Trump weighs more targeted travel ban

Trump weighs more targeted travel ban
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President Trump may replace his controversial travel ban with a more targeted list of restrictions on visitors to the U.S., administration officials said Friday.

Trump’s 90-day ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority nations is set to expire on Sunday.

The White House is weighing recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on new rules, which could range from enhanced vetting procedures to restrictions on travel from certain countries.

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Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke submitted a report to Trump last Friday containing information about countries that do not adequately meet vetting standards, after the agency raised the baseline for security screening this summer.

While the new minimum screening requirements are universal, the travel curbs will vary by country and how well they are abiding by those standards.

Administration officials refused to name the countries that would be covered by the new restrictions or reveal how many are on the list, saying Trump has not yet made a final decision.

They also declined to say if any of the six countries covered by the travel ban will come off the list.

“The president is considering options right now, considering strengthening security standards for visitors to the United States,” Miles Taylor, counselor to the Homeland Security secretary, said during a press call with reporters. “Acting Secretary Elaine Duke has recommended actions that are tough and that are tailored.”

The new restrictions won't have a set end-date, according to Taylor, who said they will be “conditions based and not time based.”

Even though the ban expires Sunday, officials would not confirm whether Trump will make a final call before then.

The policy review was required by Trump’s ban, which he signed in March. The White House said the 90-day pause on travel was needed so that the government could examine, and potentially beef up, its vetting procedures.

The DHS was tasked with reviewing the government’s current security screening protocols for refugees and for people traveling to the U.S. on visas.

The agency made a determination — on a country-by-country basis — about whether additional screening information is needed to assess whether an individual seeking entry in the U.S. is a threat.

The DHS considered risk factors of individual countries when making that determination, including whether foreign governments issue secure passports and share information about terrorists and criminals living in their countries.

Carl Risch, the State Department’s head of consular affairs, said his agency worked closely with the DHS over the summer to notify foreign governments about the new screening requirements and gave them 50 days to comply or face new restrictions.

“Our engagement produced wins in a number of cases," he said.

“Most countries in the world ended up meeting that baseline,” Taylor added. “But at the end of the day, some countries were unable or worse yet deliberately unwilling to.”

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the new travel rules, said they would affect eight or nine countries.

Trump set off a furor in January when he signed his original travel ban, which blocked people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya.

Facing a mounting legal battle over the policy, Trump signed a pared-down version of the policy in March that left Iraq off the list of banned countries. The revised policy was also put on ice. But in a win for the administration, the Supreme Court allowed the government to start enforcing the 90-day ban in June.

The latest round of changes might come ahead of a high court battle over the initial travel ban, which was hastily rolled out and blocked by federal judges.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case on Oct. 10.

A Justice Department official declined to say how a new policy would change their approach to the case.