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Pennsylvania Attorney General Responds To Trump's New Travel Ban

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

President Trump signed a new executive order on travel today. Iraq is no longer among the Muslim majority countries whose citizens will be temporarily barred from traveling to the U.S. Syrians no longer face an indefinite ban. And the new order does not take effect until March 16.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, denounced the first travel ban as un-American. He signed onto a friend of the court brief supporting the legal case that brought an emergency stay of that executive order, and he joins us now from Harrisburg, Pa. Welcome to the program.

JOSH SHAPIRO: It's good to be with you.

SIEGEL: In objecting to the original travel ban, you cited the potential for harm to your state's colleges, health care institutions, the economy based on the sizable number of students, researchers and workers who would be barred from coming to the U.S. Do these revisions change anything for you in that regard?

SHAPIRO: Look; obviously we're reviewing it, and my team and I are continuing to dig deeper into it. But I think that the legal action we took on the original executive order and what is present in this new and modified executive order shows that the administration clearly had to make significant changes because of our legal action. I think by revoking the original order, the president took a correct step forward.

SIEGEL: But do I hear you declaring victory and saying perhaps the court challenge - the time for a court challenge has passed?

SHAPIRO: No. What you hear me saying is that we took legal action on the original executive order, and as a result of that legal action and the victories in the court, the president has decided to revoke that original order. And for me, the test is very simple. Does it uphold the rule of law - not whether I would like it, not whether it's something that is pleasing to me or something that I would do but whether or not it adheres to the rule of law.

SIEGEL: It doesn't take effect for 10 days. Does that address concerns that you had about the lack of due process in the original executive order?

SHAPIRO: Some of it, and clearly what we saw was chaos in our communities as a result of the original executive order - the Asali family from Allentown who had their proper paperwork who flew from Syria and then were turned away at Philadelphia International Airport even though they should have been allowed entry. And a week later, they were.

So having this 10-day runway, if you will, allows for some of that chaos hopefully to dissipate. But we're digging in right now to see the language in this new executive order - whether it comports with the law...

SIEGEL: Yep.

SHAPIRO: ...And to ensure that it protects the interests of the people of Pennsylvania.

SIEGEL: In the new order, there is no explicit mention of religion. Do you still have concerns that the order discriminates based on religion?

SHAPIRO: I think it is hard to unring the bell of discrimination that was rung many, many times by candidate Trump during the election process. You know, we'll never truly know the motives now. What we know very clearly on the record is that there were discriminatory motives that were announced by candidate Trump and by President-elect Trump during that process.

Now, as long as this is not being administered in a discriminatory way, then I think he satisfied that. But I think it's hard to say that this was intended as something other than a ban on a particular faith when it was originally designed.

SIEGEL: And by what time do you think you'll decide whether or not you would join in a legal challenge to this executive order?

SHAPIRO: Well, the last time, we led the amici states in that legal challenge, and so we're reviewing it now. We're talking with our colleagues, and we'll make a determination in the next few days here.

SIEGEL: That's Josh Shapiro, attorney general of the state of Pennsylvania, joining us via Skype. Thanks for talking with us.

SHAPIRO: Great to be with you. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.