The revised executive order President Trump signed Monday that blocks immigrants from six predominantly-Muslim countries was assailed by Democratic lawmakers, civil libertarians and other opponents of the new administration.
The executive order, issued more than a month after the first edition was lambasted by critics and blocked in federal court, was dismissed by some as nothing more than a retouched "Muslim ban" — a label Trump and his team have rejected. The administration insists the revamped travel ban is both lawful and an urgent national security move.
"The Trump administration has conceded that its original Muslim ban was indefensible," said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberty Union's Immigrants' Rights Project. "Unfortunately, it has replaced it with a scaled-back version that shares the same fatal flaws."
"President Trump is handing ISIS recruitment gold and is putting American lives at risk."
Some congressional Republicans and allies of the president rallied to his side, defending the new order as an important tool in the fight against terror.
"I believe the new order will withstand legal challenges as it’s drafted in a fashion as to not be a religious ban, but a ban on individuals coming from compromised governments and failed states," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, a defense hawk and occasional critic of the new president. "This Executive Order will help achieve President Trump’s goal of making us safer."
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, applauded the new order, stressing that the "primary duty of the federal government is to keep Americans safe."
The White House has said the 90-day ban on entry to the United States by people from six predominantly-Muslim countries — Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya — and the temporary halt on all refugee admissions are the best ways to keep would-be terrorists out of the U.S. while the government reviews the current vetting system.
Many opponents of the revised executive order charge the White House with practicing religious discrimination dressed up as a country-specific travel embargo.
"The Trump Administration's repackaging has done nothing to change the immoral, unconstitutional and dangerous goals of their Muslim and refugee ban. This is the same ban, with the same purpose, driven by the same dangerous discrimination that weakens our ability to fight terror," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said in a statement.
That message was echoed by legislators and officials around the country. The attorney general of Washington state, one of the first states to sue Trump over the initial order — a suit that persuaded the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to honor a lower court's decision to block the ban — took a more measured approach. "We are carefully reviewing the new Executive Order to determine its impacts on Washington State and our next legal steps," Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said.
Some critics of the president have suggested the immigration order is a gift to the terrorists.
"President Trump is handing ISIS recruitment gold and is putting American lives at risk," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Our enemies' dream is to paint a picture of global war between Islam and the West, and today's travel ban plays right into their hands."
That view was backed by ten former senior U.S. diplomats and security officials who argued last month that a temporary entry ban "could do long-term damage" to the United States' national security and foreign policy interests, endanger troops and intelligence agents and could even disrupt efforts to prevent terror attacks.
At a briefing shortly after Trump signed the new executive order, key members of his Cabinet — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — stressed that the president was acting in the national interest. Tillerson said federal agencies would be sure to "coordinate" on the new edict — a shift from an initial roll-out that critics in both parties decried as hasty and disorganized.
For all the substantive changes in the new temporary immigration ban and the subtle shift in tone — Trump signed the revised order behind closed doors, without fanfare before TV cameras or on Twitter — critics of the Trump administration were adamant that it did not pass muster.
"A watered down ban is still a ban," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-New York, said.