MS Risk Blog

US Administration Imposes New Travel Restriction

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On Sunday 24 September, United States President Donald Trump imposed new travel restrictions on citizens from North Korea, Venezuela and Chad, effectively expanding to eight the list of countries covered by his original travel bans that have been decried by critics and challenged in court.

The current ban, which was imposed in March, was due to expire on Sunday evening. The new restrictions are slated to take effect on 18 October and resulted from a review after President Trump’s original travel bans sparked international outrage and legal challenges. Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia were left on the list of affected countries in a new proclamation that was issued by the president, while restrictions on citizens from Sudan were lifted. Iraq citizens will not be subject to travel prohibitions however they will face enhanced scrutiny on vetting. The addition of North Korea and Venezuela to the list broadens the restrictions from the original, mostly Muslim-majority list. While tensions between the US and North Korea and Venezuela have been on the rise in recent months – with President Trump threatening to “destroy” North Korea if it attacks the US or its allies and also criticizing Venezuela, once hinting at a potential military option to deal with Caracas – officials have described the addition of the two countries on the list of travel restrictions as the result of a purely objective review. In the case of North Korea, where the suspension was sweeping and applied to both immigrants and non-immigrants, officials disclosed that it was hard for the US to validate the identify of someone coming from North Korea or to find out if that person was a threat. One official disclosed “North Korea, quite bluntly, does not cooperate whatsoever.” Meanwhile the restrictions on Venezuela focused on Socialist government officials that the Trump administration blamed for the country’s slide into economic disarray, including officials from the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service and their immediate families.

The latest measures help fulfil a campaign promise that Mr Trump made to tighten US immigration procedures and align with his “American First” foreign policy vision. Unlike the president’s original bans, which had time limits, this one is open-ended. The White House has portrayed the restrictions as consequences for countries that did not meet new requirements for vetting of immigrants and issuing of visas. The White House has stated that those requirements were shared in July with foreign governments, which had fifty days in order to make improvements if needed. A number of countries made improvements by enhancing the security of travel documents or the reporting of passports that were lost or stolen. However others did not, which has sparked the restrictions.

The latest announcement of travel restrictions comes as the US Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments on 10 October over the legality of President Trump’s previous travel ban, including whether it discriminated against Muslims.