist pathways into this country than the last administration did in eight years.”
It is unclear how many people would be immediately impacted by the non-refugee travel ban. According to the statistics maintained by the Homeland Security Department, about 17,000 students from the seven designated countries were allowed into the US for the 2015-2016 school year. In 2015 more than 86,000 people from those countries arrived in the US on other, non-immigrant visas and more than 52,000 others became legal permanent residents.
Last year the US resettled 85,000 people displaced by war, political oppression, hunger and religious prejudice, including more than 12,000 Syrians. Before leaving office President Barack Obama announced that the US would accept 110,000 refugees in the coming year, but Trump’s order cut that by more than half to 50,000.

 


Thailand to ban imports of high-tech trash, plastic waste

Updated 16 August 2018
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Thailand to ban imports of high-tech trash, plastic waste

  • The Thai ban covers 432 types of electronic refuse — from electronic circuit boards to old television and radio parts — and will take effect within six months
  • Thailand’s e-waste ban follows a series of raids that began in May on factories accused of illegally importing and processing electronic waste

BANGKOK: Thailand will ban imports of 432 types of scrap electronics within six months, an environment ministry official said on Thursday, the latest country to respond to China’s crackdown on imports of high-tech trash this year.
Southeast Asia nations fear they are the new dumping ground for the world’s trash after China banned the entry of several types of waste as part of a campaign against “foreign garbage.”
Thailand’s ban comes weeks after regional neighbor Vietnam said it would stop issuing new licenses for waste imports and crack down on illegal shipments of paper, plastic and metal.
The Thai ban covers 432 types of electronic refuse — from electronic circuit boards to old television and radio parts — and will take effect within six months, a senior environment ministry official told Reuters on Thursday.
He said the ban was agreed at a meeting on Wednesday chaired by Surasak Kanchanarat, the environment minister.
“The meeting yesterday passed a resolution to stop importing 432 kinds of electronic waste and to ensure...that this is enforced within six months,” said the official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Mongukol Pruekwatana, director general of the department of industrial works, told Reuters a full list of banned items would be announced soon.
E-waste — commonly defined as any device with an electric cord or battery — can be mined for valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper. However, it can also include hazardous material such as lead, mercury and cadmium.
Surasak told Thai media on Wednesday that imports of some electronic appliances and second-hand devices would be allowed if these items can be repaired and reused.
Scrap metal, including aluminum, copper and steel, can still be imported for industrial use, but must be separated at the country of origin and cleaned, he said.
Thailand’s e-waste ban follows a series of raids that began in May on factories accused of illegally importing and processing electronic waste.
Environmentalists say waste once destined for China is being re-routed to Southeast Asia, and new laws are needed or existing laws better enforced to prevent illegal imports.
Vietnam’s central bank said on Wednesday it has asked banks to tighten lending to projects deemed environmentally unfriendly. It said banks must have strategies for environmental risk management by 2025.
Thailand also planned to ban imports of plastic waste in the next two years, the environment ministry official said, but he gave no details of the program.
The death of a pilot whale in June found with some 80 pieces of plastic rubbish in its stomach focused attention on what environmentalists call Thailand’s “addiction” to plastic bags and packaging.
Thailand’s military government has said improving the country’s waste management infrastructure is a priority and set goals for 2021.
They included cutting the use of plastic bags and bottles in government agencies and businesses, and plastic bans in tourist destinations. A tax on plastic bags has also been mentioned, along with a target to recycle up to 60 percent of plastic by 2021.