Danielle McLaughlin: Trump sunk by his big mouth

Donald Trump made no secret of the motivation for immigration reforms, and federal courts have responded.

Donald Trump made no secret of the motivation for immigration reforms, and federal courts have responded.

OPINION: This week, Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric came back to bite him a second time, frustrating his attempts to temporarily ban citizens of six Muslim Majority countries from American shores in the name of national security.

On Wednesday night US time, a federal court in Hawaii issued an order, effective nationwide, stopping the implementation of the Trump travel ban version 2.0.  On Thursday morning, a Maryland federal court issued a similar but more limited order halting portions of the ban.

Although the new ban was much less restrictive than the first, two federal courts decided that the new ban harmed US citizens, businesses and universities more than  it served national security interests.  And that despite the changes made by Trump's Administration, one fundamental problem remained.  In light of Trump's campaign rhetoric and the pronouncements of his advisers post-election, both courts decided that the new ban, like the old one, was the "realisation of the long-envisioned Muslim ban", an affront to the principle that the US government cannot discriminate on the basis of religion.

Trump is trapped by his own rhetoric, writes Danielle McLaughlin.

Trump is trapped by his own rhetoric, writes Danielle McLaughlin.

So, how was the new ban different from the first?

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Among other things, it no longer banned Iraqi citizens.  After  intervention from the Iraqi government and an uproar over the plight of Iraqis (translators in particular) who had put their lives on the line to assist the US military in its ground war, the new ban affected only six nations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The new ban left legal permanent residents (like me) as well as current visa holders alone.  These folks have pretty robust constitutional rights, so including them in the first ban was never a particularly bright idea.

The new one halted only new visa applications (rather than visas already granted) from the six countries, changed the permanent ban on Syrian refugees into a temporary, 120-day ban, and it no longer professed to favour Christian refugees over Muslim refugees.

But what did not change was the way Trump and his aides talked about what he really wanted to achieve.

As the Hawaiian court noted in its judgment on Wednesday, Trump himself shouted his "Muslim ban" promises from podiums in aircraft hangars and in hushed tones in interviews.  And even after his first travel ban failed, his advisers explained, live on air, that the underlying policy remained the same.

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They say loose lips sink ships. Well, this ship is sinking.

There are plenty of people who are angry that a handful of federal courts have stopped the Trump Administration from doing what it wants to do.  To be sure, the president has broad power over national security and US borders.  But the president is also constrained by the constitutional protections Americans hold dear.  And that includes freedom of religion and equal protection under law.  The judge in Hawaii determined that it was likely that the new travel ban did violate the constitutional rule that the government cannot favour one religion over another, and did subject Muslim Americans to a different standard under law than non-Muslim Americans.

So I suggest that anger be directed towards Trump. Because his anti-Muslim fervour has actually tied his own hands, and potentially harmed the interests of the American people. The president called the Hawaii ruling "terrible". But it was a win for the constitution and the rule of law. Which Trump is bound by, and swore an oath to protect.  


Follow Danielle on Twitter: @MsDMcLaughlin

 - Sunday Star Times

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