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NM critics say ban still targets Muslims

FOR THE RECORD: James Hallinan, Communications Director for Attorney General Hector Balderas, sent the Journal this statement via email after deadline: “There are a number of ongoing cases challenging the first unconstitutional executive order and our office will continue to fight against further illegal actions by President Trump. The Trump Administration recognizes that attempting to ban certain populations based on their religion is a losing battle and is now attempting to take a second bite at the apple.”


Attorney General Hector Balderas

Attorney General Hector Balderas

New Mexico critics of President Trump’s restrictions on immigrants called his revised executive order Monday an attempt to outflank legal challenges without substantially changing the ban on migrants from Muslim-majority nations.

But Attorney General Hector Balderas called the revision “a victory for states” that removes some provisions contested in legal challenges by New Mexico and other states.

Faisal Nabulsi, president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, said the revised travel ban does little to mitigate the distrust U.S. Muslims have for the Trump administration.

“It’s really a matter of trust here,” Nabulsi said Monday. “The first order reflected exactly their wish. What they are trying to do now is some damage control, but the damage has happened already.”

Trump signed the new travel ban Monday; it imposes a 90-day ban on the issuance of new visas for citizens of six Muslim-majority nations, but excludes Iraq.

Administration officials said they hope the revision will end legal challenges to a Jan. 27 executive order that included Iraq.

Nabulsi said the revised order doesn’t change the fact that the travel ban targets people from Muslim-majority nations.

“We know that they are trying to manipulate the system to get their way, but they still target a particular religious group,” he said. “It is very obvious.”

Peter Simonson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said the ACLU will continue to fight what he described as an illegal ban on Muslims.

“But by and large, this is just the same ban, but with some cosmetic changes largely designed to assuage the concerns of the courts,” Simonson said. The new order “still attempts to bar people from this country based on a religious litmus test.”

Balderas was one of more than a dozen attorneys general who filed briefs opposing the restrictions in Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order.

“After our continued legal challenges to President Trump’s illegal travel ban, the White House has removed many of the provisions we contested in litigation,” Balderas said in a written statement.

The statement said his administration is reviewing the new order “and will take any actions necessary” to protect the state. Officials in his office could not be reached Monday for additional comment.