How Trump Is Stealthily Carrying Out His Muslim Ban

Farhana Khera and Johnathan J. Smith, New York Times, July 18, 2017

Lost amid the uproar over the Trump administration’s travel restrictions on citizens from Muslim-majority countries and the impending showdown at the Supreme Court are the insidious ways that the government has already begun to impose a Muslim ban.

It’s doing so through deceptively boring means: increasing administrative hurdles and cementing or even expanding the current travel restrictions that are not under review at the court. The collective impact of these changes will be that a permanent Muslim ban is enshrined into American immigration policy.

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The State Department has already moved to implement the president’s “extreme vetting” directive by imposing new, onerous visa application requirements. Several weeks ago, the agency invoked emergency review and approval procedures to push through these changes with minimal public comment or scrutiny. They force applicants to submit years’ worth of personal data, including from social media accounts.

Of course, not all visa applicants are subject to this review; it’s only for “populations warranting increased scrutiny.”

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At the end of June, President Trump rescinded an Obama-era executive order that had required the State Department to make sure that a vast majority of interviews for nonimmigrant visa applicants happen “within three weeks of receipt of application.”

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The Trump administration has also moved forward with parts of the president’s order that the justices will not review this fall.

For example, the executive order tasks federal agencies, including the departments of state and homeland security, with reviewing visa screening processes, at home and abroad, to see if they’re sufficiently rigorous. That information will be used to figure out whether or not the short-term travel ban should be extended indefinitely and whether countries should be added to or removed from the list of excluded nations. This creates an easy way to target disfavored countries.

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While the agencies have refused to make their findings public, all circumstantial evidence suggests that Muslim-majority countries will bear the brunt of these restrictions.

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The number of visas issued to citizens from Muslim-majority countries has decreased by double digits. Among nearly 50 Muslim-majority countries, nonimmigrant visas declined almost 20 percent in April, compared with the monthly average from 2016. Visas issued to people from Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen, the six countries on the travel ban list, were down 55 percent.

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