Trump Administration Issues Indefinite Travel Ban Aimed Mostly At Muslims

The Trump Administration has issued a new travel ban to replace the temporary one that expired late last week, but it still suffers from most of the same defects as its initial efforts.

Trump Muslim Ban

The Trump Administration has issued a new travel ban order that is meant to replace the temporary ban put in place this year:

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Sunday issued a new order indefinitely banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

The new order is more far-reaching than the president’s original travel ban, imposing permanent restrictions on travel, rather than the 90-day suspension that Mr. Trump authorized soon after taking office. But officials said his new action was the result of a deliberative, rigorous examination of security risks that was designed to avoid the chaotic rollout of his first ban. And the addition of non-Muslim countries could address the legal attacks on earlier travel restrictions as discrimination based on religion.

Starting next month, most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea will be banned from entering the United States, Mr. Trump said in a proclamation released Sunday night. Citizens of Iraq and some groups of people in Venezuela who seek to visit the United States will face restrictions or heightened scrutiny.

Mr. Trump’s original travel ban caused turmoil at airports in January and set off a furious legal challenge to the president’s authority. It was followed in March by a revised ban, which expired on Sunday even as the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments about its constitutionality on Oct. 10. The new order — Chad, North Korea and Venezuela are new to the list of affected countries and Sudan has been dropped — will take effect Oct. 18.

“As president, I must act to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people,” Mr. Trump said in the proclamation, which White House officials said had the same force as an executive order. He added that the restrictions will remain in effect until the governments of the affected nations “satisfactorily address the identified inadequacies.”

For Mr. Trump, whose efforts on health care, infrastructure improvements and tax reform are gaining little steam, the new order is a third attempt to make good on his campaign promise to respond to terrorist threats by tightening entry at the nation’s borders. In December 2015, he called for a complete ban on travel to the United States by Muslims “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,” though he later denied that he had sought a religious test on travel.

Officials described the new order as a much more targeted effort than the president’s earlier one. Each of the countries will be under its own set of travel restrictions, though in most cases citizens of the countries will be unable to emigrate to the United States permanently and most will be barred from coming to work, study or vacation in America.

Iran, for example, will still be able to send its citizens on student exchanges, though such visitors will be subject to enhanced screening. Certain government officials of Venezuela and their families will be barred from visiting the United States. Somalis will no longer be allowed to emigrate to the United States, but may visit with extra screening.

Administration officials said that the new rules would not apply to legal permanent residents of the United States, and that visitors who currently hold valid visas from the countries listed will not have their visas revoked.

That means that students already in the United States can finish their studies and employees of businesses in the United States who are from the targeted countries may stay for as long as their existing visas remain valid. People whose visas expire will be subject to the travel ban, officials said.

People seeking access to the United States as refugees are not covered by the proclamation, officials said. Entry of refugees is currently limited by the president’s original travel ban, and officials said the administration was preparing new rules for refugees that should be announced within days.

Reaction to the president’s announcement was swift, as some critics of the original travel ban expressed similar concerns about the president’s latest effort to bar potential terrorists and criminals.

“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,” said Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“President Trump’s original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list,” Mr. Romero said.

But administration officials — who have long rejected the characterization of the president’s travel restrictions as a “Muslim ban,” — noted that the latest effort also applies to non-Muslim countries and was based on a rigorous evaluation of each country’s security capabilities.

One official who briefed reporters on Sunday evening insisted that the president’s travel restrictions were “never, ever, ever” based on race, religion or creed.

In a statement released by the White House, Mr. Trump defended the new proclamation, saying that “we cannot afford to continue the failed policies of the past, which present an unacceptable danger to our country. My highest obligation is to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and in issuing this new travel order, I am fulfilling that sacred obligation.”

This new order adds significantly to the temporary ban issued in late January which was blocked by a Federal District Court Judge and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had issued injunctions against the order. After those orders, the Administration issued a revised ban that purported to address the problems pointed out in the initial order. That order purported to make certain changes to the bill but was itself struck down both by Federal Judges across the nation and by the Fourth and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal. In June, the Supreme Court issued a ruling regarding the Trump Administration’s Executive Order that banned travel from six predominantly Muslim nations that upheld the ban in some respects but also ruled that it could not be applied to all immigrants from these nations. Specifically, the Court ruled that exceptions must be made for people with valid visas, and those with bona fide family or business connections to the United States, although it didn’t specify what it meant by that.

