Hold On To That Refugee Nice Time, Because Trump Is Telling All Those Judges To F*ck Right Out Of Here

Gaul is supposed to be a big deal, but it's very disappointing. Terrible golf. Sad!

We hope you've enjoyed hearing about the spontaneous outpourings of protest, love, and support for refugees in the face of Lord Dampnut's (it's an anagram!) travel ban, because now we need to confirm your niggling suspicion that it's even worse than you thought. Not only has the Dampnut administration generally been horrible, but we have confirmation the administration has decided to directly disobey two judges' orders in an attempt to skirt rulings against the travel restrictions. We know you are shocked to learn this!

Trump's people have apparently made up their very own loophole to get around a ruling by Massachusetts federal judges Allison Dale Burroughs and Judith G. Dein which specifies the administration

shall not, by any manner or means, detain or remove individuals with refugee applications approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, holders of valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas, lawful permanent residents, and other individuals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen who, absent the Executive Order, would be legally authorized to enter the United States.

Sounds pretty definitive, right? If somebody has a valid visa, gotta let 'em fly in to Boston's Logan International Airport, according to the order. The order also made it clear the administration should tell airlines to allow qualified visa-holders to board planes for Logan. Following that order Sunday, a Los Angeles federal court enjoined Trump from "blocking the entry" of several specifically named travelers stuck in an airport in Djibouti, as well as "any other person from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen with a valid immigrant visa." Like the Boston order, this one instructed the Trump administration to let the airlines and the airport in Djibouti know the passengers were free to fly.

So you'd expect a bunch more people to be freed from the travel restrictions, huh? Nah. The Trumpers are too busy yelling at Iran about the Bowling Green Massacre and Arnold Schwarzenegger's ratings to comply with some dumb court order, as Slate's Jeremy Stahl discovered. You see, Trump's Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agency just plain never told the airlines or the airports to let these people fly. To get a full sense of how Trump is using Kafka as a user's manual for governing, read Stahl's full article, which details his attempts to find out what the administration has or hasn't actually told the airlines and airports, particularly in Djibouti, where hundreds of travelers with (formerly) valid visas are waiting to get on planes. The CBP won't respond to emails or answer the phone, and their voicemail is full. Stahl is at least able to speak to a guy, "Hamdi," at the security department of Qatar Airways, who politely but firmly informs him nobody can fly, because the CBP hadn't sent on the court-ordered notifications:

When I read him one of the court orders, Hamdi said: “No, no. I’m afraid this is not accurate information, because we have the information coming from Customs and Border Protection agency in U.S. saying it gives us the categories of visas that are allowed to travel to the U.S.”

Oh, but there's more. The CBP changes its phone number, and nobody can tell him the new one. No, Qatar Airways can't tell him the new number. A day later, the security department number for Qatar Airways he'd previously called gives him only "an automated message in Arabic followed by this message in English: 'Sorry, your call is restricted.'" So he tries again from a different number, he gets through, but instead of Hamdi, he gets handed off to a guy who keeps repeating they can't give him any information at all, although the day before, Hamdi had been quite specific (if wrong, since he didn't know about the court order) about the types of visas that weren't allowed. But now, no information to journalists.

We also find out that for good measure, as soon as the executive order was issued, the State Department also cancelled all visas for people from the seven banned countries, so there was no worry about having to let people with "valid visas" fly. Presto! Those visas were magically invalid, so everything was perfectly legal under the court order, kinda sorta:

“If you’re looking for daylight here, that is the daylight,” Pratheepan Gulasekaram, an associate professor and expert in immigration law at Santa Clara University School of Law, told me. “If the order says you can’t deny a ‘valid visa’ to somebody coming from one of these countries, then fine, make the visa invalid before they get in—then you’re no longer denying that visa.”

He added, “I think that it’s a nonsense way of doing it.”

Fun, huh? Also, the Boston judges' order barred the administration from detaining or returning passengers "solely on the basis of the Executive Order," which the State Department memo invalidating the visas may actually violate. What it all comes down to is that the Trump administration, from the top down, appears to be in violation of the court orders, and people who should have been allowed to travel are being kept from boarding planes. A huge number of visa-holders have been affected: the Boston Globe found at least 721 people prevented from traveling, in violation of the order. Oh, but again, not a problem, since the visas were invalidated. But the court order said they couldn't be invalidated by the executive order. There will be more lawsuits, and the Trump administration may or may not comply with the outcomes, depending on whether Trump has had his nap that day.

So who exactly is in contempt of court here? According to Gulasekaram, the immigration law expert,

Fundamentally, this comes down to the responsibility of the executive. The executive has to have control over his underlings, over his Cabinet-level members, and then have them control their line officers and get them in line, otherwise the president and everybody on down the line is essentially violating the court order and can be held in contempt.

So lock 'em all up? Sounds good to us! Also, we learn today that the State Department order didn't just put the travelers' visas on hold for 90 days. They disappeared them altogether. Turns out at least 100,000 visas were invalidated with that one order. Here's NBC's Betsy Woodruff live-tweetening the action:

Huh! That's like a lot more than the 109 people Sean Spicer has been saying were affected; at today's White House briefing, he simply ignored a question about the far higher number, according to Media Matters' Eric Boehlert:

So really, it's still just a small number of people being inconvenienced. Just a thousand times more of a small number, but really nothing compared to the world population. You know that out of 1.5 billion Muslims, only 100,000 had their valid visas arbitrarily cancelled? It's tiny! What Muslim ban? There is no Muslim ban! And whatever you do, please don't bother us with your sob stories about the children being affected -- and in some cases, who may die -- thanks to the travel ban:

One is a 9-year-old Somali child in Ethiopia with a congenital heart disease that cannot be treated in a refugee camp. Another is a 1-year-old Sudanese boy with cancer. A third is a Somali boy with a severe intestinal disorder living in a camp that doesn’t even have the colostomy bags he needs.

Stop it. Such cheap emotional appeals must be avoided in a calm, rational discussion of how Donald Trump is protecting us from dangerous terrorists who want to torture, rape, and kill us all, then force Sharia law on us.

[Slate / Boston Globe / NBC News / WaPo]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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