It seems US President Donald Trump has just got up from a deep slumber of three months to realize that the reworked Travel Ban plan that bears his signature has been watered down to the extent that it is worthless and its original and a much tougher version is needed to be restored. Donald Trump had signed the “watered down” version on March 6. And like his earlier attempt to enforce a nation-wide travel ban plan targeting a particular community, this, too, was stayed by the US courts.

After the London Bridge terror attack on June 3 that left seven dead and dozens injured, Trump has slammed the re-drafted version of his administration’s Travel Ban order an attempt to be “politically correct”, in a series of tweets, he has said that “the US Justice Department should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to the US Supreme Court and the Justice Department should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court – and seek much tougher version!”

It raises a pertinent question then – why Donald Trump allowed this watered down version to go through? Did he not study it before putting his signature or was he convinced that the modified version of Travel Ban kept his idea of travel ban intact, as the US courts later concluded?

On March 15, a Hawaii court blocked the Trump Administration’s second attempt to reintroduce the controversial Travel Ban plan saying it was biased and discriminatory. The ban was upheld by a Circuit Court of Appeals on May 25. Trump had signed the new executive order on March 6, weeks after the first futile attempt to ban immigration from some Muslim majority countries.

In the new executive order on Travel Ban, that, according to Trump is a watered down and politically correct version, three months after he signed it, the Trump administration had made some minor changes to the first version of the executive order which was issued on January 27 so that it could evade the courts. For example, the second order excluded Iraq from the list of countries facing the ban, i.e., Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan, and featured exemptions for green card holders, permanent US residents and for those already having a US visa.

But the courts weren’t satisfied. Comparing both versions of the Travel Ban executive order, the judge of the Hawaii found “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation of the executive order and its related predecessor.”

Trump had termed the decision of the Hawaii court an “unprecedented judicial overreach.” When his first Travel Ban executive order was stayed, he had slammed “the opinion of the so-called judge which essentially took law-enforcement away from their country” and claimed that the “decision was ridiculous and would be overturned!” He has continued his tirade against the US judiciary which he finds is rigged and compares it with that of the third world countries.

While alleging the courts to be “slow and political”, he claims that in order to help keep the US safe, his administration is “extreme vetting” people coming into the U.S.



US President Donald Trump thinks the US Judiciary is like that of the third world countries, a term that is derogatory and its use is not recommended. By doing so Donald Trump tries to stereotype a large section of the world as well as his own Judiciary, a marvel of humanity that is appreciated across the world.

Steven Spielberg’s 1997 film Amistad, based on the plight of African slaves on board ship Amistad in 1839, who were subject to intense court proceedings and social debate on slavery in America after they had mutinied and killed their captors, has two very moving scenes about independence and fine jurisprudence of the US Judicial system.

First, the then US President Martin Van Buren (1837-1841), under the pressure of pro-slavery southern US states and Spain, gets the judge of the US lower court replaced sensing that the presiding judge would rule against the slave traders and the US government, as the evidence demanded. Buren’s administration replaces him with a young judge expecting a favourable decision from him as the young judge would have his whole career before him and he would not go against the state. But, on the contrary, judicial wisdom and human conscience decides what the young judge would do – the just thing – and he rules against the slave traders and the US government – even if he knows that it will hurt his future career opportunities.

In the final scene of the film, we come across a fine closing argument in the case of the Amistad Africans in the US Supreme Court by John Quincy Adams, former US President (1825-1829) and the senior attorney here. Incidentally, under the pressure of the Southern states and Spain, the US government moves to the US Supreme Court. Though Adams never openly admitted that he was an abolitionist, he, in fact, was and agreed to defend the cause of the Amistad Africans in the US Supreme Court. As the film’s script goes, in support of his arguments, Adams reminds the judges of the US Supreme Court that the Queen of Spain, in official communication with the US, again and again, refers to the incompetent US Courts, comparing with the courts in her country that do what the state demands, something that Adams terms ‘as she plays with her own courts’ in a magical kingdom called Spain. Seven of the nine US Supreme Court judges were themselves southern slave owners. Adams invoked the US Declaration of Independence, freedom and equality of man and the previous US Presidents who fought for these values in his speech. The case was weak technically, apart from the ill-intent of the US administration. Add to it the impeccable defense mounted by John Quincy Adams. But a fear was lingering in everyone’s mind – that majority of the judges were slave masters – a fact that could have easily overturned the decision of the lower court in favour of the US administration and Spain. But like the lower court, the spirit of the US Judicial wisdom prevailed. With just one dissent, the US Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Amistad Africans.

