Lawyers for America’s predominant civil rights organisation, the American Civil Liberties Union, have said they intend to challenge a revised executive order issued by the Trump administration.
Major elements in the previous order were blocked by a nationwide injunction issued by a federal judge following litigation by the states of Washington and Minnesota.
Under the revised order, a 90-day travel ban will apply to six nationalities and the country’s refugee program will be suspended for 120-days – Iraq has been dropped from the list of banned countries and Syrian refugees no longer face indefinite suspension.
A specific exemption applying to “religious minorities” – which lawyers said was a backdoor preference for Christian refugees – has also been dropped.
But that hasn’t assuaged critics at the ACLU.
“The new order will be less catastrophic in its roll-out than the first, both because it exempts those who already have visas and because it will not go into effect until March 16,” wrote Legal Director David Cole shortly after the revised order was issued.
“But it’s still religious discrimination in the pretextual guise of national security. And it’s still unconstitutional.”
Lawyers in the Washington case argued that the previous order violated the equal protection clause in the constitution and the first amendment – it was a discriminatory and unjustified legal test on immigration they said.
The court held that they had a good chance of succeeding and temporarily blocked the order – the Trump administration gave up its defence in favour of a new executive order.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the state will consider the new executive order, and still has concerns.
“By rescinding his earlier executive order, President Trump makes one thing perfectly clear: his original travel ban was indefensible – legally, constitutionally and morally,” he said in a statement.
While Washington hasn’t yet decided how to proceed, the ACLU is committed.
“It continues to target only countries that are predominantly Muslim,” Cole wrote, claiming the order still amounted to a “Muslim ban”.
“It does so without a valid security justification. Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security recently concluded that an individual’s ‘country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity’ and that ‘few of the impacted countries have terrorist groups that threaten the West’.”
Spokespeople for the administration have denied either order amounts to a Muslim ban, pointing out that the majority of predominantly Muslim countries remain unaffected.