Trump's Latest Travel Ban Is Just As Legal but Not Much Smarter

The president did not need Venezuela and North Korea to make his order constitutional.



It looks like the third time may be the charm for Donald Trump's travel ban, which he revised again on Sunday, dropping Sudan from the list of targeted countries while adding Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela. Yesterday the Supreme Court responded by canceling oral argument in the case challenging the second version of the travel ban, which expires next month. Assuming the Court decides the case is moot, critics would have to start again in a U.S. district court if they want to challenge the latest version, and their legal arguments would be weaker.

The new order, which does not have an expiration date, imposes restrictions that vary by country. The ban on Venezuelan visitors, for instance, applies only to government officials and their families, while the ban on North Koreans, who obtained a grand total of 100 or so U.S. visas last year, has no exceptions. Neither does the ban on Syrians, and the door is closed almost completely for citizens of Chad, Libya, and Yemen. Iranians can still come as students, but not as immigrants, tourists, or business people. Somalis can come as visitors but not as immigrants. Like the second set of travel restrictions, issued on March 6 after the first one led to airport chaos and swift legal challenges, the third one, styled as a "presidential proclamation" rather than an executive order, does not apply to legal permanent residents or current visa holders.

The official rationales for selecting these seven countries are based on the extent to which they serve as havens for terrorists as well as their ability and willingness to share information needed to properly screen travelers. The proclamation describes some governments, such as Iran's and North Korea's, as mainly or entirely uncooperative, while it describes others, such as Chad's and Yemen's, as important allies against terrorism that nonetheless do not currently meet U.S. security criteria. The proclamation says the countries were picked based on a "worldwide review" by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security that took several months, which makes the process look considerably more rational and deliberative than the one that gave birth to the original travel ban, issued a week after Trump took office.

The addition of Venezuela and North Korea to the list, which has very little impact in terms of visa numbers, is clearly designed to allay the impression that Trump is targeting Muslims. "The fact that Trump has added North Korea—with few visitors to the U.S.—and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn't obfuscate the real fact that the administration's order is still a Muslim ban," says 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."

But the argument that the travel ban amounted to unconstitutional religious discrimination was already a stretch, especially since critics conceded that the very same order could have been legal if it had been issued by Hillary Clinton. The constitutional case against the order hinged on Trump's loose campaign talk about banning all Muslims from entering the country. But he never actually pursued that policy, and the latest version of his travel ban, framed in religiously neutral terms and based on a purportedly rigorous security review, seems even further removed from it.

That does not mean the travel ban makes sense as a matter of policy, as my colleague Shikha Dalmia notes in her latest column for The Week. Since 1975, Cato Institute immigration analyst Alex Nowrasteh found, no Americans have been killed on U.S. soil by terrorists from any of the countries targeted by Trump's first two orders. That remains true of the latest list, he reports. "The national security justification for the new order is just as weak as for the original order because it could only have prevented nine terrorists who planned domestic attacks, at the maximum, from entering," Nowrasteh writes. "Since four of the nine terrorists were Iranian students in 1979 who would not have been banned under this order, it's likely that it would have stopped only five terrorists from entering and saved zero lives if it was applied backward in time."

Estimating the cost of the travel restrictions, Nowrasteh counts just the economic benefit attributable to new green-card holders, ignoring the gains from tourists and other visitors. Even on that basis, he says, the travel ban does not pass a cost-benefit test. "If the ban continues to block 25,587 green cards each year for ten years," Nowrasteh writes, "then the total loss in wages to native-born Americans would be equal to about $1.4 billion." Based on a valuation of $15 million per life, he says, "blocking that many immigrants would have to save about 96 lives in thwarted terrorist attacks to be equal to the expected economic damage borne entirely by native-born Americans."

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  1. Well, I’m definitely tired of all these Chad’s coming into our nation and fucking our women.

    1. Beta males everywhere rejoice.

      1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

        This is what I do…

    2. Would you like to hang them?

    3. My understanding is that many of the refugees flooding into Europe through Libya are coming by way of Chad. I understand there are hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees in Chad.

