Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 January 2020

White House considering expansion of travel ban

Move comes as US President Donald Trump seeks re-election in November

US President Donald Trump's initial travel ban issued in January 2017 sparked protests and legal challenges. AP
US President Donald Trump's initial travel ban issued in January 2017 sparked protests and legal challenges. AP

The White House is considering expanding its travel ban to include more countries amid a renewed election-year focus on immigration by President Donald Trump, said people familiar with the deliberations.

A document outlining the plans – timed to coincide with the third anniversary of Mr Trump’s January 2017 executive order – has been circulating the White House. But the countries that would be affected if it moves forward are concealed, said two of several people who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Two people said seven countries – most with Muslim-majority populations – would join the list.

The current ban places restrictions on travellers from five Muslim-majority nations – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen – as well as Venezuela and North Korea.

Another source said the expansion could encompass countries included in Mr Trump’s original ban but later removed amid legal challenges.

Iraq, Sudan and Chad were originally affected by the order, which the Supreme Court upheld in a 5-4 vote after the administration released a watered-down version intended to withstand legal scrutiny.

Mr Trump, who proposed banning all Muslims from entering the country in his 2016 election campaign, was critical of the changes.

He tweeted that the Justice Department “should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered down, politically correct version” submitted to the Supreme Court.

Countries on the proposed expansion list are said to include allies that fall short on certain security measures.

The additional restrictions were proposed by Department of Homeland Security officials after a review of security protocol and “identity management” for about 200 countries, one of the sources said.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley declined to confirm the plan, but said the travel ban had made the United States safer.

“The travel ban has been very successful in protecting our country and raising the security baseline around the world,” he said in a statement.

“While there are no new announcements at this time, common sense and national security both dictate that if a country wants to fully participate in US immigration programmes, they should also comply with all security and counterterrorism measures – because we do not want to import terrorism or any other national security threat into the United States.”

Several of the sources said they expected the announcement to coincide with the third anniversary of Mr Trump’s first travel ban.

The order sparked uproar when it was announced without warning on January 27, 2017, days after Mr Trump took office.

Massive protests were held across the nation amid chaos at airports, where passengers were detained.

The current ban suspends immigrant and non-immigrant visas to applicants from the affected countries, with exceptions, including for students and those who have established “significant contacts” in the US.

It represents a significant softening of the initial order, which had suspended travel from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days, blocked refugee admissions for 120 days and suspended travel from Syria.

That order was immediately blocked by the courts. Under the current system, restrictions concern countries the Department of Homeland Security says fail to share sufficient information with the US or have not taken necessary security precautions, such as issuing electronic passports with biometric information and sharing information about travellers’ terrorism-related and general criminal histories.

Updated: January 12, 2020 06:02 PM

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