Trump's travel ban set to expire, forcing decision on vetting

Trump's travel ban set to expire, forcing decision on vetting
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A core piece of President Trump's travel ban is set to expire on Sunday. 

The Supreme Court allowed parts of Trump’s policy to go into effect earlier this summer, starting the clock on a 90-day pause in travel from six predominantly Muslim countries. The stoppage was needed, according to Trump officials, to conduct a review of vetting procedures.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) submitted the results of that review to the White House late last week. Its contents have not been revealed publicly, but the report could recommend that the government strengthen its vetting protocols for visas and refugees, add new nations to the list of banned countries or even craft an entirely new order.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that no decisions have yet been made about how the president will proceed. 

But Trump recently expressed a desire to enact an even stricter travel ban after a bomb explosion in London’s subway system. 

“The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific — but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!" Trump wrote on Twitter.

The original executive order, hastily rolled out just one week after Trump took office, barred people from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia from entering the U.S. for 90 days, halted the U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and indefinitely suspended the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

But the policy was halted by legal challenges as protests erupted at airports around the country.

Trump revoked the ban and issued a new order that dropped Iraq from the list of impacted nations and made other changes designed to help the policy stand up in court.

The revised order was also put on hold by the courts, but the Supreme Court overruled in June. The high court allowed the government to begin enforcing the 90-day ban for travelers who don’t have a “bona fide” connection to a person or entity in the U.S.

That 90-day period comes to an end on Sunday, just two weeks before the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments over the policy’s legality. A ruling in the case may not be issued for months, however.

One major factor that may shape the administration’s path forward is the results of the DHS report, which was required by the executive order.

The DHS, in consultation with the secretary of State and the director of national intelligence, was tasked with reviewing the government’s current screening protocols for the visa-issuance process and the Refugee Admissions Program.

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

The report is supposed to recommend what type of new information might be needed from foreign nationals, with the executive order stating that the standards do not have to be the same for every nation.

The review could also recommend additional countries to be placed under travel restrictions, as well as nations that should be removed from the list.

While the report won’t be made public, a spokesman for the DHS said that the White House might release some information to the press and public. 

Depending on the findings, the administration may decide to expand the ban, issue a new one or revamp its vetting procedures, though all those options could face legal challenges. 

“The White House has a wide array of options,” said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University. But “a new order would have the benefit of cleaning the slate and picking better ground for any renewed litigation.”