Just one year ago, President Donald Trump released his first and most contentious travel ban. The order resulted in a significant amount of chaos for major international airports all across the country, spurring on protests and turmoil. Despite affirmations from the Trump administration calling the ban “efficient, orderly [and] enormously successful,” new evidence shows that the implementation didn’t go as smoothly as hoped. Emails sourced from the Department of Homeland Security show that The National Operations Center (NOC) Crisis Action Team (CAT) identified the situation as a crisis, activating special teams to respond to the protests and turmoil.
• Trump’s original order blocked travel for citizens coming from one or more of six individual Muslim-identified countries. These countries included Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Provisions for Syrian refugees and exclusion for Iraq were added in March 2017.
• When asked about the crisis designation, the DHS called it a “mechanism to ensure efficient coordination and communication.” They also indicated that, “The CAT is activated in response to a large-scale response effort to provide information and decision products to senior leadership.”
• The split between how DHS perceived the event and how the Trump administration saw the event is clear and wide. The White House has thus far refused to comment on the clear variance in perception.
• Further complicating the issue is the fact that released records twice refer to “war room” conversations and, in at least one case, demonstrate significant confusion around how to apply the initial order. This included Canadian residents with dual citizenship to banned countries and refugees lacking passports.
• A released email from a senior Customs and Border Patrol official highlights just how deep and extensive confusion over the order really was. “We got a memo from the White House saying one thing and now the Press Secretary said another.” The same set of emails also indicated that an identified government hotline for assistance or information regarding the order was unresponsive or somehow unavailable.
• Trump’s order was almost immediately shot down by judges, but went through several iterations over the early spring months. Various entities continue to battle it out in court over the order, which has now been temporarily allowed in its entirety. Many believe the order still lacks clarity, leaving far too much open to interpretation.
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