Explaining Trump’s Seemingly Rough Refugee Travel “Pause”

So, I’ve gotten enough feedback about President Trump’s “travel ban” order that I wanted to make an educated guess about what happens next.

Many have noticed that the roll out for the travel ban seems fairly haphazard. Almost immediately the administration was forced to roll back the section of the order that dealt with green card holders, and the administration has already handed out about 1000 exemptions to the travel ban.

Part of the reason the travel ban has seemed poorly planned is that the Trump administration didn’t actually craft the “ban.” In fact, the administration leaned heavily on older orders from the Obama administration as they prepared to release their travel “ban.”

The seven Muslim-majority countries targeted by President Donald Trump in his executive order on immigration were initially identified as “countries of concern” under the Obama administration.

Trump’s order bars citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the U.S. for the next 90 days.

In December 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law a measure placing limited restrictions on certain travelers who had visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011. Two months later, the Obama administration added Libya, Somalia, and Yemen to the list, in an effort, the administration said, to address “the growing threat from foreign terrorist fighters.”

While the roll out has been less than optimal, GOP leadership is beginning to circle the wagons around the message that the extra level of vetting will keep America safer.

 

In fact, the Trump administration began softening the order almost immediately by rolling back the section that impacted green card holders.

Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “as far as green card holders moving forward, it doesn’t affect them.”

However, he later added: “If you’re traveling back and forth you’re going to be subjected to further screening.”

Green card holders from the seven banned countries, when they land, will undergo additional security screening, including an interview and having their fingerprints checked, sources told CNN. If there are no red flags, then they would be allowed entry.

And on Tuesday night, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced a continuing ‘softening’ of the travel ban.

“In applying the provisions of the president’s executive order, I hereby deem the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest,” Mr. Kelly said. “Accordingly, absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations.”

All of this looks odd considering that everything else the administration has done thus far has seemed well planned, and carefully orchestrated. So why the disconnect? I have a theory, and the next few days may bear out the truth. I actually think that the DHS will continue to “soften” the travel ban over the next few days and weeks. I also think that the order itself was actually President Trump exerting influence on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are two of the wealthiest nations in the Middle East and the world, and yet neither country has taken in a single refugee from either Syria or Yemen. The Obama administration worked for years to pressure both nations to take in refugees, to no avail. Yet, less than 24 hours after President Trump announced his travel ban… both Saudi Arabia and the UAE announced that they would FINALLY be accepting refugees from their suffering neighbors.

Coincidence? I think not.

Trump’s decision to institute a refugee travel ban was never about banning travel from these Muslim nations; no, it was more likely a high stakes game of “chicken” meant to force the Saudi’s and Emirate’s hands.

“The President requested and the King agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts,” the White House said in a statement.

“They also agreed on the importance of rigorously enforcing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran and of addressing Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.”

Now that the two nations have agreed to take on refugees, I expect we’ll see President Trump begin accepting refugees again shortly. See, while we were stuck in an Obama era game of ‘Parcheesi,’ President Trump was busy playing chess and winning his first major foreign policy victory. It’s a new day, folks, and President Trump is NOT the weak-kneed foreign policy dilettante that Obama was.

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