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Rights groups slam Trump's revised travel ban

Several groups called Trump's new travel order a Muslim ban with 'merely cosmetic' changes to mask 'the same old hatred'
When Trump's first travel ban was issued, protesters demonstrated in most major US cities and airports (Reuters)

US civil rights groups on Monday roundly slammed President Donald Trump's revised immigration order as a "Muslim ban" in all but name, and vowed to keep fighting it in court.

"The Trump administration has conceded that its original Muslim ban was indefensible. Unfortunately, it has replaced it with a scaled-back version that shares the same fatal flaws," said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrant Rights Project. 

"The only way to actually fix the Muslim ban is not to have a Muslim ban."

The New York Immigration Coalition called the revised ban, which halts new visas for people from six majority-Muslim countries, "a mask for the same old hatred, fear and incompetence".

"This is just one more example of the president's concerted effort to divide this country and instil panic and fear in immigrant, refugee and Muslim communities," said NYIC director Steven Choi.

Human Rights Watch said the changes to the original 27 January order, which fell afoul of the US constitution because it appeared to overtly target Muslims, "are merely cosmetic".

"President Trump still seems to believe you can determine who's a terrorist by knowing which country a man, woman or child is from," said the group's US immigration researcher Grace Meng.

Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, called the new order a "cowardly approach".

"What we have since the Trump administration has come into office is a pull-away from the American values we have grown to know and who we are as a country. From our perspective, this gets right into terrorism, this is a cowardly approach," he told Middle East Eye hours after the new order was issued.

"The choices of these countries are arbitrary. The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed there is no risk from the citizens of this arbitrary set of countries... What we know is that this is a Muslim ban. That’s what it is," he added.

Nasser Beydoun, chair of the Arab American Civil Rights League (ACRL), an advocacy group based in Dearborn, Michigan, said relaxing the rules of the ban is a result of the 'resistance movement' against the original executive order.

ACRL had sued the president over the first Muslim ban, and a federal judge in Detroit proclaimed the provisions banning green card holders from entry illegal. Beydoun said the organisation’s legal experts will review the revised order and challenge it again in court if it is unconstitutional.

“We feel that this ban is dangerous,” he told MEE. “We feel that this administration is bigoted and anti-Muslim. We need to do everything in our power to protect our community.” 

Dr Jim Rigby, pastor of St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX, said the ban violates due process by assuming the guilt of potential Muslim immigrants based on their religion.

Rigby, a social justice advocate, sees the fight against Islamophobia as an essential part of a broader battle for democracy in the US.

“The way we treat the Muslim population is probably whether we’re going to be fascist or democratic,” he told MEE.

The Arab American Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said the revised order “changes nothing” about Trump’s discriminatory attempt to ban Muslims.

"We are glad the administration now realises legal permanent residents have constitutional rights and Iraqis are human beings and as such worthy of individual consideration and due process but it’s time for the Administration to also realise that it is wrong to discriminate against an entire people because of their faith," AAI president James Zogby said in a statement.

Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance, said his group expects as well to battle the revised order in court.

"Even in its slightly revised form, President Trump's Muslim ban violates constitutional principles and undermines America's standing in the world," Moline said.

"We must be clear that discriminating against millions of people on the basis of their religion does nothing to make Americans safer."

The United Farm Workers of America, a union fighting a separate Trump effort to expel millions of mostly Latino undocumented immigrants, branded the new travel ban "a grievous affront to the fundamental values that make America an exceptional nation".