BY TESFANEWS *
Three years after issuing a controversial travel ban initially slapped on seven Muslim-majority countries, the Trump administration is eyeing seven countries for new immigration restrictions. An announcement is expected as early as Monday.
The list of countries is not yet final and could be changed, but nations under consideration for new immigration restrictions reportedly to include Belarus, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.
Chad, for instance, was previously covered under the ban but was removed in April 2018.
A draft being considered by the Trump administration would place immigration restrictions on the additional seven countries, but not necessarily completely ban all citizens of those nations from entering the United States.
Some of these countries will face bans only on some visa categories.
Some countries could also be banned from participation in the diversity travel lottery program, which grants green cards. Trump has threatened to sack the program in the past.
Citizens of the affected countries can apply for waivers to the ban, but they are exceedingly rare.
A senior Trump administration official said that countries that failed to comply with security requirements, including biometrics, information-sharing and counter-terrorism measures, faced the risk of limitations on U.S. immigration.
Nonetheless, any new restrictions are likely to strain ties with the affected countries, some of which assist the U.S. on issues like fighting terrorism, and some of which Washington has been trying to court for strategic reasons.
Under the current version of the ban, citizens of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as some Venezuelan officials and their relatives are blocked from obtaining a large range of U.S. immigrant and non-immigrant visas.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley declined to confirm any details about plans to expand the travel ban, but defended the original order in a statement.
“The travel ban has been profoundly successful in protecting our country and raising the security baseline around the world,” he said. “While there are no new announcements at this time, common sense and national security both dictate that if a country wants to fully participate in U.S. immigration programs, they should also comply with all security and counter-terrorism measures — because we do not want to import terrorism or any other national security threat into the United States.”
Trump signed the original travel ban on Jan. 27, 2017, just a week into his tenure. The order initially denied visas to citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries, though it was later modified as it went through a series of court challenges.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf acknowledged Friday that the U.S. has been creating criteria for foreign governments to address in helping vet foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States.
“For a small number of countries that lack either the will or the capability to adhere to these criteria, travel restrictions may become necessary to mitigate threats,” he said in prepared remarks for a Homeland Security Experts Group event.
* Politico and Reuters contributed to the story.