- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2017

President Trump is preparing to add more countries to his six-nation travel ban executive order — though he’ll likely impose lesser penalties such as additional traveler screening on them, administration officials said Friday.

The officials also declared victory from the original travel ban, saying that the process has pushed a number of other countries to begin sharing more information about their citizens who are seeking visas to enter the U.S.

The crux of the travel ban — a 90-day pause on some admissions from six terrorist-connected — is slated to expire Sunday, and White House, Homeland Security and State Department officials said Friday they’re looking to update it.

Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke has submitted a set of recommendations to Mr. Trump for countries that should still face travel restrictions or whose travelers will face “enhanced screening.”

Mr. Trump is pondering the recommendations, and officials declined Friday to talk about which countries are in play. They wouldn’t say whether the six countries on the original target list from March — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — will all remain on the updated list, but did say others have been added into the list as less-than-cooperative.

“What the secretary has recommended are tougher measures and more specific measures,” said Miles Taylor, counselor to Ms. Duke.

The government said it went through a months-long, two-tier review of other countries’ information-sharing with the U.S. After an initial assessment, countries that were deemed “inadequate” were put on 50-day notice that if they didn’t promise to comply they could face restrictions.

Mr. Taylor said the process alone has produced results.

“We managed to get countries who had not previously been sharing things like terrorist information to start doing just that,” he said.

But Mr. Taylor said some countries were “still unable or worse yet, deliberately unwilling to comply.” They’re the ones that will face new restrictions.

He said the new standards Ms. Duke suggested are conditions-based, rather than the time-based 90-day approach Mr. Trump took in his initial executive order.

Even before Mr. Trump’s final decision, his political opponents blasted him, saying the entire process “continues to be driven by religious animus.”

“Any nominal changes in countries or security rationalizations will not change that: This order has been and will continue to be the president’s way of making good on his campaign promise to institute a Muslim ban,” said Johnathan Smith, legal director of Muslim Advocates.

The original travel ban grew out of then-candidate Trump’s demand for “extreme vetting” of travelers, particularly those from Muslim countries.

Once in office, he called for a 90-day pause in travel from seven countries he said were too connected to terrorism. He also imposed a 120-halt to admissions of refugees. In both cases he said he wanted to give the government a chance to get a handle on its admission policies.

His initial Jan. 27 travel ban executive order was chaotically implemented and met resistance in the courts, leading the president to issue a revised order in March.

The new order cut Iraq from the list of targeted countries — the administration said the Iraqi government earned its way off the ban by taking quick steps toward better cooperation — and curtailed the ban so it didn’t apply to legal immigrants and some others with deep ties to the U.S.

The Supreme Court had been set to hear oral argument next month on the current version of the travel ban, but had signaled that could become moot if Mr. Trump made substantial changes to the policy tied to the end of the 90-day pause.

Officials briefing reporters Friday said they can’t predict how the updates will affect the court case since Mr. Trump hasn’t announced a final decision yet. But they said the Justice Department has been consulted throughout the process.

Supreme Court justices have delivered a mixed verdict on the current ban, ruling that Mr. Trump does have important national security powers that must be respected, but finding that in cases where the would-be visitor has “bona fide” ties to a person or institution in the U.S., they have rights that must also be respected.

Under that framework, the justices said, the administration was free to block some travel, but had to admit refugees worldwide, and visitors from the six targeted countries, if they proved those ties.

That set off a new round of litigation over whether grandparents or cousins counted as “close” relations, and whether having a refugee case assigned to a resettlement agency in the U.S. was a “bona fide” relationship. The administration capitulated on the family issue, but won another victory in the Supreme Court on the refugee side.

Under the calendar Mr. Trump laid out in his executive order, the refugee ban runs for another month.

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