How Trump travel ban affects nations

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TO President Donald Trump’s supporters, the Supreme Court decision upholding his travel ban from seven countries — five with Muslim majorities — was an affirmation by the highest court in the land of his right to secure America’s borders and protect it from terrorism.

To opponents, the ruling validated an anti-Muslim agenda that betrayed American ideals, subverted the constitution and upended the hopes of thousands of families separated by war and deprivation.

Here are three outcomes of the decision, which bans or severely restricts entry into the United States by people from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

THERE is no escape to America:

The ruling sends a blunt message of rejection to visa seekers from some of the most destitute and dysfunctional countries. Immigration and civil-rights lawyers fear that it slams the door on many desperate people from the Muslim-majority countries that were affected, particularly those with relatives in the United States, who saw the Supreme Court as their last hope.

The timing of the ruling, as European Union countries are toughening policies toward refugees and asylum-seekers, reinforced an atmosphere of a Western backlash to migrants, even as the global population
of forcibly displaced people grows.

Three of the Muslim-majority countries affected by Trump’s order — Libya, Yemen and Syria — have known only war for years. A fourth, Somalia, has suffered through varying degrees of mayhem for decades. While anti-terrorism experts consider the countries to be breeding grounds for violent extremism, the Supreme Court’s ruling will do nothing to hasten the end of the underlying conflicts there.

Although Trump’s executive order allows for granting exceptions on a case-by-case basis, lawyers said they had seen little or no evidence of such a process. Hundreds of Yemeni families with US relatives, for example, who have fled to Djibouti, a tiny country in the Horn of Africa, to file waiver applications for visas because the US Embassy in Yemen is closed, have been summarily denied waivers and remain stranded there.

Mohamud Noor, a Somali-American activist in the Minneapolis area, home to one of the largest Somali immigrant communities, said the Supreme Court decision was devastating to many who wanted relatives in their homeland to legally join them.

“I think we were expecting the Supreme Court would stand on moral grounds,” Noor said. “We live in America. This is a land of immigrants.”

IRANIANS could be most affected:

The Muslim-majority country facing the most disruption is Iran, which historically has led the others in nonimmigrant visas to the United States, despite the estrangement in relations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

By some estimates one million US citizens of Iranian descent live in the United States, and many have traveled to Iran for family visits. But, it is difficult to see how their Iran-based relatives can visit them.

Fear first rippled through the Iranian-US community with Trump’s initial iteration of a travel ban 18 months ago, which caused chaos in its disorganised rollout and was blocked by the courts.

But, the angst has returned with the latest iteration, especially now that it has been validated by the Supreme Court, said Jamal Abdi, vice president of policy at the National Iranian American Council, a Washington-based advocacy group.

“Iranians cannot travel here unless they get a waiver. The waiver process is unpredictable, with no explanation of how it will be implemented,” he said. “So there is extreme uncertainty. I think a lot of people are living with this.”

The impact is likely to further anger Iran’s hard-line opponents to Trump as he has moved to isolate the country. Iran already is feeling the ill effects of Trump’s decision last month to withdraw the US from the 2015 nuclear agreement and re-impose economic sanctions, which penalise businesses in other countries for doing business with Iran.

The Supreme Court decision came the same day the State Department said it expected all countries to cut their imports of Iranian oil to zero under the rei-mposed sanctions that take effect in November.

LEAST hurt — Venezuela and North Korea

The practical effects on these two non-Muslim majority nations are minimal, lending weight to critics who said their inclusion was meant to mask what was essentially a ban that affected Muslims.

The restrictions on Venezuelans apply only to a narrow category of government officials deemed responsible for failing to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security in identifying visa seekers who are security risks.

While the restrictions on North Koreans apply to all, there are hardly any who are allowed by their government to come to the United States.

“Most people have forgotten that North Korea was added to the list of countries subject to the ban, mostly as a way of making it look less like an anti-Muslim measure,” said Evans J.R. Revere, a former State Department diplomat who is an expert on North Korea.

While North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, may regard North Korea’s inclusion as an unfriendly act, he is far more concerned with all of the other sanctions imposed on North Korea because of the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile development.

Trump, who met with Kim at a groundbreaking summit in Singapore on June 12, has said the North Korean leader is committed to denuclearisation, but large questions remain over how, when or even whether it will happen.

Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor of Korean studies at Tufts University, said “the inclusion of North Korea is likely to be reversed by the administration, that is, used as a chip in further advancing the illusion of rapprochement”. — NYT

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