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Saturday, October 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Trump needs to finish vetting visitors, refugees

The following editorial is from the Seattle Times.

The U.S. Supreme Court may have allowed President Donald Trump’s travel ban to proceed but it’s not letting him off the hook. Neither should Americans. With the ban partly restored at least until an October court hearing, the Trump administration can now finish the review of visa and refugee policies that it started in January.

Remember, the ban was supposed to be a temporary pause, to give the administration a few months to review and improve the vetting of visitors and refugees. Five months have passed and this policy work is still unfinished.

That’s not all Trump’s fault. An overly broad restraining order hindered progress through spring. Trump also moved deadlines as he reworked and amended his initial order, in response to lawsuits filed by states, including Washington.

But now the clock is ticking on a basic test of executive performance that transcends the travel ban. If there’s a flawed policy that urgently needs to be fixed, can the Trump administration get it done promptly? The Supreme Court is watching the clock. Since a lower court clarified on June 12 that policy work can continue, that “may proceed promptly, if it is not already underway,” its Monday ruling said.

“Given the government’s representations in this litigation … we fully expect that the relief we grant today will permit the Executive to conclude its internal work and provide adequate notice to foreign governments within the 90-day life” of the ban.

This is a performance question. It doesn’t diminish serious and ongoing concerns that the ban may be discriminatory and unconstitutional. Lower courts said it appears so; the Supreme Court will fully consider that in October.

Then there is harm caused to America’s global stature and moral authority by turning away refugees and smearing entire populations as potential terrorists. That will take many years to repair.

In the meantime, there’s a parallel question about whether Trump can execute a fairly basic governing maneuver: to declare a moratorium while making policy adjustments.

Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order suspended entry for 90 days of visitors from seven countries deemed terrorism risks. A 120-day moratorium was placed on refugee admittance, so the State Department could review and potentially strengthen its vetting process.

Progress on these reviews is unclear.

The bottom line is that Americans were told by their president five months ago that their lives were in danger because terrorists might slip through a flawed vetting system.

That threat was used to justify an abrupt travel ban. It was also an excuse for the ban’s terrible implementation. Trump can’t have it both ways.

If vetting procedures are truly lax and endangering Americans, this should be a top priority and fixed yesterday. Such a crisis would leave Trump no time for golf, TV or campaign events. It would demand his full attention until safety is restored.

If it turns out the ban wasn’t warranted – and its extreme measures were based on misinformation, prejudice or politics – the country won’t be any safer. But it will be ashamed.

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