      Meanwhile, Chad is a brutal dictatorship and an extremely poor country.

      I suspect this move may be to head off calls by the UN and others to take refugees off of Chad’s hands. Those refugees aren’t about to get passports from Sudan, and I’m sure Chad would be more than happy to give those refugees any document they needed to get them out of the country.

      Nipping a potential threat in the bud isn’t always a bad idea. Why wait for the UN to unilaterally decide that we aren’t taking our share of Chad’s refugees?

      Should we buy fire insurance ahead of time, or do you plan to wait until after our house catches on fire?

    4. At least few are pregnant. Some are nice & dimpled!

  2. It’s not like any of those countries routinely threatens the US or anything…

    1. And really, if it was a Muslim ban, we’d be letting all the Zoroastrians and Ba’hai’s in from Iran (you know, its actual native religions and not one forced on it by immigrants) and keeping out the Muslims

  3. OK, I’m leaning against the travel ban now, since Reason keeps hammering against it.

    But as a couple of theoretical points:

    1) Did we ever issue blanket temporary bans based on national origin due to war or political unrest? We are not currently at war with any country, but I suspect Turks and Austrian-Hungarians were not allowed to enter the USA during World War I.

    2) Under what circumstances would libertarians support a travel ban based on national origin?

    1. 2) Under what circumstances would libertarians support a travel ban based on national origin?

      When their women are unattractive.

      Looking at you, Britain.

      1. It’s my major reason for advocating an open-border with Mexico and Brazil.

        1. 51st and 52nd States? I could go for some cheap beach front property.

      2. {Diane Reynolds (Paul.) walks down street, sees Emma Watson, Kate Beckinsale, Emilia Clarke, and Natalie Dormer making sweet sapphic love to each other in a sunny glade}

        DR(P.): “Meh.”

        {keeps walking}

        1. Had to look up the last two. I side with DR(P.) on this one.

          1. {Telcontar cuts BestUsedCarSales’s face out of all his scrapbooks}

  4. As long as Trump keeps refugees out I’m happy.

    1. Oh yeah? Well I heard Icky Christ Fag is a refugee. Or rather, his parents were, and laid the egg on U.S. soil. Can any resident lawbertarians tell us if Icky’s claim of birthright citizenship is fowl play?

      1. Please bin the casul homophobia, thanks.

        1. Huh?

        2. Oh, are you referring to the rooster’s name? I didn’t come up with that, but sorry if it offends you.

  5. “Since 1975, Cato Institute immigration analyst Alex Nowrasteh found, no Americans have been killed on U.S. soil by terrorists from any of the countries targeted by Trump’s first two orders.”

    Before September 11, 2001, no Americans had been killed by terrorist-operated airplanes crashing into skyscrapers.

      1. It’s silly to say we don’t have to worry about Somali or Libyan terrorists coming to the U. S. because gosh, we haven’t had any in the past.

        The question is whether Somalia and Syria are producing terrorists *today* to an extent warranting stronger security measures – “until we find out what’s going on,” was one guy put it.

        1. To be clear, we can’t gaze into a crystal ball and sort out definitively the potential terrorists from the non-terrorists.

          We cannot abolish risk, we might (for all I know) be able to reduce risk by being more careful about immigrants from certain countries than others.

          There’s no magic anti-terrorism solution, there are just tradeoffs – U. S. citizens or residents have established rights and the burden is on the government to show they’re terrorists – but potential immigrants generally don’t have established ties tot he U. S. and the burden is on them to show they’re nice guys.

          1. (I would add spouses of U. S. citizens to those having a strong presumption of innocence – disrupting a marriage, or requirng a U. S. citizen to live abroad in order to enjoy their marital rights, is a severe action which ought to require strong proof.

            1. The San Bernadino Muslim killer got his wife in.

              That worked out well.

        2. Got it, thanks for clarifying. It’s definitely a difficult issue, and my cynicism tends to make me believe that these bans don’t really do anything in particular to make us safer. It is probably impossible to know exactly what is correct though.

    1. “Since 1975, Cato Institute immigration analyst Alex Nowrasteh found, no Americans have been killed on U.S. soil by terrorists from any of the countries targeted by Trump’s first two orders.”

