Trump's new travel ban explicitly says it's not about banning Muslims

Donald trumpErik S. Lesser-Pool/Getty ImagesPresident Donald J. Trump waves as he walks toward the White House on March 5, 2017.

President Donald Trump signed a new executive order Monday barring people from six majority-Muslim nations and refugees from entering the US temporarily, after courts struck down his first ban.

This time, the president made sure to include in the text of the order that this temporary ban was not about religion, as critics of the action have accused by calling it a “Muslim ban.” One federal judge agreed with their characterization, striking down the order in Virginia specifically because it violated people’s religious freedoms.

In the new order, Trump outlined the president’s motivations for signing the first order, declaring it was intended to “improve the screening and vetting protocols and procedures associated with the visa-issuance process and the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).”

“That order was not motivated by animus toward any religion, but was instead intended to protect the ability of religious minorities — whoever they are and wherever they reside — to avail themselves of the USRAP in light of their particular challenges and circumstances,” the text of the new ban reads.

White House aides, and Trump himself, have insisted since the first ban was enacted that it was not about religion, as protests of the order erupted nationwide.

“He’s made it very clear from the beginning that this was a country-focused issue, a safety-focused issue, and that’s why he issued it,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said February 22.

Federal Judge Leonie M. Brinkema disagreed, citing Trump’s December 2015 campaign promise in her ruling suspending the order in Virginia.

“The ‘Muslim ban’ was a centrepiece of the president’s campaign for months, and the press release calling for it was still available on his website as of the day this Memorandum Opinion is being entered,” Brinkema wrote in her ruling. “Just as the Supreme Court has held that ‘the world is not made brand new every morning,’ a person is not made brand new simply by taking the oath of office.”

In the December 2015 press release — which is still available on Trump’s campaign site — the then-Republican presidential candidate called “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” Trump said in the 2015 statement. “If I win the election for President, we are going to Make America Great Again.”

The text of the new order seems aimed at trying to ward off potential court rulings that would strike down the ban for religious reasons. The new order goes into effect March 16, barring individuals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen for 90 days.

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