Trump administration plans to add seven nations to Muslim ban list
The US is planning to expand its much-litigated travel ban to seven additional countries, including Sudan and Nigeria, media reported Tuesday.
The Trump administration will reportedly add Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania to the list of restricted countries amid a renewed election-year focus on immigration by President Donald Trump.
The list of countries is subject to change with an official announcement expected Monday, Politico reported.
Some countries will only face restrictions on certain visa categories, according to The Wall Street Journal.
President Trump confirmed he was considering adding countries to the travel ban in a Monday interview with the Journal but did not specify which ones.
A document outlining the plans - timed to coincide with the third anniversary of Trump's January 2017 executive order - has been circulating the White House earlier this month.
But the countries that would be affected if it moves forward were blacked out, according to two of the people, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.
The most recent iteration of the ban includes restrictions on five majority-Muslim nations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as Venezuela and North Korea.
A different person said earlier this month that expansion could include several countries that were covered in the first iteration of Trump's ban, but later removed amid rounds of contentious litigation.
Iraq, Sudan and Chad, for instance, had originally been affected by the order, which the Supreme Court upheld in a four to five vote after the administration released a watered-down version intended to withstand legal scrutiny.
Trump, who had floated a banning all Muslims from entering the country during his 2016 campaign, criticised his Justice Department for the changes, tweeting that DOJ "should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to SC".
The countries on the proposed expansion list include allies that fall short on certain security measures.
A senior Trump administration official said countries that failed to comply with certain requirements, including biometrics, information-sharing and counter-terrorism measures, faced being included in the ban, Reuters reported.
The additional restrictions were proposed by Department of Homeland Security officials following a review of security protocols and "identity management" for about 200 countries, according to the person.
White House House spokesman Hogan Gidley previously declined to confirm the plan, but praised the travel ban for making the country 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.
Several of the people said they expected the announcement to be timed to coincide with the third anniversary of Trump's first, explosive travel ban, which was announced without warning on 27 January 2017 - days after Trump took office.
That order sparked an uproar, with massive protests across the nation and chaos at airports where passengers were detained.
The current ban suspends immigrant and non-immigrant visas to applicants from the affected countries, but it allows exceptions, including for students and those who have established "significant contacts" in the US.
And it represents a significant softening from Trump's 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, prompting a months-long effort by the administration to develop clear standards and federal review processes to try to withstand legal muster.
Under the current system, restrictions are targeted at countries the Department of Homeland Security says fail to share sufficient information with the US or haven't taken necessary security precautions, such as issuing electronic passports with biometric information and sharing information about travelers' terror-related and criminal histories.
Under the existing order, cabinet secretaries are also required to update the president regularly on whether countries are abiding by the new immigration security benchmarks.
Countries that fail to comply risk new restrictions and limitations, while countries that comply can have their restrictions lifted.
The news comes as the Senate launches its impeachment trials against Trump, who in December became just the third president in history to be impeached by the House.
The Republican-controlled Senate is not expected to remove him from office.
Trump ran his 2016 campaign promising to crack down on illegal immigration and spent much of his first term fighting lawsuits trying to halt his push to build a wall along the southern border.
He also prohibited the entry of citizens from several majority-Muslim countries and crack down on migrants seeking asylum in the US, amid other measures.
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He is expected to press those efforts again this year as he ramps up his reelection campaign and works to energise his base with his signature issue, inevitably stoking Democratic anger.
A coalition of leading civil rights organisations urged House leaders in January to take up the No Ban Act, legislation to end Trump's travel ban and prevent a new one.
The bill introduced last year by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., in the Senate, would impose limits on the president's ability to restrict entry to the US. It would require the administration to spell out its reasons for the restrictions and specifically prohibit religious discrimination.