An unpopular president may soon expand an unpopular, if unfortunately constitutional, policy: According to Politico, the White House is considering adding countries to the Trump travel ban, an action that may come as soon as next Monday.
The ban currently restricts travel from Muslim-majority nations like Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as travel from Venezuela and North Korea. Though the potential additions have not been finalized, the list could soon include Belarus, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. The draft as it stands would severely restrict immigration, but would not fully ban citizens of the seven nations from entering the U.S.
January 27 marks the three-year anniversary of the executive order that put in place the original travel ban, which blocked visas for seven Muslim-majority countries. Though the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals initially ruled against the ban, a revised version was upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2018. As New York’s Ed Kilgore wrote at the time:
The order is a modification of two previous, stricter travel bans, both of which were blocked by lower courts because they were judged to have exempted travel based on religion. In a transparent attempt to modify the law just enough to dodge that charge, the Trump administration modified the ban to include two countries — North Korea and Venezuela — that are not majority Muslim. The Supreme Court accepted this explanation, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing that the president was within his rights to enact the ban because of national security concerns — even though Trump has been quite clear, from the day he called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, that prohibiting an entire religion from entering the U.S. is exactly what he wants.
In an interview on Tuesday, Trump confirmed with the Wall Street Journal that he wanted to expand the current ban, though he declined to list the countries under consideration. As Politico notes, some of the choices are inconsistent with the goals of American foreign policy:
Nigeria, for instance, is a U.S. counter-terrorism partner and there is a large Nigerian diaspora community in the United States. At the same time, Trump has in the past referred to African nations as “shithole” countries whose citizens he did not want coming to the United States.
He also once said that if Nigerians come to the U.S., they will never “go back to their huts” in Africa, according to The New York Times.
Myanmar is another intriguing case: the United States has spent the last decade trying to improve ties with the country, which has embraced partial civilian rule after years of living under a military dictatorship. The U.S. still wants to coax Myanmar out of China’s orbit, despite the Myanmar military’s mass slaughter of Rohingya Muslims.
U.S. officials also have been keen to improve relations with Belarus, a country long seen as under the sway of Russia. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had planned to visit the country just weeks ago, but had to cancel the trip to respond to rising tensions with Iran.
The choices are, however, consistent with the xenophobic president’s vision of the world, as reiterated in an America-first, climate change-denying speech delivered at the World Economic Forum in Davos. At a conference purportedly focused on multilateralism, Trump called environmental activists “prophets of doom” and turned inward, focusing on his contributions to the American economy.