      Don’t hold your breath.

      Plenty of Somalis have been convicted of trying to join ISIS, and dozens of Somali-Americans from Minnesota alone are known to have left the U.S. to join ISIS.

      We probably shouldn’t look forward to them coming back.

      It’s also clear that the terrorist attacks we’ve seen, both here in the U.S. and in Europe, seem to come from people who were born in the west. Someone might argue that if we can’t stop the children of immigrants who were born here from entering the U.S., stopping their parents from immigrating here in the first place might make sense.

      Also, we should be mindful of the way we’re using the word “terrorist”. A man who was born in Sudan went into a church in Tennessee the other day and killed somebody. I don’t know that he’s a member of ISIS. I don’t know whether that qualifies as terrorism in your book. But I wouldn’t go around telling everybody that no Americans have been killed by foreign born terrorists on U.S. soil a few days after a Sudanese man shot a bunch of people during a church service.

      Want to tell me the statement is valid because Sudan isn’t on the ban list this morning?


      Every played the game “Twister”?

  6. The travel ban is legal.

    if the travel ban is unpopular, Trump will pay a price in 2020. That remains to be seen.

  7. On a related note, Jordan cites security concerns as a reason to keep its border with Syria closed. Does this prove Jordan’s leader is racist against Muslims?

    1. Yes, obviously. Jordan’s leader is TRUMP!

    2. I’m sure any college freshman can explain to him what’s up.

    3. The King of Jordan actually IS an authoritarian.

  8. Meh. Whatevs. I was confused about Venezuela until seeing the small print.

  9. ” Assuming the Court decides the case is moot, critics would have to start again in a U.S. district court if they want to challenge the latest version, and their legal arguments would be weaker.”

    Presidential edict whack-a-mole. It’s almost as if we need a document that limits what certain parts of our government are allowed to do…. if only…

  10. In how many many of these countries can an average American travel freely throughout without being murdered for being an American?

    1. In fairness, in Venezuela, they’re just murdering you for the street value of your teeth and shinbones at this point.

      Just cover yourself in that permanent dye they use to ruin rhino horns and inject some into your bones, and Gringo won’t have no problem, s

  11. Just wondering: How many persons does this directly involve?

    It seems we’re spending a lot of electrons here on symbolic matters.

  12. “The official rationales for selecting these seven countries are based on the extent to which they serve as havens for terrorists as well as their ability and willingness to share information needed to properly screen travelers.”

    We might add one other qualification.

    Earlier today, I linked to a quote from a refugee advocacy group that claimed Trump dropped Sudan from the list of countries on the travel ban because they agreed to accept Sudanese citizens that we deport back to their country.

    “According to Becca Hella, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, it suggests “the government of Sudan was pressured into agreeing to accept massive numbers of deported Sudanese nationals from the US in exchange for being dropped from the travel ban”.

    Certainly, if we haven’t been able to deport Sudanese citizens, say, after they’ve served a prison term for violating someone’s rights, then that’s a legitimate problem. Maybe I should say it was a legitimate problem. Putting Sudan on the travel ban list may have solved that problem permanently.

    Using the visa process to protect our rights from terrorists reeks of competence. After all, as any libertarian worth his salt can tell you, if the government has any legitimate purpose at all, it’s to protect our rights, and if our visa process wasn’t protecting our rights from terrorists who mean us harm, then the government wasn’t doing it’s job.

  13. Better memorize those 10 Commandments you Godless cucks. Judge Roy Moore Wins !

    1. Your God sucks cocks greased with pig shit in Hell.

      {waits for lightning bolt}

      Hey! I’M ALIVE! And unarrested too! Well I’ll be. Godless Cuck: 1, Schizophrenia Rationalizers: 0!

      (Apologies to the other Christian commenters for the Maherism, but it needed to be done.)

      1. “it needed to be done”

        Really? What if I said “all hail Comrade Maduro and down with the kulaks and wreckers!” Does *that* need to be done, too?

