The White House Is Undermining Its Own Case for the Urgency of a Travel Ban

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Stephen Miller and Trump himself seem to favor an economic rationale for closing the borders, not the national-security arguments the administration is making to judges. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

As you may recall, the chaos surrounding the promulgation of the president’s initial version of the travel ban, and the urgent requests the administration made to the courts to reinstitute it instantly, were both based on an alleged finding by the president that it was necessary for national-security purposes. Putting aside for a moment the question of whether there was any empirical basis for this finding, there is no question a national-security rationale was legally the strongest ground for Team Trump to stand on, given the fairly broad powers Congress has granted to the president to ban the entry of immigrants who pose a threat to national security.

That’s why it is interesting that Trump’s senior advisers, most especially Stephen Miller, who was heavily involved in the travel-ban fiasco, are now making public noises about economic reasons, and especially downward pressure on wages for American citizens, being an alternate and perhaps competing rationale for building a higher, er, wall against immigrants and refugees. Greg Sargent makes the case:

It’s possible for the ban to have more than one rationale, and Miller himself says as much. But the point is that this raises additional legitimate questions about whether the national security rationale for the ban is merely a pretext. Such questions have been raised before. As many have pointed out, Trump repeatedly campaigned on an explicit vow to ban Muslim entry into the United States, which raises questions as to whether the executive order was designed to move towards a Muslim ban in a manner designed to get around legal hurdles, meaning it has discriminatory intent and effect. In blocking the ban, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that outside evidence, such as Trump’s public “Muslim ban” comments, can be considered in assessing its intent. Miller has added another possible motive into the mix.

Sargent wrote this before Trump himself repeatedly mentioned higher wages as a purported benefit of tighter immigration policies in his speech to Congress last night.

And now we hear of another indirect admission by the administration that restricting entry into the United States might be something other than a national-security emergency. As Alex Shephard notes, the sudden delay in releasing a new version of the travel ban is clearly to avoid stepping on the rosy glow from Trump’s speech, and to avoid mixing messages.

Politically speaking, this makes sense—the Trump administration has not had very many days like today. But by delaying the implementation of the revised order, the Trump administration is contradicting some of the arguments that it made to justify the travel ban in the first place.

Trump’s lawyers may discover this next time they stand before a judge or a court, demanding that review of a travel ban be brushed aside because of an imminent threat to the safety of Americans. If the ban could be put off until a day without competing media narratives, it can probably be put off until it undergoes judicial review.

White House Undermining Own Case for Urgency of a Travel Ban