President Trump Issues New Travel Restrictions for Nationals of 7 Countries

by Joseph McKeown

On September 24, 2017, President Trump issued a presidential proclamation that details new travel restrictions targeting nationals of seven countries, including Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as places some travel restrictions or increases scrutiny for certain nationals of Venezuela and nationals of Iraq. Under this proclamation, most citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen will be banned from entering the US. Certain government officials from Venezuela who seek to visit the US will face restrictions and Iraqi nationals will face heightened scrutiny. Sudan, included in the previous executive orders, was not included in these new travel restrictions. Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela were not originally in either of the bans but are now included. These new restrictions were issued as the revised travel ban that President Trump issued in March 2017, parts of which were blocked in court, expired on September 24. In announcing these travel restrictions, which are detailed in the “Presidential Proclamation Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats,” President Trump says that he “must act to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people.”

According to the White House, the new travel restrictions were drafted in cooperation with numerous governmental agencies and is the result of a report from the director of US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) on other nations’ information-sharing practices regarding their nationals traveling to the US, as well as the result of increased security and vetting for immigrants and nonimmigrants to the US. After working in “good faith” with foreign governments to improve security screening, the White House says, several countries “remain currently inadequate in their identity-management protocols and information-sharing practices or present sufficient risk factors that travel restrictions are required.”

There are two effective dates for these new travel restrictions. Effective 3:30pm on September 24, 2017, the day the proclamation was signed, it applies to nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, five of the countries named in the March 2017 travel ban. Unlike the previous bans, the travel restrictions will also apply to nationals of Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela who are outside the US as of 12:01am on October 18, 2017. The new travel restrictions also differentiate between immigrants (including legal permanent residents or Green Card holders) and nonimmigrants (those who are in the US temporarily, including visitors or students). The original travel ban failed to make this distinction, one of the reasons it caused chaos at airports after President Trump signed it in the early days in office.

The Legal Aid Society has issued a helpful fact sheet in regards to the travel restrictions and how it affects nationals of the listed countries. Importantly, the new travel restrictions do not apply to the following individuals:

  • any lawful permanent resident of the United States;
  • any foreign national who is admitted to or paroled into the United States on or after the applicable effective date… [September 24, 2017 or October 18, 2017, depending on the country];
  • any foreign national who has a document other than a visa -- such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document -- valid on the applicable effective date…of this proclamation or issued on any date thereafter, that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission;
  • any dual national of a country…when the individual is traveling on a passport issued by a non-designated country;
  • any foreign national traveling on a diplomatic or diplomatic-type visa, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visa, C-2 visa for travel to the United Nations, or G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-4 visa; or
  • any foreign national who has been granted asylum by the United States; any refugee who has already been admitted to the United States; or any individual who has been granted withholding of removal, advance parole, or protection under the Convention Against Torture.

Foreign nationals from the affected countries may receive waivers from the travel restrictions if they can prove that denying entry would cause undue hardship, that entry would not pose a national security threat, and that their entry would be in the public interest. There are no changes to the status of refugees in this new proclamation. During Fiscal Year 2017, refugee numbers are still capped at 50,000.

As with the previous travel bans, these new travel restrictions are generating controversy and opposition, and court challenges are expected. The Legal Aid Society says: “With this third attempt at banning Muslims, President Trump is targeting nationals of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Chad, all of which have predominantly Muslim populations, with North Korea and Venezuela added this time for political cover. The anti-Muslim intent has been cloaked in language about the countries’ alleged deficiencies in their identity-management protocols, information-sharing practices, and capacity and ability to assess whether their citizens would pose a threat to the US." The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed many of the court challenges to the previous bans, also criticized the new travel restrictions. Anthony D. Romero, the group’s executive director, tells the Los Angeles Times. “President Trump's original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list.”

It is not immediately clear how the new travel restrictions will affect the legal challenges to the March 2017 travel ban, currently under consideration by the Supreme Court. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for early October, but parts of the case may now be moot. A Justice Department spokesman says that the solicitor general would submit an update to the Supreme Court about the new travel restrictions, and that the administration will continue defending the president’s “lawful authority to issue his executive order.”

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 29, 2017: The Supreme Court this week canceled oral arguments on President Trump’s revised travel ban, after the president issued new travel restrictions. Legal challenges are expected against these new travel restrictions, and we'll provide updates as available.

