On Sunday, September 24, Trump released the third version of his travel ban. This came less than a month before the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments on the prior version of the travel ban. This latest version kept similar language and restrictions as his prior one, but removed Sudan from the list and added three additional countries to the list of restricted countries: Venezuela, Chad, and North Korea. Read more about the prior version here.
The complete list of countries subject to some level of travel restrictions are North Korea, Chad, Venezuela, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Iran. The language used in his latest ban to justify this list is that these countries “remain deficient at this time with respect to their identity-management and information-sharing capabilities, protocols, and practices” and may “have a significant terrorist presence within their territory.” While these countries do not face uniform travel restrictions, they all face significant impediments to nationals who wish to travel to the United States. North Korea and Syria face almost total bans on travel from nationals of these countries, banning both immigrants and nonimmigrants wishing to travel on any type of visa. Venezuela faces the least severe travel restrictions with only government officials and their family facing limitations on their travel.
One of the most significant and shocking changes that this new ban imposes is that these restrictions are indefinite, meaning they could be in place forever. The other significant development is that these restrictions are no longer subject to the Supreme Court’s “bona-fide relationship” requirements. This means that even people with strong ties to family members or organizations within the U.S. are not allowed to travel here if they are forbidden from doing so by this ban.
While the addition of North Korea is somewhat understandable considering the current political climate with the U.S., the additions of Chad and Venezuela are less clear. Although Venezuela is facing severe political upheaval and turmoil within its borders, it remains unclear as to what threat Venezuelan nationals pose to U.S. security.
By far, the most unexpected addition to list is Chad. Chad is facing fairly severe travel restrictions for nationals who wish to come to the U.S., by suspending “the entry into the United States of nationals of Chad, as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas.” The justification by Trump is that there are several active terrorist groups “within Chad or in the surrounding region, including elements of Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, and al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb.” The issue with this justification is that there are many other countries in the surrounding areas, such as Nigeria, Mali, and Niger, that are significantly more affected by these terrorist groups and that were not included in this list. Moreover, Chad and the U.S. have always had a good relations until now.
There is much speculation as to the reason for the timing of these revised travel restrictions and the additions of these three countries. The most plausible reason is the eminence of the Supreme Court case against the prior version of his travel ban. Immediately after Trump issued this third version, the Supreme Court cancelled the oral arguments of the case challenging the constitutionality of Trump’s travel ban. While this decision does not necessarily mean the end of the case, this revised order presumptively renders this case moot, meaning this case is no longer relevant since the order that was being disputed is no longer current. Furthermore, the inclusion of Chad, Venezuela, and North Korea means the inclusion of countries where Islam is not the majority religion. This is undoubtedly a strategic move by Trump to get his policies passed without being accused of being facially discriminatory against a religious group. The lawsuits filed against his prior travel bans were able to successfully argue that the countries being unconstitutionally targeted because they are primarily Muslim countries. This new order is likely then Trump’s way of protecting his ban from being overturned by the judiciary.
If you or someone you know is attempting to travel to the U.S. from one of these countries, please contact an immigration attorney to know what your options may be. If you have any questions, please contact an attorney at Stilwell & Slatton Immigration by calling 202-333-2100.