Officials: No decision yet on travel ban replacement Top News

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Officials: No decision yet on travel ban replacement Top News


A man protesting the travel ban is pictured here. | Getty Images

Demonstrators gather near the White House to protest President Donald Trump’s travel ban. | Zach Gibson/Getty Images

The six-nation ban is set to expire Sunday, leaving the administration a small window in which to replace the policy or let it fade away.

Two days before President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from six majority-Muslim nations is set to run out, top administration officials said there was still no decision from the president on what sorts of restrictions will replace that controversial directive.

The six-nation ban — which has been cut back substantially by a series of court rulings — is set to expire Sunday, leaving the administration a small window in which to replace the policy or let it fade away.

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Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke sent Trump a report last week proposing “tailored” travel restrictions for a series of countries, but administration officials who briefed reporters on the issue Friday declined to detail which nations were proposed for ongoing travel limits.

“The president is considering options right now for strengthening security standards related to foreign individuals traveling to the United States,” said Miles Taylor, a counselor to Duke.

Taylor said a review of visitor vetting practices set in motion by an executive order Trump signed in March found that those procedures needed significant improvement.

“Quite frankly, the screening and vetting status quo for border and immigration security is no longer adequate,” he said. “Our enemies and our adversaries are dead set on exploiting our defenses to enter our country. … We’ve got to do something.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that 17 countries had initially been flagged for inclusion on a list of nations to be subjected to restrictions, but that roughly half of those nations were able to comply with the vetting standards. Those countries would not be subject to a blanket travel ban, according to the Journal.

Trump aides pronounced the review process a success and said it prompted several countries to be more forthcoming with the U.S. about the backgrounds of travelers.

“This was a very significant step forward in raising national security standards and protecting the homeland,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said.

“Our engagement produced wins in a number of cases,” State Department consular official Carl Risch added.

However, officials were tight-lipped on details, refusing to say which countries became more cooperative or what sorts of sanctions others might face. They did say some nations rebuffed U.S. requests for more information or ignored them altogether.

“Some countries didn’t even have the courtesy to say fly a kite,” said Taylor, describing some nations as “willfully noncompliant.”

One former DHS official with knowledge of the changes told POLITICO the new policy could impose additional interviews, screening and background checks from the enumerated nations. The vetting measures could also include social media screening.

Officials were vague about what procedures embassies and consulates would follow for visa issuance starting Monday if Trump does not sign a new directive before then.

“There are some contingency plans, but to get more into that I think would move into a lane of questions that we’re not answering on this call,” Shah said.

“We regularly send guidance to the field and we would expect to do this next week if there’s any ambiguity,” Risch said.

Officials did confirm that Duke recommended a mechanism to allow for exceptions if Trump adopts new or revised travel restrictions on various countries.

“The secretary has recommended a certain process for waivers and exemptions,” Taylor said.

It’s unclear how any changes to the current policy might affect litigation over the travel ban order Trump issued in March. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Oct. 10 on the legality of the measure, but the justices have already suggested that the dispute may be moot due to the temporary nature of the directive.

Trump issued his first travel ban order one week after he took office in January, banning travel to the U.S. by nationals of seven majority-Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Announced with immediate effect, it triggered widespread protests at U.S. airports and significant confusion about its application, particularly to green card holders.

Many critics said the measure was a thinly veiled version of the Muslim ban Trump championed during the presidential campaign. After courts blocked key parts of the first directive, Trump issued a new order in March dropping Iraq from the list of targeted countries and removing other language courts suggested indicated religious animus. He also excluded existing visa and green card holders from the impact of the suspension.

The revised order also encountered quick resistance from the courts, which issued injunctions against aspects of the ban.

The Supreme Court cut those injunctions back somewhat in June when it agreed to take up the legality of Trump’s order. Under the high court’s interim order, close family members of U.S. citizens or residents are exempt from the visa ban and another portion of Trump’s directive halting refugee admissions. The justices also exempted people with bona fide ties to U.S. companies, schools or organizations.

However, Trump has continued to complain publicly that the existing ban is too weak.

“The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!” he wrote on Twitter last week following a terrorist attack in London.

Annie Karni contributed to this report.

Officials: No decision yet on travel ban replacement Top News

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Officials: No decision yet on travel ban replacement Top News

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