After writing and posting my comment for today, I read what my son, Professor Tobias Barrington Wolff of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, had to say on FaceBook. I reproduce it here. I am pleased to see that basically I guessed right, but Tobias really knows.
“The reports of DHS employees not fully complying with federal court orders suspending parts of the anti-Muslim order are very troubling. I do not yet have enough information to be calling that fact, alone, a crisis. Compliance with court orders is sometimes slow or inadequate. It is a serious problem when it happens and will sometimes warrant contempt proceedings, but it is not by itself a crisis. If the government outright defies these orders and proclaims itself not bound by the command of a federal court, that will be a crisis.
More concerning to me -- and a step in the direction of outright defiance -- is what appears to be the willful misrepresentation coming from the White House about the content and effect of those court orders. I have read several of those orders, and they are very clear. They are prohibiting the administration from enforcing their cruel Executive Order through detention or deportation against people who have already reached the United States (and in some cases they operate more broadly than that). The White House is repeatedly mischaracterizing the orders, saying that they have no effect on the EO and that this ugly program remains in full effect. That is flatly untrue. As one point of reference, here is the language from the order issued by the federal district court in Massachusetts. It commands that the government:
"a) shall limit secondary screening to comply with the regulations and statutes in effect prior to the Executive Order, including 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(13)(C);
"b) shall not, by any manner or means, detain or remove individuals with refugee applications approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, holders of valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas, lawful permanent residents, and other individuals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen who, absent the Executive Order, would be legally authorized to enter the United States;
"c) to assure compliance with this Order, the United States Marshal for the District of Massachusetts shall be served with this Order and is further directed to take those actions deemed necessary to enforce this Order; and
"d) Customs and Border Protection shall notify airlines that have flights arriving at Logan Airport of this Order and the fact that individuals on these flights will not be detained or returned based solely on the basis of the Executive Order."
This is very clear. And, as has become their regular modus operandi, the White House is trying to sow chaos and confusion by putting out false information about the contents of the order, presumably counting on the fact that almost no one will read the order for themselves but instead will rely on news coverage that is presented in he-said-she-said form.
Also, Russell Halley reminds me that we need always to consider the limits on the information that the man who currently occupies the presidency is getting. I think it is a certainty that he has not read these orders himself. It is quite possible that he is being given incomplete or inaccurate information by his advisors about what those orders contain. And -- as I should have realized when I began this post -- he probably gets more information from watching administration officials appear on FOX News than from direct channels, given reports of his isolation and TV-watching. These misrepresentations being made by White House officials may have the current occupant of the presidency as their primary audience.”