Hastily signed, shoddily implemented, and vigorously fought, Donald Trump’s Muslim ban has been as big of a logistical nightmare as it has been a moral nightmare. After a week of protests and litigation, hope arrived Friday when Washington judge James Robart ordered a halt to the travel ban nationwide. The judge’s ruling was the result of a lawsuit against the ban, brought by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. The Justice Department and Trump’s administration have vowed to fight to reinstate the ban. Let’s look back at the first week of this authoritarian clusterfuck, and examine how we got here today.
In the worst attempt at a Friday news dump ever, at 4:42 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, Donald Trump signed an executive order blocking all refugees from entering the U.S. for at least 120 days, and citizens from Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, and Somalia with immigrant and nonimmigrant visas for at least 90 days. Syrian refugees, who are classified separately, are barred indefinitely. Not only do many critics feel the ban is against American values, as it discriminates on the basis of religion, it is also viewed as ineffective: Nationals from the affected countries have not been responsible for a terror attack on U.S. soil since the ’70s.
The weekend of the 28th and 29th was marked by protests across the country. Lawyers, many of whom were working on behalf of the ACLU, set up shop in airport food courts from JFK to LAX in order to assist and protect those affected by the ban. Reports that Border Patrol officials were goading detainees into surrendering their green cards and cancelling their visas emerged quickly, and many travellers reported that they were asked personal questions about their religion and social media presence. This further incensed protesters and prompted stern rebukes from civil rights and religious freedom advocates across the country. Before the end of the day on Saturday, a federal judge in Brooklyn had already struck down a portion of the travel ban as unconstitutional.
By Monday morning, many prominent Americans were speaking out against the ban. Alongside at least 100 American diplomats, acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates denounced the executive order and refused to have any part in enforcing it. The Trump administration promptly fired her Monday night.
.@POTUS has named Dana Boente, US Attorney for the Eastern District of VA as Acting Attorney General. Sally Yates has been relieved.— Sean Spicer (@PressSec) January 31, 2017
Sensing the PR nightmare that was unfolding before them, the White House began relenting on portions of the order and trying to spin the ban as best it could. It failed miserably. As early as Sunday, the White House had already trotted out perpetually pathetic Reince Priebus to claim that the ban wouldn’t affect green card holders, though in many cities it already had. Already beleaguered White House press secretary and alternative truther Sean Spicer was reduced to spouting lines like, “It’s not a Muslim ban. It’s not a travel ban. It’s a vetting system to keep Americans safe.” Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani undermined the White House effort Saturday night on Fox News when he flat-out admitted that he had helped craft the order as an attempt at a legal Muslim ban.
As the White House attempted in vain to cover its tracks, reports emerged that the reason the ban’s implementation was so scattered was that only a few in Trump’s inner circle even knew about the ban before it was issued. Trump advisor Steve Bannon was outed as the chief architect of the ban. His tendency toward centralized secrecy resulted in a muddled rollout and mass confusion. Story after story made the White House look evil and stupid, as doctors, children, medical patients in critical condition, diplomats, and even a former Norwegian prime minister were detained.
As more details regarding the ban emerged, lawyers across the country continued to work to get a complete picture. Dozens of lawsuits were filed against the executive order and another slew of Freedom of Information Act suits were filed in an attempt to get more information about its implementation. Lawyers in Los Angeles gathered the names of several hundred detainees at LAX alone, many of whom reported being segregated from Christian and Jewish detainees.
Somehow, by the end of the week, the Trump administration managed to look even worse. Administration mouthpieces like Spicer and Kellyanne Conway had made the rounds claiming that only a few hundred people had been affected, but the Justice Department estimated that 60,000 people had been impacted, while the State Department estimated 100,000 visas revoked.
Protests continued as the week came to an end, including the powerful #BodegaStrike on Thursday, which saw over 1,000 Yemeni owned New York bodegas shut their doors for the day and hit the streets in protest of the treatment of their countrymen.
As outrage grew and the administration scrambled, the ACLU and other civil rights advocates fought on. Though their efforts resulted in a temporary stay of the executive order, the battle is far from over. With a 4-4 Supreme Court soon to be tipped in favor of conservatives, the Trump Administration dedicated to enforcing the order, and with President Trump recklessly insulting Judge Robart on Twitter, the stage is set for a showdown. The Justice Department has already filed an appeal of Robart’s decision. Here’s hoping that human decency will win the day, but it seems clear that a lot more lawyers will have to go to a lot more airports before the issue is finally settled.