Timeline: The evolution of Trump’s travel ban

Monday morning the White House rolled out the latest version of President Trump’s immigration policy, with the president signing the revised executive order. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly detailed the revised language, which limited immigration from six majority-Muslim countries and dropped the exception carved out for religious minorities, which was seen by opponents as representing an unconstitutional form of religious discrimination.

The lineage of the order can be traced back to 2015 and the Republican primary, where in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting, then-candidate Trump called for temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States. Below is a timeline of the travel ban’s evolution, from campaign promise to executive order to appeals court to today’s revised version.

Dec. 7, 2015: At a campaign event in South Carolina, Trump announces his plans for a ban on Muslims traveling to the United States. By some interpretations, that could have covered not just immigrants but legal residents, even citizens. The statement read, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

“Without looking at the various polling data,” the statement continued, “it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”

July 21, 2016: During his address at the Republican National Convention, Trump said, “We must immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place.”

When asked whether that quote meant a slight rollback from his original ban promise on “Meet the Press” three days later, Trump replied: “I don’t think so. I actually don’t think it’s a rollback. In fact, you could say it’s an expansion. I’m looking now at territories. People were so upset when I used the word ‘Muslim.’ Oh, you can’t use the word ‘Muslim.’ Remember this. And I’m OK with that, because I’m talking territory instead of Muslim.”

Jan. 27, 2017: Late on his first full Friday in the White House, Trump signs an executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” The order indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) for 90 days.

Jan. 28: A series of protests at airports across the country take place, including a temporary halt in taxi service from JFK Airport in New York City. The ACLU wins an emergency stay on the ban in a New York federal court. Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi interpreter who worked with U.S. military forces and had a Special Immigrant Visa, was initially detained at JFK but then released.

“It’s not a Muslim ban, but we were totally prepared. It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over,” said Trump when asked about how the order was working.

Jan. 29: The Department of Homeland Security releases a statement saying that green card holders would be exempt from the ban. The White House had initially said that they would be subject to additional screening.

In an interview with Fox News, former New York City mayor and Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani said that Trump had asked him about how to legally implement a Muslim ban.

Jan. 30: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is fired by Trump for refusing to defend the order. “At present,” wrote Yates in a letter to Justice Department lawyers, “I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful. Consequently, for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”

“Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” read the White House statement announcing her termination. “It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.”

It was later reported that Yates had also advised the White House about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s contact with Russian officials.

Trump tweets, “If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there!”

The revised order signed Monday doesn’t go into effect for 10 days.

Former President Barack Obama’s office releases a statement:

“President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country,” Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said. “In his final official speech as president, he spoke about the important role of citizens and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy — not just during an election but every day.”

“Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake. With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”

The state of Washington announces it is suing Trump over the ban, attempting to have it declared unconstitutional and asking for a temporary restraining order against its enforcement. It is joined by Minnesota.

Jan. 31: White House press secretary Sean Spicer argues at a White House press briefing that the order is not a ban.

“I think the president has talked about extreme vetting and the need to keep America safe for a very, very long time. At the same time, he’s also made very clear that this is not a Muslim ban. It’s not a travel ban. It’s a vetting system to keep America safe. That’s it plain and simple, and all of the facts, and a reading of it, clearly show that that’s what it is,” Spicer said.

Yahoo News pointed out that Giuliani did not say the ban was based on religion, but instead suggested that it arose as a result of a desire for a Muslim ban.

“Then you should ask Mayor Giuliani,” Spicer replied. “That’s — that’s his opinion. I’m just telling you what the president has said, and what the president has done has been to focus on making sure that we keep the country safe and that the executive order that was drafted does just that.”

Feb. 3: Federal Judge James Robart rules in favor of the states of Washington and Minnesota in a national halt of the executive order. “The executive order adversely affects the states’ residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel,” Robart, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote. “These harms are significant and ongoing.”

The White House responded with a written statement: “At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate. The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.”

The White House later issued a revised statement without the word “outrageous.”

“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” said Trump via Twitter.

“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?” continued Trump. “Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision. The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart. Bad people are very happy!”

U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton rules in favor of the ban in a suit filed by the ACLU of Massachusetts, refusing to issue the stay because he believed the administration was likely to prevail, on the grounds that the president has broad powers over immigration.

Feb. 9: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules 3-0 to uphold Robart’s stay. The three judges said the states had shown that even temporary reinstatement of the ban would cause harm and that the U.S. government had not offered “any evidence” of national security concerns to justify banning travel from the seven countries.


Feb. 10: At a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump is asked about how he would respond to the Ninth Circuit ruling against his order: “We’ll be doing something very rapidly having to do with additional security for our country. You’ll be seeing that sometime next week. In addition, we will continue to go through the court process, and ultimately I have no doubt that we’ll win that particular case.”

Feb. 16: In a press conference, Trump says that he’ll institute a new immigration order, backing away from attempting to take the original immigration ban case to the Supreme Court.

“Rather than continuing this litigation, the President intends in the near future to rescind the Order and replace it with a new, substantially revised Executive Order to eliminate what the panel erroneously thought were constitutional concerns,” wrote Justice Department lawyers. “In so doing, the President will clear the way for immediately protecting the country rather than pursuing further, potentially time-consuming litigation.”

Feb. 21: In a town hall on Fox News, White House policy adviser Stephen Miller says that the new immigration order will be “fundamentally” the same as the original order.

“One of the big differences that you are going to see in the executive order is that it is going to be responsive to the judicial ruling which didn’t exist previously,” said Miller. “And so these are mostly minor, technical differences. Fundamentally, you are still going to have the same, basic policy outcome for the country.”

March 1: Plans to sign the executive order are pushed back following Trump’s joint address to Congress. A senior administration official told CNN, “We want the [executive order] to have its own ‘moment.’”

March 6: Trump signs the revised immigration ban, which includes the original seven countries except for Iraq. The order goes into effect March 16 and revokes the Jan. 27 order.

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