As President Trump’s revised travel ban expired on Sunday his administration announced new, expanded restrictions that will bar visitors from eight countries indefinitely.
Amid the furor over the travel ban issued in January — which was revised in March after the courts blocked parts of the original order — the fact that it was meant to be a temporary measure to provide time to review vetting procedures was sometimes overlooked. Administration officials said the new ban is based on a review of which countries are complying with U.S requests for information on which visitors pose potential terrorist threats.
What that means in practice is that the new restrictions vary by country. The original order temporarily banned people from seven majority-Muslim countries — Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, and Syria – and all refugees. The second order removed Iraq from the list, and the courts eventually ruled that people with a “bona fide” connection to the U.S. could not be barred.
The new order puts different restrictions on people from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. Per the New York Times:
Most citizens of Chad, Libya and Yemen will be blocked from emigrating to or visiting the United States because the countries do not have the technical capability to identify and screen their travelers, and in many cases have terrorist networks in their countries, officials said.
Officials said Somalia did, barely, meet the security standards set by the United States, but will still be subject to a ban on emigration and heightened scrutiny for travel because it is a safe haven for terrorists. Officials said that Iran was uncooperative and would be subject to a broad travel ban, but Mr. Trump made an exception for student and exchange visas.
Critics allege that countries were added and removed from the list for purely political purposes. Sudan is no longer on the list, ostensibly because it’s now meeting U.S. security standards. But the Intercept’s Ryan Grim suggested there was more to the story:
And the inclusion of North Korea and Venezuela appears to be mostly symbolic. According to Politico, only 110 North Koreans received visas to travel to the U.S. in the last fiscal year. As for Venezuela, the restrictions apply to government officials — who could have been barred without being mentioned in the order — not all Venezuelan citizens. The latest travel ban still would not have kept out anyone who caused a deadly terror attack in the U.S. since 9/11.
The new rules go into effect on October 18 and do not apply to current visa holders (though once their existing visas expire, they will be subject to the ban). The order does not address the refugee ban, which is set to expire on October 24, but a separate order lowering the refugee cap is expected soon.
The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the revised travel ban on October 10, and it seems the new order will affect that case. A Justice Department spokesperson said the solicitor general will be updating the court about the new restrictions, adding that the administration will continue to defend the president’s “lawful authority to issue his executive order.”
Lawyers already fighting the previous ban suggested they will challenge the new restrictions as well.
“Six of President Trump’s targeted countries are Muslim. The fact that Trump has added North Korea — with few visitors to the U.S. — and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn’t obfuscate the real fact that the administration’s order is still a Muslim ban,” said Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “President Trump’s original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list.”