New opposition emerges as Trump pushes for travel ban

Washington Post

As President Donald Trump renewed his push Sunday for a travel ban in the wake of another terrorist attack in England, new opposition emerged from Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Several lawmakers suggested in TV interviews Sunday that Trump's proposed ban, which blocked immigrants from six majority-Muslim countries but was halted by federal courts, is no longer necessary since the administration has had the time it claimed it needed to develop beefed-up vetting procedures to screen people coming to the United States.

"It's been four months since I said they needed four months to put that in place," Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of the Intelligence Committee, said on Fox News Sunday. "I think you can do that without a travel ban and hopefully we are."

Sen. Mark Warner, Va., the top Democrat on the panel, said Trump's administration has had plenty of time at this point to examine how immigrants are let into the United States and make any improvements that are needed. "If the president wanted 90 days to re-examine how individuals from certain countries would enter the United States, he's had more than 90 days," Warner said on CBS' Face the Nation.

Trump argued repeatedly on the campaign trail and after his victory that a better system for screening immigrants is imperative to national security. He signed an executive order in mid-March to temporarily suspend the U.S. refugee program and block visas for citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. He promised to develop more-comprehensive screening that would render the temporary ban unnecessary once in place.

Trump renewed his call for the ban on Sunday in response to the Saturday attacks near London Bridge, which left seven dead and dozens injured. The president tweeted: "We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!"

The travel ban was to last only 90 days, purportedly to buy agencies time to explore new procedures. Federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii have since suspended the ban.

However, the Justice Department interpreted the Hawaii court's decision to also mean that federal agencies couldn't work on new vetting procedures.

"We have put our pens down," acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall told the Virginia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit last month, when questioned about work on new procedures during a separate hearing about the travel ban. Wall said the administration has "done nothing to review the vetting procedures for these countries."

To get the travel ban reinstated, the Justice Department filed two emergency applications with the Supreme Court last week. If the court allows the development of new vetting procedures to go forward, that could start the clock on another 90 days for the administration to review vetting procedures. But that could also render a Supreme Court decision on the travel ban moot, since the court is not likely to hear that case before October.

That time frame has left some legal experts puzzled about the Trump administration's intent.

"The enhanced procedures would be in place by the beginning of October," said Mark Tushnet, a law professor at Harvard University. "By that time, the travel ban would not be in effect."

As more time goes by with no appearance of effort toward stronger vetting, it could undermine the administration's legal justification for a temporary travel ban.

"I think the travel ban is too broad, and that is why it's been rejected by the courts," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Sunday on Face the Nation. "The president is right, however, that we need to do a better job of vetting individuals who are coming from war-torn countries into our nation . . . but I do believe that the very broad ban that he has proposed is not the right way to go."

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