Trump travel ban to be heard by federal appeals court

In this May 15, 2017, file photo, protesters wave signs and chant during a demonstration against President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban outside a federal courthouse in Seattle. (AP/Ted S. Warren)
Updated 08 December 2017
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Trump travel ban to be heard by federal appeals court

RICHMOND, Virginia: President Donald Trump’s updated travel ban is headed back to a federal appeals court in Virginia.
Thirteen judges on the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals will be asked to decide if the ban violates the constitution by discriminating against Muslims, as opponents say, or is necessary to protect national security, as the Trump administration says.
The hearing scheduled Friday comes four days after the US Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration can fully enforce the ban even as the separate challenges continue before the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit and the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit appeals courts.
The 4th Circuit is being asked to reverse the decision of a Maryland judge whose injunction in October barred the administration from enforcing the ban against travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen who have bona fide relationships with people or organizations in the US The ban also applies to travelers from North Korea and to some Venezuelan government officials and their families, but the lawsuits didn’t challenge those restrictions.
Trump announced his initial travel ban on citizens of certain Muslim-majority nations in late January, bringing havoc and protests to airports around the country. A federal judge in Seattle soon blocked it, and courts since then have wrestled with the restrictions as the administration has rewritten them. The latest version blocks travelers from the listed countries to varying degrees, allowing for students from some of the countries while blocking other business travelers and tourists, and allowing for admissions on a case-by-case basis.
Opponents say the latest version of the ban is another attempt by Trump to fulfill his campaign pledge to keep Muslims out of the US The administration, however, says the ban is based on legitimate national security concerns.
The 4th Circuit rejected an earlier version in May, finding that it “drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination” toward Muslims. The judges cited Trump’s campaign pledge on Muslim travelers, as well as tweets and remarks he has made since taking office.
“For the people here who are waiting for their families and friends to come to the United States, it has an impact on their faith. It denigrates their faith,” said Mariko Hirose, litigation director for the International Refugee Assistance Project. The group is one of the plaintiffs in the Maryland case.
The Trump administration also says the latest version of the ban was the product of a global review and evaluation of inadequate information-sharing practices of certain foreign governments on security issues.
“The fact that serious national-security risks are posed by some Muslim-majority nations cannot prevent the government from addressing those problems, especially after the kind of extensive, multi-agency review process that occurred here,” government lawyers argued in written briefs.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday in a separate lawsuit filed in Hawaii. Much of Wednesday’s arguments focused on a narrower point: whether the president satisfied immigration law in issuing his latest travel order.
It is unclear when the appeals courts will rule, though both sides expect the US Supreme Court will ultimately decide on the legality of the ban.


Iran’s domestic car market stalls as nuclear deal falters

Updated 11 min 19 sec ago
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Iran’s domestic car market stalls as nuclear deal falters