        1. If one of those Pinochet-loving Alt-righters were threatening to censor or arrest anyone that expressed support for socialism, then yes, actually, that would need to be done. Just as a threat of censorship by the Antifa crew merits a hearty bar shanty extolling the virtues of National Socialism.

          1. I don’t want to censor or jail communists. I want to torture them in sports stadiums or throw them out of helicopters.

            1. All hail Comrade Maduro! Down with the Kulaks and Wreckers!

              (Apologies to all the other libertarian commenters for the Chomskyism, but it needed to be done).

              1. OK, I see where you’re coming from, which doesn’t mean I’m totally into it.

                1. As for SIV, it’s hard to tell how much he’s being serious and how much he’s amusing himself with alt-right-style “humor.”

                  (I put “humor” in quotes because I didn’t laugh, not because I’m an offended snowflake or cuck or whatever he calls those who don’t appreciate his genius)

                2. Yeah, I don’t usually turn on “YouTube comment section atheist” mode, but I am more than willing to play that game if a theocratically-inclined Christian decides to start throwing “godless” or “heathen” around. As I had hoped to specify in the initial comment, the vitriol was exclusively directed towards SIV and other theocrats, not the Christian on the street. (Incidentally, I have no particular belief that Jesus or any other Christian figure was suffering from mental illness; I just thought it was a good line.)

                3. And I don’t think even SIV knows whether he’s joking or not. None of the Alt-right seem to; that’s the way they like it. Ambiguity is the puff of smoke they can vanish in if confronted by too strong an opponent.

                  1. Anyway, it depends on the meaning of “theocrat,” which traditionally means a government where religious specialists (ministers, monks, priests, imams) have special political influence, either formal (as in the old Tibetan theocracy) or informal (as in Calvinist Geneva or early colonial Massachusetts).

                    (Merriam-Webster: “government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided”)

                    Nowadays the term is more broadly used to mean someone who believes that (as William Henry Seward put it in 1850)

                    “The Congress regulates our stewardship [of the federal territories]; the Constitution devotes the domain to union, to justice, to defence, to welfare, and to liberty.

                    “But there is a higher law than the Constitution, which regulates our authority over the domain [territories], and devotes it to the same noble purposes. The territory is a part, no inconsiderable part, of the common heritage of mankind, bestowed upon them by the Creator if the universe. We are his stewards, and must so discharge our trust as to secure in the highest attainable degree their happiness.”

                    1. I was just using it to refer to “someone who wants to force people to memorize the 10 commandments or else face some probably-helicopter-related punishment”.

                      At any rate, as an atheist, I am necessarily not “down with” subordinating the US Constitution to the Bible, in a legal or even philosophical sense, even if I agree with the specific (abolitionist, IIRC?) context Seward was using that in. Now, subordinating the Constitution to the Non-Aggression Principle on the other hand…

                    2. Which version of the 10 Commandments?

                      Hardly anyone does the original Hebrew.

                    3. Yes, Seward was denounced as an abolitionist *and* as a violator of Church/state separation. This speech, and the “irrepressible conflict” speech, cemented Seward’s reputation as a wild-eyed radical and helped deny him the Presidency. In reality, Seward was in the terms of that era “moderate” (for a Republican), in that he was initially willing to put up with slavery and later with the denial of civil rights to ex-slaves.

                    4. Christianity as a motivator to adherence to the Non-Aggression Principle (Seward): Good

                      Christianity as a motivator to violation of the Non-Aggression Principle (SIV): Bad

  14. Here are some stats for anyone interested:

    “Young fighters from at least 19 states have tried to join terrorists in Syria since the start of that country’s civil war in 2011. Minnesota recruits made up 26 percent of the sample of 58 cases reviewed by the committee’s bipartisan task force. California and New York had the second most recruits, with each state making up 12 percent, according to findings.

    “This report is alarming and it’s really very worrisome,” said Sadik Warfa, deputy director of the Global Somali Diaspora based in Minneapolis. “I worry about the stigma and the prospect of our community being marginalized. But in the end, it’s up to us as Somali-Americans to really change our image. And as Minnesotans, we need to be asking what can we do to put these kinds of people into our mainstream here instead of over there.”

