A scaled-down version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban took effect at 8 p.m. ET Thursday, with none of the dramatic scenes of protest and chaos that greeted the original version of Trump’s executive order five months ago.
The Departments of Homeland Security, State and Justice went ahead with the implementation after the Supreme Court partially restored the order earlier this week.
The new rules tighten visa policies affecting citizens from six majority Muslim nations: Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. People from those countries who need new visas will now have to prove a close family relationship or an existing relationship with an entity like a school or business in the United States.
Citizens of those countries who already have visas will be allowed into the U.S. as usual.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer met with customs officials and said he felt things would go smoothly.
“For tonight, I’m anticipating few issues because, I think, there’s better preparation,” he told reporters at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday night. “The federal government here, I think, has taken steps to avoid the havoc that occurred the last time.”
Much of the confusion in January, when Trump’s first ban took effect, resulted from travelers with previously approved visas being kept off flights or barred entry on arrival in the United States.
Lower courts blocked that initial order and, later, a revised Trump order intended to overcome legal hurdles.
In guidance issued late Wednesday, the State Department said the family relationships valid for entry would include a parent, spouse, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already in the United States. It does not include other relationships such as grandparents, grandchildren, aunts and uncles.
As the order took effect, the state of Hawaii filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge to clarify that the administration cannot enforce the ban against fiancés or other relatives not included in the State Department’s definition of “bona fide” personal relationships.
The “bona fide relationship” restriction also applies to refugees, regardless of their country of origin, unless they are able to obtain a so-called “national interest waiver” from the State Department or U.S. Customs and Border Protection. However, the U.S. has almost filled its quota of 50,000 refugees for the budget year ending in September and the new rules won’t apply to the few remaining slots. With the Supreme Court set to consider the overall ban in October, the rules could change again.
Business or professional links must be “formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course rather than for the purpose of evading” the ban. Journalists, students, workers or lecturers who have valid invitations or employment contracts in the U.S. would be exempt from the ban. The exemption does not apply to those who seek a relationship with an American business or educational institution purely for the purpose of avoiding the rules.
Consular officers may grant other exemptions to applicants from the six nations if they have “previously established significant contacts with the United States;” “significant business or professional obligations” in the U.S.; if they are an infant, adopted child or in need of urgent medical care; if they are traveling for business with a recognized international organization or the U.S. government or if they are a legal resident of Canada who applies for a visa in Canada,” according to the State Department guidance.
Even before Hawaii’s filing, immigration and refugee advocates vowed to challenge the new requirements. The American Civil Liberties Union has called the new criteria “extremely restrictive,” ”arbitrary” in their exclusions and designed to “disparage and condemn Muslims.”
Karen Tumlin, legal director of the National Immigration Law Center, said the rules “would slam the door shut on so many who have waited for months or years to be reunited with their families.”
Earlier this month, the Trump administration approved a new questionnaire for U.S. visa applicants that asks for social media handles and accounts used during the last five years and travel history, including the source of funding for trips, over the past 15 years, for more “rigorous” vetting.
The travel ban may have the largest impact on Iranians. In 2015, the most recently available data, nearly 26,000 Iranians were allowed into the United States on visitor or tourist visas. Iranians made up the lion’s share of the roughly 65,000 foreigners from the six countries who visited with temporary, or non-immigrant visas that year.