TEHRAN, Iran: Across Iran’s capital, rush-hour traffic always grinds to a halt, a sea of boxy Renault four-doors and Peugeot coupes all idling their way through the streets of Tehran.
Soon, however, Iran’s faltering nuclear deal with world powers may be what causes the country’s domestic automotive market to stall out.
As Iran’s currency, the rial, suffers precipitous falls against the US dollar — down some 140 percent since President Donald Trump withdrew America from the accord — cars are growing more and more expensive even as tens of thousands clamor to order domestic models online. Meanwhile, Western manufacturers are pulling out of the country and foreign-produced parts are becoming harder to find as Chinese cars fill the void.
“It is clear and obvious that the US is purposefully putting pressure on the people of Iran to instigate discontent” over the auto market, said Mohammad Reza Najfimaneh, the head of the Iranian Specialized Manufacturers of Auto Parts Association.
Iran, one of the Mideast’s biggest countries and home to 80 million people, has a huge demand for automobiles. In 2017 alone, Iran produced more than 1.5 million cars, up some 14 percent from the year before, according to a report by Iran’s Ministry of Industries, Mines and Trade earlier this year.
Some 90 percent of market share is controlled by two local companies: Iran Khodro, which assembles Peugeot-branded vehicles from kits, and SAIPA, which has made Citroens and Kias. Both manufacturers also build Renaults.
Iran’s auto industry suffered under US and Western sanctions, which targeted Iran over fears about its nuclear program. The West worries Iran could use its technology to build atomic bombs. Iran long has said its program is for peaceful purposes.
The 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions, provided a needed boost to the industry.
French car-maker PSA Peugeot Citroen reached a deal in 2016 to open a plant producing 200,000 vehicles annually in Iran. Fellow French automobile manufacturer Groupe Renault signed a $778-million deal to build 150,000 cars a year at a factory outside of Tehran. Meanwhile, Volkswagen announced plans to import vehicles into Iran.
Now, however, those firms have pulled back on those plans.
Concern over Iran’s domestic auto industry has been high. That was shown in a visit to Iran-Khodro last week by Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.
“The enemy in the economic war is after damaging public contentment and the auto industry is one of the front lines in the war,” Shamkhani said during his visit.
More than 100,000 people are employed by Iran-Khodro and SAIPA, while another 700,000 Iranians work in industries related to car manufacturing.
There are fears by some business analysts in Iran that any downturn in the auto industry would further worsen unemployment in the country.
Iran’s official unemployment rate is 12.3 percent, meaning some 3 million people are out of work, but experts believe it is much higher, especially among university graduates. Those unemployed often try to scrape enough money together to work as taxi drivers in the city, meaning they could be doubly hit.
Meanwhile, the drop in the Iranian rial has made buying a car difficult. The rial traded at 62,000 to the dollar before Trump’s pullout from the nuclear deal in May. It has gone as high as 150,000 to $1 since.
“I saved some money to buy an Iranian car, but prices jumped and factories do not provide cars on time,” said Mahin Tabrizi, a 45-year-old teacher. “I don’t know what I can do.”
Those prices also have hurt auto parts sales.
“Prices of car parts are crazy, all because of the sanctions,” said Mahmoud Rahimi, a taxi driver. “I bought brake pads for my car for double the price in less than a year.”
Even those who pay for an Iranian car can face delays in having them delivered. Iranian car production reportedly dropped 29 percent in June compared to the same month last year. Analysts blamed that on lack of parts due to currency fluctuation.
Meanwhile, importing a foreign car grows more expensive as the rial drops in value. Iran places import taxes of more than 100 percent on foreign cars. A ban on importing foreign cars also has been in force since April, halting new orders.
“Nearly two years ago, I paid for an imported car, yet they have not delivered it due to upheavals in the rial rate and sanctions,” said Reza Piltan, a retired engineer waiting for an SUV by South Korean manufacturer SSangYong.
In the absence of Western car makers, however, China is already starting to show up in the country. A new dealership for Chinese automaker Chery recently opened in Tehran. Iranian lawmaker Vali Maleki, a member of the parliamentary committee on industry, last month suggested that Chinese companies can take over the share of other foreign companies that have left the Iranian market.
“The Chinese cars are selling very well in Iran,” car dealer Ali Razavi said. “Their dealerships offer a wide range of methods of leasing and financing that enable many customers to buy a new car for just about $2,000 to $4,000.” Those cars are partly assembled in Iran.
Demand is still strong for Iranian-made cars as well, however.
Last week, in less than an hour, 50,000 customers rushed the website of SAIPA to pay nearly $2,000 each to buy cars that the company plans to make in the future. The move is largely an effort by buyers to save on their purchases as the rial continues to fall. Another factory, Iran-Khodro, has a similar plan for selling future cars next week.
Still, anger over quality lurks.
“In other countries people pay small advance fees to buy a standard car based on installments,” said Fatemeh Azari, whose son last week managed to buy a car on SAIPA’s website. “Here, we pay all the money in advance to receive a clunker months later.”