Today’s News & Commentary — September 25, 2017

Vivian Dong

Vivian Dong is a student at Harvard Law School.

President Trump has issued a new travel ban, restricting most travel from seven countries—Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, and North Korea.  Additionally, Iraqi and Venezuelan citizens will face heightened scrutiny when seeking to enter the United States.  Sudan is no longer on the list of affected countries.  Unlike President Trump’s prior travel ban, a 90-day suspension which ended yesterday, this ban imposes permanent restrictions on travel.  Officials defend the new ban as more targeted and well-informed than its predecessors.  U.S. permanent residents and those who already have visas will be unaffected.  Iranians studying in the United States will still be able to do so under their student visas.  But most citizens from most of the affected countries will no longer be able to work, study, or vacation in the United States.  The Supreme Court was due to hear arguments on the constitutionality of Trump’s second, revised travel ban on Oct. 10, even though most of the ban would have become moot by then.  The Solicitor General’s office has requested the Supreme Court to order briefing on the effect of the new order on the current case.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has won a fourth term, but her party, the CDU-CSU, suffered a significant loss in votes and seats in parliament.  CDU-CSU will have 246 of the 709 seats in parliament, and so will have to build a coalition to govern.  Most shocking is the first-time entry into Germany’s parliament of AfD, a right-wing nationalist party formed in 2013 as part of the backlash to Merkel’s liberal policy towards refugees.  The party garnered 12.6% of votes, coming in third in the tally for votes and parliamentary seats.  The Social Democrats, also coming off a loss in seats, but still the second-largest party in parliament, will no longer be coalition partners with CDU-CSU and will instead become the official opposition.  One of its reasons for doing so is to deprive AfD of the ability to become the official opposition, a status which confers certain powers.  Chancellor Merkel, along with every other party in parliament, has promised not to become coalition partners with AfD.

On Saturday, thousands of people gathered in Paris to protest French President Macron’s labor law reforms.  The reforms liberalize France’s protective worker and labor laws, making it easier for management to hire and fire workers.  One crucial change is that businesses with 50 employees and fewer will now be able to negotiate contracts directly with employees, without union oversight.  President Macron passed the reforms by decree, a presidential power that allows the president to avoid a parliamentary vote on the matter. However, President Macron had discussed the reforms with union leaders in the months preceding the decrees’ passage.  The reforms take immediate effect.  The protest was led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of left-wing party La France Insoumise.  Though La France Insoumise has only 17 seats out of the national parliament’s 577 seats, it is emerging as the strongest opposition party as internal turmoil flares on within the other major opposition parties, Les Républicains, Parti Socaliste, and Front National.

On Friday, President Trump urged NFL team owners to fire NFL players who kneel during the national anthem.  In response, on Sunday, many football players kneeled or linked arms during the anthem in a display of solidarity.  President Trump’s comments have spurred a discussion on whether teams can fire football players for kneeling, or whether such conduct constitutes protected speech.  Sports Illustrated concludes from the current NFL collective bargaining agreement that teams can probably fire players for kneeling, considering the wide discretion management has to hire and fire, but that players still have other means of redress.

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