New US travel restrictions are still ‘Muslim ban’: rights groups

This file photo taken on June 29, 2017 shows people taking part in a rally to protest restrictive guidelines issued by the US on who qualifies as a close familial relationship under the Supreme Court order on the Muslim and refugee ban at Union Square in New York. (AFP / EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ)
Updated 25 September 2017
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New US travel restrictions are still ‘Muslim ban’: rights groups

WASHINGTON: US rights groups on Monday blasted the new, open-ended version of President Donald Trump’s travel restrictions as a masked Muslim ban and pledged to keep fighting it in courts.
Despite the removal of Sudan from the expiring 90-day ban on six mainly-Muslim countries, and the addition of Chad, Venezuela and North Korea for tight restrictions or bans, activists and legal experts said Trump’s intent remained the same, to sharply cut off the flow of Muslim visitors and immigrants into the United States.
“This ban is not any better than the previous one,” said Zahra Billoo of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“The fact that Trump has added North Korea — with few visitors to the US — and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn’t obfuscate the real fact that the administration’s order is still a Muslim ban,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“President Trump’s original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list.”
Late Sunday the White House issued a new executive order to replace the expiring 90-day temporary ban on travelers from Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Somalia and Libya.
The ban, which Trump has been fighting to put in place since days after he became president in January, has been repeatedly delayed and watered down in a series of court challenges and appeals.
At the end of June, the Supreme Court allowed it finally to be implemented, with restrictions, together with a 120-day ban on refugees.
The new order Sunday, which has no expiration date, targeted eight countries but was less uniform.
North Korea, Chad, Syria, Yemen, and Libya face full bans, until they can improve their information collection on their own citizens and boost cooperation with US security authorities, who say the main target is to prevent potential terrorists from entering the country.
For Iran, an exception was left for students and exchange visitors. For Somalia, new immigrants are blocked but business, official and personal temporary visitors will be allowed, though subject to tougher vetting.
With Venezuela, only officials from certain key ministries and government agencies, and their families, are banned.
In Caracas, the foreign ministry called the US action “psychological terrorism” aimed at bringing down Venezuela’s leftist government.
The original ban is due to be heard at the Supreme Court on October 10, focusing in part on whether Muslims were targeted from the beginning.
The new order could shape the way the issue is addressed, possibly even mooting the case.
“Religion, or the religious origin of individuals or nations, was not a factor,” a senior government official told reporters on Sunday.
“The inclusion of those countries, Venezuela and North Korea, was about the fact that those governments are simply not compliant with our basic security requirements.”
But critics called that “window dressing.” One noted there were only eight visitors last year from North Korea, which does not have diplomatic relations with the United States.
Adding Chad, North Korea and Venezuelan government officials “does little to undercut the argument that the government is imposing a ban based on religion,” said Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond School of Law.
In addition, lawyers say Trump has over-extended his executive powers on placing limits on immigration.
“He’s basically rewriting the immigration law, entirely,” said Justin Cox, an attorney at the National Immigration Law Center and one of the lawyers making the arguments against the travel ban at the Supreme Court.
“If he can indefinitely ban people from these countries, he can indefinitely ban guest workers, he can indefinitely ban Mexicans, do basically whatever he wants,” Cox said.


'Brexit continues to mean Brexit': Theresa May defiant despite Westminster resistance

Updated 18 July 2018
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'Brexit continues to mean Brexit': Theresa May defiant despite Westminster resistance

  • British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday her government had begun negotiations with the European Union
  • May also said talks had already started with Brussels based on the proposal set down in a white paper policy document last week

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday her government had begun negotiations with the European Union based on her hard-won Brexit plan, pressing on with a proposal criticized by both wings of her Conservative Party.
After narrowly escaping defeat in parliament over her plans for leaving the EU, May signalled she would not drop a proposal on Britain’s future relationship with bloc — the biggest shift in its foreign and trade policy for almost half a century.
But by sticking to her plan for a “business-friendly” departure, May has thrown down the gauntlet to Brexit supporters and pro-EU lawmakers in her party who are at war with each other, and — for some — with the prime minister herself.
Boris Johnson, her former foreign minister who quit over what is called the Chequers plan, was one of the first to renew his call for government to rethink its strategy, saying “it is not too late to save Brexit.”
But at an earlier session of parliament, May stood firm after being challenged by one pro-Brexit lawmaker in her party to explain when she had decided to change her catchphrase from “Brexit means Brexit,” to “Brexit means Remain.”
“Brexit continues to mean Brexit,” May said to cheers from her Conservative supporters.
May also said talks had already started with Brussels based on the proposal set down in a white paper policy document last week after her divided government had thrashed out a deal at her Chequers country residence.
The prime minister insisted she was confident Britain had enough time to negotiate a deal with the EU before leaving in March next year.
While May’s party is in disarray over the plan, EU member Ireland also said it was focusing on the white paper, unwilling to be diverted over the changes to her Brexit plans forced through in parliament this week.
“If we get distracted by individual amendments to individual pieces of legislation ... then I think we get dragged into an unnecessary debate that wastes a lot of time and energy,” Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told state broadcaster RTE.

"WE CAN CHANGE"
May’s vulnerability in parliament, where she lost her majority in an ill-judged election last year, was laid bare on Monday and Tuesday when she faced rebellions from both the pro-Brexit and pro-EU wings of her party.
She won the votes on a customs and a trade bill, but suffered an unexpected defeat on a separate amendment, which means her government must now seek continued participation in the European medicines regulatory framework.
But the government’s approach to securing victory in parliament has not only deepened divisions in her party, but also raised the issue of trust.
One Conservative lawmaker told Reuters the party whips, whose job it is to enforce discipline in parliament, had threatened to call a confidence vote in May if she lost — a move that could bring down the government.
Johnson, figurehead of the Brexit campaign in the 2016 referendum, led those calls in his resignation speech to parliament. He criticized the government for handing an advantage to the EU by agreeing in the talks to a divorce bill before agreeing a future relationship.
“We have time in these negotiations, we have changed tack once and we can change again,” he said. “It is as though a fog of self-doubt has descended,” Johnson said. “We should not and need not be stampeded by anyone.”