Third time’s the charm?
President Donald Trump rolled out his most drastic travel ban to date on Sunday, limiting entry into the United States for nationals of eight countries.
He made some significant amendments to the new ban. Not only is it permanent, but it also removed Sudan from the list of targeted countries and added Chad, North Korea and Venezuela. While two of these additions don’t represent Muslim-majority countries, legal experts and advocates say it’s a thinly veiled attempt at preventing Muslims from coming into the U.S.
“For the countries previously targeted, the targeting continues,” Zahra Billoo a Council on American-Islamic Relations representative, told reporters on a call Monday. The new countries are merely “token additions” to make the ban appear more widespread and palatable.
“This is still a Muslim ban ― they simply added three additional countries,” Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, said in a statement of the new restrictions, which were issued on Sunday. “Of those countries, Chad is majority Muslim, travel from North Korea is already basically frozen and the restrictions on Venezuela only affect government officials on certain visas. You can’t get any more transparent than that.”
Each of these three countries presents a unique threat, according to the presidential memo. The only thing they all have in common is their inability or unwillingness to share adequate information with the U.S. government about their citizens.
Chadian immigrants, and nonimmigrants who would be traveling to the U.S. on business or tourist visas, are now barred. The administration said it’s because the country, whose population is 55 percent Muslim, “does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information and fails to satisfy at least one key risk criterion.” In addition, the so-called Islamic State, al Qaeda and Boko Haram are all active within the country or the surrounding region, the order said.
“Violent extremist organizations in the region […] can easily cross borders and target foreigners, local security forces, and civilians,” a State Department travel warning from June said.
The memo does also note that Chad is an important U.S. partner in tackling the terrorist threat.
Zero North Koreans will be allowed entry into the country from here on out because the pariah state “does not cooperate with the United States Government in any respect and fails to satisfy all information-sharing requirements,” the memo said.
The U.S. has historically offered very few visas to North Korean citizens ― only about 100 visas were granted in 2016, according to a Voice of America review. About half were business or tourist visas and half were diplomatic. Fewer than a dozen North Koreans emigrated to the U.S. last year, Billoo added.
Because the new restrictions don’t impact the refugee resettlement program for the time being, North Korean defectors can still be resettled in the U.S. as refugees. In fiscal year 2017, 12 North Korean refugees were resettled.
There are no known terrorist groups operating in North Korea, but the country likely appears on the list as a result of the nuclear threat it poses to the U.S. Kim Jong Un’s government has conducted several missile tests recently and warned last week that it could test a hydrogen bomb. Trump has escalated that threat, repeatedly warning of North Korea’s destruction and demanding China assistance in discrediting the regime.
The new travel restrictions only apply to certain Venezuelan government officials and their families.
“Venezuela has adopted many of the baseline standards identified by the Secretary of Homeland Security and in section 1 of this proclamation, but its government is uncooperative in verifying whether its citizens pose national security or public-safety threats,” according to the memo.
Trump’s administration has taken a hard line on Venezuela. He slapped the harshest economic sanctions to date on Venezuela in August. He threatened military action if the country’s leader, Nicolas Maduro, continues down the path of authoritarianism. He also called for the release of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.