Adult supervision, in the form of a federal judge in Seattle, has temporarily restored sanity to our immigration laws after nine hectic days. Caught in mid-travel, the assortment of legal visa holders affected by the Muslim travel ban provided a snapshot of the United States’ sophisticated and often productive relationships with the seven singled-out countries.
President Trump’s executive order blocked graduate students, professors, scientists, mothers and children, a wide departure from cartoonish view the president promotes of Muslim terrorists waltzing through the turnstiles of our international airports. Petulant, and obviously a sore loser, Trump tweeted yesterday that horrible events from “very many bad and dangerous people” could occur because of the judge’s ruling. It was among most unpresidential things he has said in his brief term, and easily among the silliest.
Here’s where we are now: the visa revocations have been reportedly reversed by the State Department and a temporary restraining order issued by a Seattle judge Friday night now apparently guarantees that anyone who had a valid visa or green card to enter the US can do so. The Department of Justice appealed the order but early on Sunday a federal court denied the government request to reinstate Trump’s refugee and travel ban.
The intensity of the past week served as a civics refresher but also as a preview of what’s surely to come: Trump will continue to challenge the check and balances of power. The good guys won round one, but as this conflict displayed, the power of the presidency is difficult to combat. As the dust settles from the Muslim ban, here are some winners and losers:
The judiciary: The framers of the Constitution were careful to install an independent judiciary, and we were reminded why this week. “The courts standing up to this order have reminded us that our democracy depends on judges following the law and making sure the President follows the law,” said David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “The judges concluded, almost uniformly, that Trump pretty likely violated the law and the constitution” with this executive order, Leopold says.
Civil liberties attorneys, the ACLU: Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union responded to the chaos unleashed by the executive order by putting up a great fight. “The people who understand the law are not better than anybody else,” said Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “But it is all the more clear for those who do law for a living how much of a threat the Trump administration is.”
Sally Yates: The acting US Attorney General was fired when she refused to defend the travel ban, ensuring her a place in history as the first Trump defier — prominent among the many who are sure to follow. “I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right,” Yates said, words we can only hope others in positions in power in the Trump administration live by.
US international leadership: Denying entry, if only for a week, to a targeted group of immigrants shocked the entire world and begged the question: Who will be targeted tomorrow? Xenophobia on the international stage and erratic, amateurish White House leadership are inspiring companies to consider moving jobs abroad for stability’s sake. The US reputation as a destination for the best and the brightest from all over the world risks being corroded by the hostility emanating from Trump.
The president and his men: Trump has worsened his legal defeat by belittling Judge James Robart, the Seattle jurist who blocked the president’s order, and, of course, appealing the ruling. Most constitutional experts would agree that the president will lose again. “The outcry and the potential illegality of the measure put the Trump administration in a position where they’re recoiling,” adds Leopold.
Immigrants near and far: Visa holders whose travel was put on hold are now trickling in. But Trump sent a message to every immigrant, whether it’s a family stranded in Damascus or living in Worcester: All bets are off. It’s a new age of fear and uncertainty, whether you have your documents in order or not. “For Trump, this may have been about a campaign promise, but I’ll tell you what this was not about,” says Segal. “This was not about national security and this was not about protecting people from terrorism. There were no success stories coming out of these bans — just heartache.”