Trump administration to replace travel ban with new order: WSJ

Published 22.09.2017 20:34
Updated 23.09.2017 00:42
emReuters Photo/em
Reuters Photo

President Donald Trump's contentious travel ban expires Sunday with little clarity over whether America's door will reopen for travelers from six majority-Muslim countries.

After the 90-day ban ends, travelers from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen have been hopeful that U.S. representatives would resume granting visas for trips to the United States for work, study, pleasure or to emigrate.

However, the Trump administration is preparing to replace its controversial travel ban with a new order tailored on a country-by-country basis but affecting slightly more than the six nations now targeted, the Wall Street Journal said on Friday.

The new rules would not have a stated end date, with countries facing the potential of being added or removed from the list at any time, according to the Journal, which cited people familiar with the process.

Political uproar

The ban -- which initially included Iraq and was accompanied by a 120-day block on all refugees -- sparked a political uproar when Trump first announced it on January 27, a week after becoming president.

It came after Trump repeatedly promised in last year's election to block Muslims from the United States.

The ban was frozen by courts after a weekend of chaos at airports and a barrage of lawsuits by immigration advocates and civil liberties groups.

The administration's stated reason was national security: the need to ensure the six countries have adequate vetting procedures for travelers, so as to prevent terrorists from entering the country.

But critics alleged that it amounted to Trump's promised "Muslim ban" which courts agreed was unconstitutional because it discriminated against a single religion.

Several states also sued to block it on grounds that it prevented legitimate visa holders, family members, U.S. residents, students in universities and foreign workers for U.S. companies from entering the country.

After losing challenges in appeals courts, on March 6 the White House unveiled a revised ban, excluding Iraq and exempting people who already had visas. Nine days later that, too, was frozen, by a judge in Hawaii, for largely the same reasons as the original.

Again, the administration lost in two appeals courts, leaving Trump furious and turning to the Supreme Court.

Trump declares victory

On July 26 the high court ruled to partially lift the freeze on the ban, while agreeing to hear the White House's appeal to lower court rulings in October.

Trump declared a political and legal victory and shut down visa issuance for the six countries.

"Great day for America's future Security and Safety, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court. I will keep fighting for the American people, & WIN!," he tweeted.

By that time, ironically, the original 90-day ban would have been expired for two months. Arrivals from the six countries had already fallen by more than half due to "extreme vetting" procedures that increased the difficulty of getting a US visa.

The White House has not hinted how it will handle the expiration on Sunday, and advocates for immigrants say they don't know.

The Department of Homeland Security last week presented the White House a classified update on security issues for travelers from the six countries as well as others from 17 nations originally reported as deficient in traveler vetting.

The Wall Street Journal said the updated policy could be expanded to eight or nine countries, but with different travel limitations on each. The possible countries to be added were not named.

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