UPDATE OCTOBER 17, 2017: Judge Derrick K. Watson of Federal District Court in Honolulu has blocked President Trump’s new travel restrictions hours before they were to take effect. The judge, who had previously blocked President Trump’s second travel ban from taking effect in March earlier this year, issued a nationwide order on Tuesday blocking the restrictions, another legal setback for the Trump administration.

These new travel restrictions, Judge Watson says in the ruling, suffer from "precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be 'detrimental to the interests of the United States’…and plainly discriminates based on nationality in the manner that the Ninth Circuit has found antithetical to...the founding principles of this Nation.” The Justice Department did not immediately comment on the judge's ruling. Although Judge Watson's earlier ruling on the second travel ban was upheld by an appeals court, the Supreme Court allowed portions of that travel ban to take effect. 

UPDATE OCTOBER 18, 2017: Federal Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland has blocked parts of President Trump’s travel restrictions, following a similar order issued by Judge Watson in Hawaii. While Judge Watson blocked the travel restrictions in their entirety, except for those from North Korea and Venezuela, Judge Chuang’s injunction would allow the travel restrictions to apply to individuals who lack "a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” which is similar to language used by the Supreme Court when it restored parts of the previous travel ban this summer.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued the case on behalf of the plaintiffs. Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, says: "Like the two versions before it, President Trump's latest travel ban is still a Muslim ban at its core. And like the two before it, this one is going down to defeat in the courts. Religious discrimination with window dressing is still unconstitutional.” Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior in an emailed statement says they will appeal. “Today's ruling is incorrect, fails to properly respect the separation of powers, and has the potential to cause serious negative consequences for our national security,” he says. "The Department of Justice will appeal in an expeditious manner, continue to fight for the implementation of the president's order, and exercise our duties to protect the American people.”

UPDATE NOVEMBER 17, 2017: The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in California has partially re-instated President Donald Trump’s latest travel restrictions, allowing the government to bar entry of individuals from six Muslim-majority countries with no connections to the US. This means the travel restrictions will apply to individuals from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Chad who do not have the necessary connections to the US. The state of Hawaii, which had sued to block the restrictions, did not challenge restrictions toward individuals from the two other countries listed in Trump’s travel restrictions, North Korea and Venezuela. “We are reviewing the court’s order and the government will begin enforcing the travel proclamation consistent with the partial stay,” Justice Department spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam tells Reuters. "We believe that the proclamation should be allowed to take effect in its entirety.” 

UPDATE DECEMBER 6, 2017: The Supreme Court yesterday allowed the Trump administration’s latest travel restrictions to go into effect while legal challenges continue to proceed through the courts. The decision, a victory for the administration, was revealed in the court’s brief, unsigned orders that also urged the appeals courts to move quickly on deciding whether the travel restrictions were lawful. The Supreme Court’s order stands in contrast to an earlier decision in June this year stating that travelers with bona fide connections to the US could continue to travel to the US notwithstanding restrictions in the earlier version of the ban. The Supreme Court’s action now means that the travel restrictions can go fully into effect for most citizens from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, along with certain individuals from Venezuela. The Legal Aid Society has a helpful fact sheet that explains how the travel restrictions affect citizens of these countries."

In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions calls the order “a substantial victory for the safety and security of the American people.” Hogan Gidley, a spokesman for the White House, also praises the decision, saying the travel restrictions are “lawful and essential to protecting our homeland.” The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents both individuals and groups challenging the travel restrictions in court, says it will continue to fight. “President Trump’s anti-Muslim prejudice is no secret—he has repeatedly confirmed it, including just last week on Twitter,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, says in a statement. “It's unfortunate that the full ban can move forward for now, but this order does not address the merits of our claims. We continue to stand for freedom, equality, and for those who are unfairly being separated from their loved ones.”

UPDATE APRIL 12, 2018: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that Chad has raised its security standards to meet baseline US national security requirements. As a consequence, travel restrictions previously placed on Chad will terminate effective Friday, April 13, 2018, and nationals of Chad will be able to receive visas for travel to the US. DHS says that the travel restrictions have been removed after close cooperation between the two countries after the implementation of President Trump’s higher security standards which, DHS says, "incentivized our international partners to take action—including improving sharing of data on terrorists and criminals, making travel documents more secure, and taking steps to crack down on identity fraud.”