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The Trump Administration Has Been Preparing To Expand The Travel Ban, Documents Reveal

Iran, Syria, Libya, Venezuela, North Korea, Yemen, and Somalia are already subject to the travel ban — also known as the Muslim ban, after Trump campaigned on a promise to stop Muslims from entering the US.

Last updated on January 10, 2020, at 5:53 p.m. ET

Posted on January 10, 2020, at 3:56 p.m. ET

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The Trump administration has been preparing to expand its travel ban — which bars individuals from seven countries from entering the US — to restrict certain immigrants from several more nations around the world, according to internal government documents obtained by BuzzFeed News.

It is unclear whether the administration will issue the restrictions. But the draft documents suggest it has been actively preparing to do so by creating materials to engage with the media, alongside a draft presidential proclamation.

The draft materials obtained by BuzzFeed News do not contain the names of the countries being considered, but the proclamation includes seven slots that contain descriptors for each nation and varied restrictions. The move would represent just the latest in a series of unprecedented efforts by the Trump administration to tighten immigration — and could pointedly come in a reelection year.

While the countries are not listed, the descriptions included do list some indicators. Several countries are listed as not providing the US with “identity information” and presenting a “risk” of “terrorist travel.” One country is an “important strategic partner in the global fight against terrorism” but nevertheless is failing in “identity management” issues. Another country does not “work with the United States on border and immigration security issues.”

CNN first reported in October that the administration was considering restricting travel from certain countries. The Associated Press reported Friday that the administration was also considering a new travel ban.

Sen. Chris Coons and Rep. Judy Chu, both Democrats, "un-American" and "dangerous."

"Thousands of families have already been torn apart because of President Trump’s discriminatory Muslim Ban that does not make us safer. Now, thousands more spouses, parents, grandparents, children, siblings, and friends could be separated by the expansion of this senseless ban,” Coons said in a statement. “This policy is wrong, it is un-American, and I will fight it."

Chu called it a "dangerous policy rooted in bigotry and xenophobia, sold to the American public through misinformation and innuendo."

The draft presidential proclamation details how, after a review conducted by the Trump administration of the “identity management” and security protocols for 200 countries, the Department of Homeland Security recommended Trump place travel restrictions on countries in addition to the seven already banned, which include Iran, Syria, Libya, Venezuela, North Korea, Yemen, and Somalia.

“In addition to maintaining the current restrictions, the Secretary recommended restrictions on additional countries that failed to satisfy the baseline criteria, as informed by the outcomes of the new, enhanced methodology,” the draft proclamation reads. “Now, therefore, I, Donald J. Trump, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 212(f) and 215(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act...hereby find that, absent measures set forth in this proclamation, the immigrant entry in the United States of persons described in Section 1 of this proclamation would be detrimental to the interests of the United States and that their entry should be subject to certain restrictions, limitations and exceptions.”

Five of the countries listed in the proclamation would have more expansive blocks, according to the draft. The draft materials state that the restrictions would impact “approximately 2.5% of all immigrant visas issued by the U.S. Department of State.”

“The entry into the United States of nationals of [Country 1] as immigrants, except as Special Immigrants, is hereby suspended,” reads one section. Special immigrants are religious workers, physicians, and those who worked for the US military abroad, among other specific categories. Two other countries would have their nationals banned from obtaining “diversity visas,” meaning random visas given to those from countries that have low rates of immigration to the US.

In January 2017, the Trump administration initially banned those from six Muslim-majority countries before federal courts across the country blocked the order. Later, Trump instituted a separate ban and the US Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional. A waiver process for those included in the ban has led to more than 7,600 immigrants from the barred countries being allowed to enter the US, a 10% clearance rate, according to a US State Department official’s testimony in a September House hearing.

The initial travel ban — also called the “Muslim ban” after Trump pledged during his first campaign to stop all Muslims from immigrating to the US — targeted only Muslim-majority countries. The DHS media team appears to be preparing for such questions.

“Q: How many of these countries are majority Muslim? A: DHS did not consider or even research the predominate religion practiced in these or any country as part of its review. As a result, we would refer you to publicly available information about the demographics of these countries,” read one answer of a document titled “response to queries.”

The document appears to be a set of questions the agency predicts it will receive as the proclamation is announced and includes questions like “why are these countries facing travel restrictions?” and why the new restrictions include fewer visa categories than the initial travel ban.

The answer states that, like the already banned seven countries, the new countries are some of the “lowest performing in the world.” The US government, however, has found that the to-be-restricted countries have prospects for improvement.

“Each has a functioning government, control over its territory, and maintains relations with the United States. Most of the new countries have expressed a willingness to work on correcting their deficiencies, although it may take some time to identify and implement specific improvements,” the answer reads.

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