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Trump administration expected to expand travel ban to six new countries, source says

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The Trump administration on Friday is expected to announce an expansion of the travel ban, a revision of one of the President’s signature policies, which has been derided by critics as an attempt to ban Muslims from the US, according to sources familiar with the updated restrictions.

The latest iteration comes three years after President Donald Trump — in one of his first moves in office — signed the first travel ban, which caused chaos at airports and eventually landed at the Supreme Court. The announcement also comes at the end of a major week for Trump with the signing of the USMCA trade deal and expected acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial.

The updated ban will include six new countries, according to a source familiar with the revisions. It has already sparked controversy over its expected targeting of African countries.

The administration has argued that the travel ban is vital to national security and ensures countries meet US security needs.

In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the third version of the travel ban after the previous iterations were challenged in court. The current policy restricts entry from seven countries to varying degrees: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with Venezuela and North Korea. Chad was removed from the list last April after the White House said the country improved security measures.

Unlike the travel restrictions currently in place, the new rules could limit certain immigrant visas from the additional countries, said a US government official — essentially creating a partial immigration ban, CNN reported earlier this month.

The expected revisions also come as the US is grappling with how to handle the coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday, the State Department announced a highest-level warning on not to travel to China due to the logistical disruptions and access to health care. The latest travel ban restrictions are not related to health issues, but rather security concerns.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal this month, Trump confirmed that he is planning to add additional nations to the travel ban, but wouldn’t reveal the countries.

Restrictions are imposed because a country does an inadequate job of sharing information, or otherwise poses an elevated public safety or national security risk, according to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf who was asked about the travel ban earlier this month.

In October, CNN reported that Trump administration officials were discussing adding more countries to the travel ban list, two sources said. At the time, fewer than five countries were under consideration, an official said.

The goal, the official said, is to “bring governments into compliance by using the power of access to the United States.” The travel restrictions would be tailored to the countries, if they’re added, and not impose a ban on them altogether, the official noted at the time.

Democratic lawmakers have continued to denounce the ban and pushed back against the administration’s argument that the ban was for national security purposes.

Last year, Democrats introduced a bill known as the “No Ban Act” in the House and Senate to overturn the ban, but the measure is not expected to pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

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