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Trump administration’s new travel ban aims to avoid another legal battle

March 6, 2017 at 6:45 PM EDT
The Trump administration targets a group of mostly Muslim nations in its second try at a travel ban by executive order. But it makes critical changes in hope of avoiding the issues that led courts to block it. The new order removes Iraq from the list of barred countries, limits the ban on Syrian refugees to 120 days and drops explicit exceptions for religious minorities. Jeffrey Brown reports.
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JOHN YANG: In the day’s other lead story: The government is girding tonight for a new legal battle on its second try at a travel ban. The new order, issued today, again targets a group of mostly Muslim nations. But it makes critical changes in a bid to try to avoid the issues that led courts to block it.

Jeffrey Brown begins our coverage.

JEFFREY BROWN: President Trump signed the original ban at the Pentagon after just a week in office. Today’s signing was done in private, with only a single still photo released. It fell to Cabinet members to make the announcement, starting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. Secretary of State: President Trump is exercising his rightful authority to keep our people safe. As threats to our security continue to evolve and change, common sense dictates that we continually reevaluate and reassess the systems we rely upon to protect our country.

JEFFREY BROWN: Unlike the original order, this new one removes Iraq from the original list of seven nations whose citizens are barred from entering the U.S., keeps out Syrian refugees for 120 days, instead of indefinitely, and drops any explicit exception for Christian and other religious minorities in Muslim nations.

In addition, it’s made explicit this time that valid visa holders and foreign nationals with green cards securing their residence in the U.S. are not included in the ban. The first order was effectively halted by federal courts within days of being issued.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said today in an audio-only session that it’s now being revoked.

SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: We continue to maintain that the order was fully lawful, but there were some legal hurdles that we’d have to potentially cross in terms of enjoinment and things like that.

So, it was discussed with the president Saturday, and he made a decision that this is how he wanted to proceed.

JEFFREY BROWN: Among other things, federal judges said the original order cited no evidence of an actual threat. The new directive says the FBI is pursuing 300 terrorism-related investigations of individuals admitted as refugees.

Officials also hope to avoid the chaos at airports when the original order took effect, as people in transit were detained, delayed and expelled without notice.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly:

JOHN KELLY, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary: We are going to work closely to implement and enforce it humanely, respectfully, and with professionalism, but we will enforce the law. So, there should be no surprises, whether it’s in the media or on Capitol Hill.

JEFFREY BROWN: But opponents showed no sign of backing down. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who successfully challenged the first order, spoke this afternoon in Seattle.

BOB FERGUSON, Washington State Attorney General: The chaos it inflicted around our country, you all saw it. It wasn’t right. I certainly hope they take way numerous lessons from this experience, but, if they don’t, they can expect us to see us challenging future executive orders as well.

JEFFREY BROWN: For now, pending court action, the new order is set to take effect March 16.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown.

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