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Donald Trump

With travel ban, America has shot itself in the foot

Donald Trump’s ill-conceived executive order is not only discriminatory but also stains the nation’s reputation as a place that respects the rule of law

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 4:14am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 4:14am

For a leader of a nation of laws and immigrants, US President Donald Trump has besmirched this image with targeting of refugees and Muslims in a bungled attempt to combat the threat of terrorism, and with open disrespect for judges. His angry tweet after his latest setback before a federal appeals panel – “I’ll see you in court” – prompted expectation either of an appeal to the Supreme Court or a new executive order aimed to withstand the legal challenge.

Either way, for the sake of America’s reputation for human rights and the rule of law, we trust the forced rethink will result in wiser heads prevailing.

Trump’s hasty attempt to turn his anti-migrant rhetoric into action has sparked a coalition of the unwilling that reflected the ill-thought-out scope of an executive order imposing travel bans on refugees and migrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.

‘An epic confrontation’: Trump travel ban takes US to brink of constitutional crisis

Testament to that are court filings by about 100 tech firms in support of a lawsuit against the travel ban, led by Silicon Valley giants Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter, which have been enriched by talent from among countries on the list.

The travel ban does not distinguish between people who pose terror threats and others. As a result, it effectively discriminates against Muslims. But Trump has argued the courts do not have the power to review it. The US Constitution does give the federal government supremacy over immigration and in 1952 Congress gave the president authority to temporarily suspend “the entry of any class of aliens ... detrimental to the interests of the US”.

But even if the law is ultimately on Trump’s side, it was not served by an executive order hastily conceived and drafted by political aides within a week of the administration taking office, seemingly with little consultation. Images of valid visa holders prevented from travelling or detained, disrupting families, business and study-related journeys, followed by a panic rush to enter through a window opened by courts, are stains on America’s reputation that can be erased only by demonstration of respect for the rule of law and human rights for which America is known.