Trump Administration To Replace Travel Ban With Broader "Targeted" Restrictions: WSJ

After repeatedly asking the Supreme Court to overturn parts of appellate court rulings that have sought to limit the scope of the White House’s controversial travel ban as US judges have continued their unceasing assault on Trump’s order even after the Supreme Court granted a temporary stay, WSJ is reporting this morning that the administration has decided to replace the travel ban in favor of more targeted restrictions that will affect a slightly larger number of countries after it expires this weekend.

The logic behind the decision is that it would be more effective to create specific travel restrictions that vary by country based on a number of factors – including cooperation with US mandates, specific threats posed by each country and other miscellaneous factors, according to WSJ’s anonymous sources. Considering the opposition the wholesale ban has faced, the decision is understandable.

Here’s more from WSJ:

“The Department of Homeland Security originally flagged 17 nations as failing to comply with standards, such as informing the U.S. of known terrorists and issuing reliable passports. Facing the prospect of being included in a travel ban, about half of those 17 nations made changes that brought them into compliance, the people familiar with the process said.


DHS then recommended travel restrictions be imposed or extended on the remaining countries. The specific number wasn’t available but it was about half of 17, according to one person familiar with the plan, which would put the total around eight or nine. Under the recommendation, travelers from one or two more countries could face additional background checks when seeking to travel to the U.S., but not a travel ban.


One person described the new system as being “tailored sanctions commensurate with their deficiencies” that takes into account the threat posed by the country as well as foreign policy implications of imposing restrictions.”

The new restrictions will be open-ended, unlike the existing ban, which included temporary restrictions to allow the US to improve its ability to vet travelers.  Countries can have restrictions added or removed at any time as various factors change. It wasn’t immediately known which countries would be affected by the new restrictions. The Targeted rules would affect eight or nine countries but it's not immediately known which countries would be affected. President Trump is set to make a final decision on the new restrictions. He could still opt to scrap them and stick with the existing ban, which faces a final ruling from the Supreme Court this fall.

As WSJ pointed out, Trump said "the travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific" in a tweet sent earlier this month in response to a terrorist attack in London. On Thursday, a White House spokeswoman added, “The Trump administration will ensure we only admit those who can be properly vetted and will not pose a threat to national security or public safety.”

The new rules are scheduled to be announced by Sunday, when the existing, 90-day travel ban expires. The current ban applies to people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

As part of the process of improving the US's vetting capabilities, the stated goal of the original travel ban, the US has identified 17 nations that have "inadequate" compliance with the US's demand that countries alert the US to known terrorists and criminals. 

As part of that process, the U.S. laid out its demands to all countries. These include requirements that nations inform the U.S. about people it knows or believes to be terrorists or criminals; that countries issue or have active plans to issue electronic passports including biometrics, and that countries regularly report lost and stolen passports to Interpol, an international policing agency.


Those standards are consistent with those that the Obama administration sought in its effort to better screen potential visitors. The difference is the Obama administration generally tried to persuade nations to cooperate with incentives such as visa-free travel to the U.S., whereas the Trump administration is using threats, such as a ban on travel to the U.S.


“They’re now creating sticks where there once were carrots,” said David Heyman, a senior DHS official in the Obama administration.


After an initial review, 17 nations were flagged as being “inadequate” in their compliance with these standards and twice that number were seen as being “at-risk” of not complying.


The list of 17 was whittled in half through engagement, led by the State Department, with each country. Fearful that they would be subjected to a new travel ban, several countries modified their policies or developed action plans to do so, one administration official said.


“The goal is to get people into compliance so that we know who’s going into the country, so we can keep the bad people out,” a second official said.

WSJ reported that some countries on the current ban list would be included in the new restrictions, but possibly not all. One person familiar with the matter said that “a couple” of the six countries that are now banned have improved their cooperation, though it wasn’t clear if they improved enough to escape travel restrictions altogether.