President Donald Trump on Sunday signed a new set of restrictions on travel to the United States from eight countries, including five nations that were covered under the administration's previous, legally contested travel ban.
The new restrictions came as the travel ban executive order that Trump signed in March expired Sunday night, continues to ban travel to the US by nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, with some exceptions. The new directive, which is in the form of a "proclamation," also adds travel restrictions for three new countries: Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela.
Senior administration officials told reporters Sunday that the US developed the list of countries based on an assessment of how foreign governments met requirements for sharing information related to the immigration screening process, including how they verify the identity of travelers and secure travel documentation. The administration also considered national security concerns specific to each country.
The restrictions are "tough but tailored," one official said.
In a shift from the president's first two executive orders, the new directive places restrictions on two countries, North Korea and Venezuela, that are not majority Muslim. The other new country on the list, Chad, does have a majority Muslim population. Court challenges to the president's previous orders were rooted in part in allegations that the president was unconstitutionally trying to block Muslims from traveling to the United States.
Several groups that sued the administration over the president's previous executive orders issued statements on Sunday contending that, notwithstanding the addition of North Korea and Venezuela, the latest directive was still a "Muslim ban."
"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. President Trump's original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list," ACLU Director Anthony Romero said in a statement.
Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, said in a statement that given the existing travel limits on North Korea and the narrowness of the restrictions on Venezuela, the objective of the new directive was "transparent."
The office of the attorney general of Hawaii, one of several states that sued the Trump administration's travel ban executive order, tweeted that attorneys are reviewing the new directive. Hawaii is one of the lead challengers in the case before the US Supreme Court concerning the second travel ban.
The latest directive doesn't have an expiration date. It orders the Homeland Security Secretary to submit updates to the president every 180 days, and allows the secretary to recommend that the president lift or alter restrictions on a rolling basis. It also says that the Homeland Security Secretary, Secretary of State and US attorney general can recommend new restrictions on countries at any time.
With the new directive, the administration has lifted travel restrictions on nationals of Sudan, who were covered under the earlier ban. An administration official said that Sudanese officials were cooperating with the United States and that the country was engaged with the US in "robust" counter-terrorism efforts, which contributed to its being taken off the list.
The new directive largely suspends travel to the United States for immigrants and, in some cases, nonimmigrants with certain types of visas from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. For Venezuela, travel is only suspended for a group of government officials involved in the visa screening and vetting process and their families traveling under certain nonimmigrant visas.
The travel suspension won't apply to Iranians with valid student and exchange visas, "subject to enhanced screening and vetting requirements," according to the proclamation. The directive also does not apply to current US lawful permanent residents, dual nationals who travel on a passport of a non-covered country, individuals traveling on diplomatic visas, and individuals already granted asylum or allowed to enter the US as a refugee.
Valid visas already issued by the US government will not be revoked, the administration said Sunday. The directive also stipulates that US officials can grant waivers to the travel restrictions on a case-by-case basis, if denying entry would cause "undue hardship" and would not threaten national security.
The directive will be rolled out in two phases, according to administration officials. The restrictions on countries already covered under the earlier travel ban will take effect immediately, with an exception for individuals covered by a carve-out ordered by the US Supreme Court, which allows entry for those with a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship" with a US person or entity.
The travel restrictions on the three new countries will take effect on Oct. 18. The restrictions will also kick in then for individuals from countries identified in the earlier travel ban who were covered under the Supreme Court's "bona fide" exception.
The second version of the travel ban executive order, which was signed on March 6 and expired on Sunday, put in place a 90-day ban on travel from six majority-Muslim nations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. That order, like the first version signed by Trump in January, was immediately challenged in court by civil liberties and immigrant advocacy groups.
Lower court judges blocked the administration from enforcing the ban, prompting the US Department of Justice to take the case to the US Supreme Court. While the case is pending, the Supreme Court narrowed the class of individuals exempt from the challenged sections of the executive order — the 90-day travel ban and 120-day suspension of the US refugee program — to individuals with a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship” to a US person or entity.
It was not immediately clear what effect it will have on the case, which is scheduled to go before the Supreme Court for oral arguments on Oct. 10. US Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who was confirmed to that position on Sept. 19, sent a letter to the court on Sunday about the new proclamation, and proposed having lawyers in the case filed briefs stating their positions by Oct. 5.
According to the proclamation, US officials earlier this year determined that 16 countries had failed to meet the United States' baseline information-sharing requirements. Those countries, and others identified as being "at risk" of being noncompliant, were given 50 days to improve.
The US Department of Homeland Security determined that Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen remained "inadequate." Iraq was also on that list, but officials concluded that travel restrictions were not necessary, based on the close relationship between the US and Iraq, the extent of the US diplomatic and military presence in the country, and Iraq's anti-terrorism efforts.
Somalia met the minimum requirements laid out by the US, but would still be subject to restrictions because of the "threat environment" in the country, an administration official said.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.