That was 1840s. The film is more or less a true account of one of the most important episodes in the history that propelled the anti-slavery movement in the US to its final fight that resulted in Abraham Lincoln’s Thirteenth Amendment (January 31, 1865) that made slavery illegal thought the US, including the southern states.

Now if someone like a US President feels that the level of that judiciary, that showed a true judicial independence based on the rule of law some 200 years ago, is like of those countries where the judicial independence and integrity are easily compromised, then we can easily assume that the person saying such absurd things has other designs.

This Amistad spirit is alive and kicking in the US Judiciary is evident from the fact that both versions of Trump’s controversial travel ban, that target Muslims and immigrants, were turned down by the US Courts. Donald Trump was always livid over the US Judiciary. And the fact that he drew this the third world’ corollary during his campaign phase, before becoming the US President, tells us that he has designs against the US Judiciary. He would have been advised by his inner circle to pre-empt his moves and to take on the US Judiciary as the Judiciary was expected to play spoilsport in his bizarre policy moves like this travel ban travesty.

Though Donald Trump has said of moving to the US Supreme Court against the ban on his ‘travel ban’, hoping that the 5-4 conservative majority in the top US Court would help him with his Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch confirmed, the US Judicial history tells us otherwise, as evident from the Amistad example where six of the slave owing judges ruled against slavery. Neil Gorsuch and a conservative majority over the liberal judges may not work for Trump. Martin Van Buren says in Amistad, replying to the representative of Spain’s queen, that it is the it is the ‘independence of the US courts that keeps the people of the US free’.



The article originally appeared on India Today.

A new travel ban is set to come into force from March 16, if it goes as intended, without the US courts pitching in. The new Donald Trump executive order was signed on Monday, March 6, after five weeks of the first futile attempt to ban immigration from some Muslim majority countries.

On its part, the Trump administration has gone for all cosmetic changes to its previous version of the executive order issued on January 27 that aimed to put a ban on people from seven Muslim majority countries so that it can evade the courts, like exemptions for green card holders permanent US residents and for those already having a US visa.

But the new travel ban order, that drops Iraq from its list and goes soft on Syrian refugees in terms of the language used, does talk of withholding new visas for 90 days to the people from the six countries, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Syria. The new executive order drops Iraq from the list as the Trump administration feels that the new vetting procedure of the prospective travellers adopted by the Iraqi government is promising enough to take care of the US security concerns.

But it seems these cosmetic measures are not enough to save even this new Trump dump from the judicial scrutiny. A federal judge in the US state of Hawaii has allowed the state’s amended petition challenging the new travel ban by the Trump administration. The state of Hawaii had filed a lawsuit against the first executive order on travel ban but a national injunction on the Trump’s travel ban by a Washington court had put an automatic hold on it.

In its amended lawsuit, the state of Hawaii has argued that the new executive order on travel ban doesn’t change much and violates the right to freedom of religion. Also, the state says in its lawsuit, that the travel ban would adversely affect the social fabric and economy of the state by targeting a religion and thus hindering people’s movements in its educational institutions and in the society as a whole, something that is against the US Constitution.

A Hawaii judge has accepted these contentions and is set to hear the lawsuit on March 15, before it comes into effect on March 16. The court has issued notice to the Trump administration to submit its response by March 13.

This Hawaii lawsuit may be the beginning of yet another round of court hearings that may again cloud the Trump administration’s divisive agenda to put a ban on people’s movement from some Muslim majority countries as some other states that had successfully challenged the earlier version of the executive order, including the state of Washington, have said that they are carefully reviewing the new executive order before deciding on their next step. The Hawaii court hearing may give them the reason they need to go ahead with their own lawsuits.