Email #203: “watered down”?

I am pleased that the Supreme Court ruled unanimously on the President’s travel ban this week. That is exactly the unified, bipartisan leadership our country desperately needs. And though I still personally disagree with the ban, the Court found a reasonable middle ground for compromise.

While the Court is allowing the ban to stop travel from the six targeted nations, they established significant exceptions for “foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” and defined those exceptions based on the challenges upheld by the lower courts:

“The facts of these cases illustrate the sort of relationship that qualifies. For individuals, a close familial relationship is required. A foreign national who wishes to enter the United States to live with or visit a family member, like Doe’s wife or Dr. Elshikh’s mother-in-law, clearly has such a relationship. As for entities, the relationship must be formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading [the executive order]. The students from the designated countries who have been admitted to the University of Hawaii have such a relationship with an American entity. So too would a worker who accepted an offer of employment from an American company or a lecturer invited to address an American audience.”

Also, since the second executive order was issued in March, “the parties are directed to address the following question: ‘Whether the challenges … became moot on June 14, 2017,’” and the Court fully expects “that the relief we grant today will permit the executive to conclude its internal work and provide adequate notice to foreign governments within the 90-day life of” the ban.

Since the House Judiciary Committee oversees immigration and because your own staffers helped the White House draft the ban, I am surprised that you have not responded to the Court’s decision. You defended your staff’s participation in January: “I proudly allowed them to provide their expertise to the Trump transition team on immigration law.” You also said in March that the “Ninth Circuit was wrong on the first executive order” and you “applauded” the President when he revised it.

Oddly, the President later criticized his second order as a “watered down, politically correct version.” The Court has now “watered down” that version even more, providing reasonable exceptions for family members, students, employees, and invited speakers and strongly emphasizing its limited time scope. Given you and your staffers’ expertise, why didn’t the House Judiciary Committee advise the President to issue his original order with a scope as limited as the one now imposed by the Court? Or do you disagree with the Supreme Justices and believe that the first order should have been upheld despite the chaos and hardships it caused when implemented without warning? Couldn’t all of these months of political and legal arguing have been avoided if the President had taken a more reasonable approach from the start?

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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