UC Berkeley reacts to Supreme Court’s decision to temporarily uphold part of travel ban

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Pamela Larson/File

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The U.S. Supreme Court issued an administrative ruling Monday that delayed the implementation of a stop on President Donald Trump’s travel ban until the matter can be deliberated on by the Supreme Court in October.

According to Kim Seelinger, faculty at the Human Rights Center at Berkeley Law and co-instructor of the Refugee Law & Processes course, the initial January ban changed several aspects of the U.S. immigration policy. The changes included suspending the refugee admissions program, including those who were already eligible — reducing the United States’ annual refugee admissions by more than half, from 110,000 to 50,000, and banning the travel of people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Seelinger said in an email that the ban, often called “Muslim Travel Ban 2.0,” is a revision of the initial January executive order. Some of the primary changes include Iraq’s removal from the list of excluded countries, lightening of the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees and exempting individuals with valid green cards, among other things.

“2.0 was less sloppy than the original January version, but still arguably a violation of the Constitution and our immigration laws,” Seelinger said in her email.

According to ASUC senator Nuha Khalfay, many international students from “travel-ban” countries have been afraid to leave the United States during breaks for fear they would not be able to re-enter the country.

“When the travel ban was first announced in January, it was a very scary time for a lot of community members, because even people who were citizens of the United States were being stopped,” Nuha said. “To hear that those feelings and that fear of being able to re-enter the country is being brought up again is really scary.”

Seth Grossman, who served as Counsel to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under the Obama Administration and currently works as a lecturer at Berkeley Law, said that under the previous administration, security was focused on individualized screening.

Grossman added that a refugee is vetted repeatedly over the course of 18 to 24 months before being allowed in the country. Refugees also go through several interviews and various biometric and biographic tests, such as fingerprinting.

“(The new ban) is quite a bit different than that,” Grossman said. “This instead has blocked whole categories of people.”

According to Grossman, the ban seems to some a simplistic approach to national security. Grossman said that in his opinion, this approach doesn’t make sense from a security or diplomatic perspective.

ASUC senator Alexander Wilfert said that as a Lebanese student with many Muslim family members, this ban hits especially close to home.

“This is the type of thing that for a lot of our students isn’t across our borders — it is close to their hearts,” Wilfert said. “People think it’s not happening here, but at the same time, this affects a lot of individuals I know, and it is something that we need to be conscious of.”

According to Seelinger, the order directly affects families with relatives from banned countries who are in need of refuge or even just want to visit people in the United States. Beyond direct effects, Seelinger said that combined with the recent moves to end DACA, this can be seen as a “broader assault on the security of immigrants in the United States.”

“This ban is part of a multi-faceted effort that ultimately affects us all at some level,” Seelinger said, “because they target someone we teach, someone we study with, someone we love.”

Contact Kate Tinney at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @K_Tinney.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that Kim Seelinger believes that the initial January travel ban was an improvement on U.S. immigration policy. In fact, Seelinger believes that the changes are possibly a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

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