The White House is considering extending the travel ban to the United States, to include additional countries, six officials familiar with the deliberations told AP on Saturday January 11th.
Two sources revealed that the document on the changes has withheld the names of the countries that will be affected because it is still incomplete and requires necessary final measures.
Included in the document was the number of countries that would be affected by the expansion if it proceeds. Officials said that seven countries would be added to the list. The most recent version of the ban includes restrictions on five Muslim nations, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as Venezuela and North Korea.
The officials said that the decision will include a number of countries against which an executive decision was issued according to the earlier ban in January 2017, while other countries such as Iraq, Sudan, and Chad will be absent, after extensive rounds of litigation.
White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley declined to confirm the plan but praised the travel ban for making the US safer.
“The travel ban has been very successful in protecting our country and raising the security baseline around the world," Gidley said in a statement.
“While there are no new announcements at this time, common sense and national security both dictate that if a country wants to fully participate in US immigration programmes, they should also comply with all security and counterterrorism measures, because we do not want to import terrorism or any other national security threat into the US," he said according AP.
Observers said they expected the White House to announce the decision to coincide with the third anniversary of President Trump's first travel ban, which was announced without warning on January 27th, 2017 just days after Trump took office. The order was met with criticism, with massive protests across the nation and chaos at airports where passengers were detained.
The current ban suspends immigrant and non-immigrant visas to applicants from the affected countries, but it allows exceptions, including those for students and those who have established “significant contacts” in the US. It represents a significant softening from Trump's initial order, which had suspended travel from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for 90 days, blocked refugee admissions for 120 days and suspended travel from Syria.
The new proposal on Saturday, received an immediate critical reaction. As Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal rejected another expansion to the travel ban list, “An expanded Muslim ban will worsen our relationships with countries around the world. It won't do anything to make our country safer. It will harm refugees, alienate our allies and give extremists propaganda for recruitment,” she said.
In the same context, just this week, a coalition of leading civil rights organisations urged the leader of the House of Representatives to take up the 'No Ban Act' legislation to end Trump’s travel ban and prevent a new one. The bill introduced last year by Democratic Representative Judy Chu, with Democratic Senator Chris Coons, in the Senate, would impose limits on the president’s ability to restrict entry to the US. It would require the administration to spell out its reasons for the restrictions and specifically prohibit religious discrimination.