    More than 250 Americans have attempted or succeeded in reaching Syria and Iraq to fight with terrorist groups, intelligence officials estimate. “We have largely failed to stop Americans from traveling overseas to join jihadists,” the task force declared. “A handful of suspects were stopped in other countries, but it appears the majority ? 85 percent ? still managed to evade American law enforcement on its way to the conflict zone.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune
    September 29, 2015

    1. In response to the statement in bold above, I’d argue that as Americans, it’s not unreasonable to ask ourselves if we can do something to keep ISIS sympathizers out of the country instead of bringing them over here.

      Our government really should be prioritizing American security over the problems of Somalia. Anybody who cares more about the problems of Somalis than they do about American security should feel free to volunteer for humanitarian relief organizations or just give until it hurts.

    2. Hmm. Maybe Trump’s next travel ban will “target” residents of Minnesota, California, and New York.

      1. I think that’s basically what he’s trying to do in keeping their parents from immigrating here in the first place.

        Telling people that the statistics are such that foreign born terrorists aren’t the problem–it’s the kids of the immigrants–probably isn’t about to make Americans more receptive to immigration from these countries.

        It’s sort of like how telling people that we can’t keep illegal aliens from coming across our southern border only makes them want to embrace open borders at certain cocktail parties in Hollywood, Manhattan, and on Cape Cod.

        Everywhere else, telling Americans that makes them want to build a wall, and finding out that our terrorists aren’t immigrants themselves, but the children of immigrants from these countries, that doesn’t make most Americans want to get rid of the travel ban either.

        We need to find a better narrative.

        1. A better narrative? But isn’t “no Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!” working?

    3. I remember then Bill Clinton pulled our military personnel out of Somalia. Many folks thought it was a great move, because they figured there was no way Somalis could come over to America and cause trouble here. This withdrawal was followed by a few years of Reason writing about how Somalia is doing fine without much of a centralized government.

  15. The New York Times doesn’t believe in false balance, except of course where Communism is concerned

    “”The Communists did many terrible things,” my grandmother always says at the end of her reminiscences. “But they made women’s lives much better.”

    “That often-repeated dictum sums up the popular perception of Mao Zedong’s legacy regarding women in China. As every Chinese schoolchild learns in history class, the Communists rescued peasant daughters from urban brothels and ushered cloistered wives into factories, liberating them from the oppression of Confucian patriarchy and imperialist threat.

    “But the narrative of an across-the-board elevation of women’s status under Mao contains crucial caveats….

    “…Mao’s words and policies did little to alleviate women’s domestic burdens like housework and child care….

    “Researchers also observed that after marriage factory women often experienced slower career advancement than men as they became saddled with domestic responsibilities that left them with little time to learn new skills and take on extra work, both prerequisites for promotion….

    “For all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big.”

    1. Look at all those unambitious women of Chinese descent in noncommunist countries…bunch of Stepford Wives with their “look at me I’m not starving to death along with millions of other people” attitude.

  16. Speaking of the New York Times, here is how they spin Roy Moore’s Republican primary victory in the Alabama U. S. Senate race:

    “The outcome in the closely watched Senate race dealt a humbling blow to President Trump and other party leaders days after the president pleaded with voters in the state to back Mr. Strange….

    “[Moore’s] victory demonstrated in stark terms the limits of Mr. Trump’s clout.

    “…the [Republican] party will be forced to wrestle with how to prop up an often-inflammatory candidate given to provocative remarks on same-sex marriage and race ? all to protect a seat in a deep-red state. Mr. Moore’s incendiary rhetoric will also oblige others in the party to answer for his comments, perhaps for years to come, at a time when many Republicans would just as soon move on from the debate over gay rights.”

    Then an implicit appeal to Alabama’s “center-right voters” to vote for the Democrat, who has promised not to embarrass the state…and if there’s one thing we know about Alabama Democrats, they *never* embarrass their state!

    1. Failing to note that Moore is a Trump supporter.

      1. If Moore had lost that would be a sign that Trump-style populism was failing even in Alabama, etc.

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