The Trump administration on Friday announced an expansion of the travel ban — one of the President’s signature policies, which has been derided by critics as an attempt to ban Muslims from the US — to include six new countries.
Different immigration restrictions will be placed on Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar (known as Burma), Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.
The latest iteration comes three years after President Donald Trump — in one of his first moves in office — signed the first travel ban, which caused chaos at airports and eventually landed at the Supreme Court. The announcement also comes at the end of a major week for Trump with the signing of the USMCA trade deal and expected acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial.
The updated ban has already sparked controversy over its targeting of African countries.
The administration has argued that the travel ban is vital to national security and ensures countries meet US security needs.
“The restrictions are tailored to country-specific deficiencies, as well as travel-related risks to the homeland,” a Department of Homeland Security official told reporters Friday.
In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the third version of the travel ban after the previous iterations were challenged in court. The current policy restricts entry from seven countries to varying degrees: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with Venezuela and North Korea.
Restrictions on those countries will remain in place, the official said.
Chad was removed from the list last April after the White House said the country improved security measures.
Unlike the travel restrictions currently in place, the new rules limit certain immigrant visas from the additional countries, according to the DHS official.
Immigrant groups derided the expansion of the program.
“The ban should be ended, not expanded. President Trump is doubling down on his signature anti-Muslim policy — and using the ban as a way to put even more of his prejudices into practice by excluding more communities of color,” ACLU’s director of its Immigrants’ Rights Project, Omar Jadwat, responded in a statement.
The expected revisions also come as the US is grappling with how to handle the coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday, the State Department announced a highest-level warning on not to travel to China due to the logistical disruptions and access to health care. The latest travel ban restrictions are not related to health issues, but rather security concerns.
Restrictions are imposed because a country does an inadequate job of sharing information, or otherwise poses an elevated public safety or national security risk, said acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf who was asked about the travel ban earlier this month.
In October, CNN reported that Trump administration officials were discussing adding more countries to the travel ban list, two sources said. At the time, fewer than five countries were under consideration, an official said.
The goal, the official said, is to “bring governments into compliance by using the power of access to the United States.” The travel restrictions would be tailored to the countries, if they’re added, and not impose a ban on them altogether, the official noted at the time.
Democratic lawmakers have continued to denounce the ban and pushed back against the administration’s argument that the ban was for national security purposes.
Last year, Democrats introduced a bill known as the “No Ban Act” in the House and Senate to overturn the ban, but the measure is not expected to pass the GOP-controlled Senate.