Trump confirms plans to expand controversial travel ban

Trump tells Wall Street Journal he’s planning on adding additional countries to an updated version of his travel ban.

No Muslim Ban
Protesters gathering outside the US Supreme Court, while court justices consider case regarding presidential powers on the legality of President Donald Trump's latest travel ban [File: Yuri Gripas/Reuters]

US President Donald Trump has confirmed that his administration plans on expanding his administration’s controversial travel ban, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. 

In an interview with the newspaper on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss city of Davos, Trump said that he is planning on adding additional countries to an updated version of his travel ban that the administration is expected to release later this month. He did not reveal which countries would be added.

Politico reported on Tuesday that an announcement on the expansion could be made next Monday, the third anniversary of Trump’s first, controversial travel ban, which was announced without warning on January 27, 2017, days after he took office. That order, which targeted several Muslim-majority countries, sparked outrage, with massive protests across the countries and chaos at airports where passengers were detained.

The most recent iteration of the ban includes restrictions on five majority-Muslim nations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as restrictions on some travellers from Venezuela and North Korea.

A draft being considered by the Trump administration would place immigration restrictions on the additional seven countries, but not completely ban people from those nations from entering the US, Politico reported. 

The newspaper, citing two people familiar with the matter, said the list of countries is not yet final and is subject to changes, but may include: Belarus, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania, citing two people familiar with the matter.

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that the expansion could include several countries that were covered in the first iteration of the ban, but later removed amid rounds of contentious litigation. Iraq, Sudan and Chad, had originally been affected by the order, but were later removed amid contentious litigation. 

The watered-down version of the ban was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote.

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.

The Associated Press reported that the countries on the proposed expansion list include allies that fall short on certain security measures. The additional restrictions were proposed by Department of Homeland Security officials following a review of security protocols for about 200 countries.

Rights groups decried Trump’s planned expansion. 

“President Trump’s plan to expand the Muslim Ban is a cowardly and reckless attempt to distract the country and sow anti-Muslim hate,” said Farhana Khera, the executive director of Muslim Advocates.  

“Tens of thousands of American families are already hurting and separated because of this bigoted and cruel ban,” Khera said in a statement. “Doubling down on it won’t make any of us safer but it will allow the president to continue using anti-Muslim hate as a political weapon.”

No Ban Act
Representative Ilhan Omar stands in front of ‘NO BAN ACT’ posters during a news conference by members of the US Congress in Washington, US [File: Jim Bourg/Reuters] 

Trump ran his 2016 campaign promising to crack down on immigration and spent much of his first term fighting lawsuits trying to halt his push to build a wall along the southern border and crack down on migrants seeking asylum in the US, amid other measures. He had floated a banning all Muslims from entering the country.

He is expected to press some of those efforts again this year as he ramps up his reelection campaign and works to energise his base with his signature issue.

Earlier in January, a coalition of leading civil rights organisations urged House leaders to take up the No Ban Act, legislation to end Trump’s travel ban and prevent a new one.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies