- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 24, 2017

President Trump issued a new travel ban policy Sunday night, adding Chad, North Korea and Venezuela to the five majority-Muslim countries whose citizens were already prohibited from entering the country under his “extreme vetting” executive order.

After a monthslong review, the administration said Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen will also remain on the list, though in some cases the restrictions are being altered. Sudan is being removed from the list. Iraq is deemed to be troubled, but it won’t face severe restrictions as a reward to that government for cooperating with the U.S.

The policy will also re-expand the ban to apply to those with family or other connections to the U.S., setting up what is likely to be a new round of litigation in the courts.

“Making America safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet,” the president tweeted Sunday night.

Immigrant rights groups said the new policy doesn’t erase the problems that spurred them to sue over Mr. Trump’s original travel ban executive order in January, and when the president issued an updated ban in March.

But the Trump administration said the latest policy is on firm legal footing since it follows a long review that involves asking nearly 200 countries to detail their own information-sharing and identity processes and to promise cooperation when it comes to verifying the identities of their citizens seeking to enter the U.S.

More than a dozen countries were deemed inadequate in the first go-around, but some of them quickly updated their levels of cooperation, allowing them off the list, the administration said.

“We managed to get countries who had not previously been sharing things like terrorist information to start doing just that,” Miles Taylor, counselor to the homeland security secretary, said in briefing reporters Friday ahead of the decision.

But the countries that remain on the list either were unable or, in some cases, unwilling to cooperate.

Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Yemen face a near-total ban on immigrants, tourists and business travelers trying to enter the U.S. In the case of Venezuela, the ban will apply only to government officials and their families.

Iraq should face a ban, but because its government has made strides to cooperate with the U.S., its citizens will face only enhanced screening.

“The restrictions announced are tough and tailored, and they send a message to foreign governments that they must work with us to enhance security,” said acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke.

Mr. Trump announced the updates in a proclamation — a change from the executive order format he used in January and again in March. Administration officials insisted that the different format doesn’t affect the legality of the directive.

No visas already issued in any of the countries will be revoked, but new visas will face the restrictions.

The old travel policy remains in effect for now, with the carve-outs the Supreme Court imposed in June. The new restrictions generally take effect Oct. 18.

Even before Mr. Trump’s announcement, civil rights groups were upset with the president and said whatever he did would be poisoned by a history of “religious animus” toward Muslims they say he showed during the presidential campaign.

“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.

After the restrictions were released, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called it “just one part of the administration’s ‘ugly white supremacist agenda.’ “

The original travel ban grew out of 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 that he said were too connected to terrorism. He also imposed a 120-day 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 second 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.

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.

Under the policy released Sunday, the automatic bona fide relationship exemptions will disappear in October.

But the administration will consider waivers, on a case-by-case basis, for those coming to visit or live with family who would suffer an “undue hardship” otherwise.

Case-by-case waivers will also be considered for travelers from the targeted countries who have previously studied or worked in the U.S.; have critical professional obligations here; need urgent medical care; or is a legal permanent resident of Canada.

Still to come is a decision on the refugee program, which was the other major part of the travel ban. Mr. Trump had cut the number of refugees to be admitted to the U.S. this year by more than half, had imposed a 120-day pause on most refugees and instituted a complete ban on Syrian refugees.

The courts punctured some holes in that policy, but overall kept much of the refugee ban in place.

Under the calendar in the March executive order, the refugee ban still runs for another month.

The president this week must announce the refugee cap for fiscal year 2018, which begins this weekend. He is expected to announce a much lower number than the 110,000 that President Obama had set for 2017.

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