The first major difference, of course, is that the new order is permanent as opposed to temporary. This essentially means that the old ban and any exceptions that applied to it are now moot and that the Administration intends to make the ban permanent barring court orders to the contrary. In doing so, though, the Administration appears to have left the door open for further court action

Additionally. the new order adds countries to the list in what many critics have already called an effort to get around the argument that the main target of the ban is directed at Muslims. Given other things going on in the world, the most notable addition to the list is North Korea, an addition that seems to be especially curious given the fact that the United States currently does not have diplomatic relations with the DPRK and that there is essentially no immigration of any kind from North Korea into the United States.  With limited exceptions, the only travel from North Korea to the United States is that made by North Korean diplomats who are traveling to New York City to represent the nation before the United Nations, and the order entered last night has absolutely no impact on those immigrants due to existing treaties that bars the United States from barring diplomats headed to the U.N. except in the most exceptional of cases. Given this, it’s unclear what this part of the ban seeks to accomplish, other than to divert attention away from the fact that the order is principally directed at Muslims.

The same can be said regarding the ban on travel by certain Venezuelan officials. As with North Korea, the United States currently doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Venezuela, and there doesn’t appear to be much immigration to the U.S. from the South American nation notwithstanding the chaos and poverty created by the policies of the Maduro regime. As with the addition of North Korea to the list, the addition of Venezuela to the list, in addition to being limited to only a select few, appears to be little more than an effort to give Administration lawyers a way to argue to a future court that the ban is not aimed at Muslims per se, but motivated by security concerns. However, it remains clear that the ban is primarily aimed at people from nations that are majority Muslim and that it remains the logical extension of the broader Muslim ban that Trump announced during his campaign.

Finally, the ban also adds the African nation of Chad to the list, although it’s not entirely clear why this was done. As others have noted, Chad has been cooperating with American anti-terror efforts in Africa for quite some time now and participated in several projects to upgrade screening of travelers. Putting them on the list seems strange under those circumstances, and also seems likely to offend an otherwise friendly government and make cooperation on dealing with terrorism elsewhere in Africa, particularly that which originates in nearby Libya, much more difficult. Additionally, it’s worth noting that Chad is also a majority Muslim nation, so the decision to add it to the list while simultaneously removing the seemingly far less cooperative nation of Sudan doesn’t really make much objective sense.

The other change that this revised ban makes from the one that was previously in effect is the fact that it previously exempted people in the nations on the list with bona fide family or business relationships with people in the United States.  This part of the revised ban was the subject of much litigation in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in June as the Administration fought with lawyers for immigrants and the Attorneys General of several states over what constituted such a relationship. Under the Administration’s interpretation of that part of the Court’s ruling, the exception would only apply to relationships such as husbands, wives, children, in-laws, and other similarly close relationships. After litigation, though, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the exception must also cover other family relationships such as cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and the like.

As things stand, this new order appears to suffer from pretty much the same defects as the previous two iterations. It is still predominantly a ban on travel from Muslim nations, and that it is motivated by the same ignorant rhetoric that was cited by the previous orders relied upon to strike down the first two versions of the order. For those reasons, we can assume that this order will likewise be challenged in court and that the outcome is likely to be the same. How Trump reacts at that point is anyone’s guess.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Borders and Immigration, National Security, Religion, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. KM says:

    Yeah, we all knew that 90 day thing was BS.

  2. Franklin says:

    I think Trump is right, his Administration is very productive, getting lots of stuff done. Not only did they find Chad on a map, but they still had time left over to complain about some football players. They’re also scheduled to release a new Rosie O’Donnell joke, just as soon as they complete another staff shakeup.

  3. Lounsbury says:

    Chad? Really…. Chad?

  4. Stormy Dragon says:

    Are we sure that Chad is the country in Africa and not some guy named Chad that tweeted an insult at Trump right before the order was signed?