Trump’s new travel ban could be harder to fight in court: Experts

US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters upon his return to the White House in Washington on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 25 September 2017
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Trump’s new travel ban could be harder to fight in court: Experts

NEW YORK: US President Donald Trump’s announcement on Sunday restricting travelers from an expanded list of countries has already been roundly criticized by immigrant and civil rights groups as no more lawful than his previous travel ban, but it could stand a better chance of holding up in court, legal experts said.
The new presidential proclamation, which Trump said is needed to screen out terrorist or public safety threats, indefinitely restricts travel from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea. Certain government officials from Venezuela will also be barred.
Trump’s Mar. 6 temporary travel ban, which replaced another ban from January and expired on Sunday, targeted six Muslim-majority countries. It sparked international outrage and was quickly blocked by federal courts as unconstitutional discrimination or a violation of immigration law.
In June, the US Supreme Court allowed a limited version of the ban to go ahead while the justices examine its legality.
The proclamation, set to go into effect on Oct. 18, could be less vulnerable to legal attack, scholars and other experts said, because it is the result of a months-long analysis of foreign vetting procedures by US officials. It also might be less easily tied to Trump’s campaign-trail statements some courts viewed as biased against Muslims.
“The greater the sense that the policy reflects a considered, expert judgment, the less the temptation (by courts) to second-guess the executive,” said Saikrishna Prakash, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, in an e-mail. “It looks less like a matter of prejudice or a desire to fulfill a campaign promise.”
The government has said the president has broad authority in immigration and national security matters, but challengers to the Mar. 6 ban had argued that it ran afoul of the US Constitution’s bar on favoring one religion over another.
They cited statements Trump made during his 2016 campaign for president, including his call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
Within hours of Sunday’s proclamation, representatives for the Hawaii, New York and California attorneys general said their offices were reviewing the new restrictions. Advocacy organizations denounced it as more of the same.
“This is still a Muslim ban — they simply added three additional countries,” said Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, which previously sued to block Trump’s travel ban executive orders.
“Of those countries, Chad is majority Muslim, travel from North Korea is already basically frozen and the restrictions on Venezuela only affect government officials on certain visas,” Heller said.
But the worldwide review, and the new restrictions tailored by country, could weaken such arguments in court.
While the previous ban targeted Muslim-majority nations Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan, the restrictions announced on Sunday include North Korea and Venezuela and omits Sudan altogether. It also allows some travelers from Somalia and Iran to enter the US
The review also examined each country’s ability to issue reliable electronic passports and share security risk data with the US Overall, 47 countries had problems, and 40 made improvements, including 11 that agreed to share information on known or suspected terrorists, Trump’s proclamation said.
The review “at least arguably attenuates the link between the president’s alleged bias and the policy,” said Margo Schlanger, a University of Michigan Law School professor.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments over the original travel ban on Oct. 10, including whether it discriminated against Muslims. Sunday’s proclamation could lead the high court to skip deciding the case altogether.
While new claims of religious discrimination might be harder to press, experts said challengers could potentially argue that the expanded ban violates the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, which forbids the government from discriminating based on an individual’s nationality when issuing visas.
“Congress decided that it didn’t want an immigration system that played favorites among countries,” Schlanger said.
Jeffrey Gorsky, the former chief of the legal advisory division at the US State Department’s Visa Office, said the new ban could be viewed as overly broad in whom it applies to, keeping out all manner of people from those countries “with no evidence of adverse affect on US interests.”


UK warns dual nationals over travel to Iran, as France holds on envoy nomination

Updated 19 September 2018
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UK warns dual nationals over travel to Iran, as France holds on envoy nomination

  • Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016
  • France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June

LONDON: Britain on Wednesday advised British-Iranian dual nationals against all but essential travel to Iran, tightening up its existing travel advice and warning it has only limited powers to support them if detained.

The advisory came in tandem with France’s decision to hold off on appointing a new ambassador to Iran, as it seeks clarification over an attempt to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June

“The Foreign Secretary (Jeremy Hunt) has taken the decision to advise against all but essential travel by UK-Iranian dual nationals to Iran,” a foreign office spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
“British citizens who also hold Iranian nationality face risks if they travel to Iran, as we have seen all too sadly in a number of cases. The Iranian government does not recognize dual nationality, so if a dual national is detained our ability to provide support is extremely limited.”
Earlier this month Britain’s Middle East minister Alistair Burt used a visit to Iran to discuss cases of detained dual nationals, alongside other diplomatic issues.
Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter, now aged four, after a family visit.
She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.
Meanwhile, France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris last June, French officials said on Wednesday.
An Iranian diplomat based in Austria and three other people were arrested on suspicion of plotting the attack on a meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Iran has said it had nothing to do with the plot, which it called a “false flag” operation staged by figures within the opposition group itself.
The incident has hit relations just as France and its European partners are seeking to salvage a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers.
France’s ambassador to Iran departed in the summer. Iran has also yet to replace its departed ambassador to Paris.
“We have a charge d’affaires today in Tehran and there is a high-level dialogue between French and Iranian authorities,” said a French presidential source.
“We are working together to bring to light what happened around this event ... I wouldn’t say there is a direct link (in not appointing an ambassador), but Iran has promised to give us objective facts in the coming weeks that would allow us to pursue our diplomatic relationship as it is today.”
A French diplomatic source said the nomination had indeed been suspended as a result of the alleged plot.
France’s Foreign Ministry in August told its diplomats and officials to postpone non-essential travel to Iran indefinitely, citing the plot and a hardening of Tehran’s attitude toward France, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.
President Emmanuel Macron is likely to discuss the issue with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when they meet on Sept. 25 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the source said.
Along with Britain and Germany, France is trying save a 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, which was thrown into disarray when US President Donald Trump pulled out of the accord in May and re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran.
Even so, tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s activities in the Middle East region, in particular its ballistic missile program.