Refugee advocates are looking to get a federal judge to block Trump’s second travel ban before it starts—and they’re citing a top administration official to make the case.
On Wednesday, March 15—the day before implementation of the new executive order blocking people from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.—lawyers for a group of civil rights and refugee advocacy groups will square off against attorneys for the Justice Department in oral arguments at a federal court in Maryland.
The result could determine whether or not Trump’s new travel ban actually goes into effect—despite a number of changes made since the first botched roll-out.
But one of Trump’s top advisers, Stephen Miller, downplayed those changes during an interview on Fox News last month and that decision may have given activists the opening they need.
“Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country,” he said in an interview with host Martha MacCallum on Feb. 21. “But you’re going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by the court.”
Miller added that there would be “only minor technical differences” between the first executive order and its replacement.
The new travel ban, introduced on March 6, doesn’t impact people who currently have visas or green cards. It also removed Iraq from the list of banned countries.
But, like the previous order, it dramatically slashed the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. this year, and it only impacted countries with majority-Muslim populations.
Cecillia Wang, the ACLU’s deputy legal director, noted Miller’s comments on a Tuesday conference call with reporters as an indicator the new travel ban could have the same legal troubles as the old one. And Melissa Keaney, an attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, told reporters that she thinks the new ban’s changes won’t satisfy judges.
“This intent remains the same,” she said.
“Allowing more lead time to discriminate doesn’t make the discrimination any less harmful or unlawful,” she added.
But Miller isn’t the only Trump ally to make life harder for Justice Department attorneys. Rudy Giuliani, a top campaign surrogate, famously told Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro that he helped Trump put the first order together as a way of legally banning Muslims. And Trump himself told CBN News’s David Brody that his administration would give Christian refugees preferential treatment over Muslims. Opponents of the executive order cited both clips frequently.