Good morning, friends. The GOP's latest healthcare bill is (maybe) in dire straits, the President's latest travel ban went (sort of, temporarily) into effect, and I'm terrified to type another sentence in the event this all changes in the next 15 minutes. 2017!
The legal battle over one of the Trump administration's signature policies — the 90-day ban on travel from six Muslim-majority countries and a 120-day suspension of the refugee program — is headed to the Supreme Court for October oral arguments, and on Monday the court allowed a portion of the ban to go into effect. And local refugee organizations are worried about what this might mean for their clients.
President Trump's original executive order, issued shortly after his inauguration in January, banned travel for 90 days from seven majority-Muslim countries and, along with the 120-day refugee suspension, barred Syrian refugees from the country indefinitely. It was met with confusion at airports as customs officials tried to enforce the ban, intense protests — several thousand showed up at Philly's airport to support detained travelers — and near-immediate legal challenges that led to a federal judge blocking the order.
Trump issued a rewritten order in March that was, again, blocked by two federal courts. Now, before arguments begin this fall, the Supreme Court has allowed the travel ban and the refugee program suspension to go into effect — but that those with a "bona fide relationship" with a "person or entity" in the U.S. will be allowed to enter. What that means will likely be hashed out in court, too — for now, justices said having a close family member here, a job at an American company or an acceptance to an American college would get someone past the ban.
HIAS-Pennsylvania, the Philly-based refugee resettlement organization, has 69 refugees who've been approved to travel to the U.S., but haven't arrived yet. A little over a third of them likely don't know anyone here, HIAS's director of refugee planning, Rona Buchalter, told me Monday. And the organization isn't sure if their work with those refugees will count as a "bona fide relationship," a concern shared by refugee groups across the country.
Critics like Buchalter have scoffed at the Trump administration's argument that the ban is necessary for national safety, saying it puts refugees themselves in mortal danger. "These are not populations that are a threat to us," she said. "These are people who are looking to get away from the violence and persecution and targeting and create a new life for their kids." And the uncertainty puts resettlement agencies like hers, which are funded per client, in difficult financial straits.
Republicans celebrated the ruling as a win in an arena where the president has been continually stymied. "Is anyone tired of winning yet?" the local GOP quipped on Twitter. On the other side of the aisle, Democratic minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi was in Philly for a discussion on economic development when she heard the news. "I'm glad that they're going to review the travel ban," she told an audience (that included my colleague Chris Brennan). But she said she was disappointed the Supreme Court hadn't put the ban on hold in the interim.
"We have gained ground. And those were never districts where we would have gone into. But we're glad we did." — Nancy Pelosi at the aforementioned economic development discussion in Philly yesterday, arguing that even though Democrats lost four hotly contested special Congressional elections in recent months, they at least got more of the vote than they did in 2016.
"It's worse to pass a bad bill than to pass no bill." — Sen. Rand Paul (R.-Kentucky), joining a handful of GOP senators expressing doubt about the Senate healthcare bill. Republicans, ABC reports, can't lose more than two votes.
"So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS, and ABC? What about the failing @nytimes and @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News!" — President Trump, whose regular litany of "fake news" organizations is now so familiar that I could probably recite it in my sleep. (In this tweet, by the way, he's referencing three CNN staffers who stepped down over a retracted story on the Russia probe.)