President Trump’s executive order on refugees and travel from seven countries of special concern had one effect that was widely understood to be the most harmful and arbitrary: Foreigners who had already been admitted to this country, including permanent residents (green-card holders) but happened to be abroad when Trump signed the EO, were being denied re-entry.

The corrolary to this policy is that residents, students, and other visitors who are from those seven countries can’t leave the U.S. if they want to return.

These were the people on whose behalf Washington State sued and successfully won a temporary restraining order against Trump’s EO. Washington State argued that the EO “discriminate[s] against … its inhabitants.” The only inhabitants of Washington that are covered by the EO are those foreigners who are already in the country or have set up some sort of base in the country. The other people affected by the EO—that is, people who aren’t in the U.S., haven’t been granted visas, but who want visas—obviously aren’t inhabitants of Washington state or any U.S. state.

The enforcement of the EO against permanent residents, or others already granted a visa to come here is the central moral, political, and legal problem of the order. That’s probably why the White House counsel and Homeland Security have ruled that the order should not be enforced against people who have already come here.

In the Trump administration’s arguments today before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, one of their final arguments was an appeal that the the court should remove the temporary restraining order—with regard to those people not yet granted visas. That is, the White House said that if the appeals court is to restrain enforcement of the EO, it should ONLY restrain its enforcement against those already given visas.

Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner’s commentary editor, can be contacted at His column appears Tuesday nights on

The challenge to Trump's order? It has a lot to do with money

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Washington State has motives of its own in pursuing the case.

02/07/17 4:13 PM

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