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The Trump administration just made its travel ban permanent

Protestors In Seattle Rally Against Trump's Muslim Immigration Ban
Protestors hold up signs while taking part in a demonstration in January against U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order banning travel from majority Muslim countries.
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

President Donald Trump issued an executive order over the weekend that restricts travel to the US from more countries than any of the travel bans that have come before it, effectively banning almost all travel from eight countries — six of which have majority Muslim populations — indefinitely.

Come October 18, nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, Somalia, and North Korea will be more or less barred entry to the United States. Each nation under this ban is subject to its own travel restrictions, but the order overwhelmingly bars tourists, families of American residents, and even those seeking medical visas from entering the United States. Those who already have permanent residency or already hold visas are exempted from the ban — but cannot renew their visas after they expire. And now the Supreme Court has canceled oral arguments against the travel ban, until both sides file new briefs on the impact this permanent policy would have.

Refugee applicants, while not included in the scope of this executive order, will be capped at 45,000 next year, according to a report from the administration submitted to Congress. With the 120-day refugee ban coming to an end soon, this new directive is a striking change from the Obama administration, which had a goal of resettling more than 110,000 refugees.

With Trump’s revised March travel ban now expired, this new order will stay in place until the named countries work to meet certain baseline security requirements set by the Department of Homeland Security — metrics that could be unattainable for countries without the proper technological advancements.

It appears as though the Trump administration may have learned from past travel ban unveilings with the rollout of this order, and there will likely be less chaos at airports — where the administration’s first attempts at a travel ban fell into mayhem in February. But the impact of this order is more permanent than past iterations, and a clear reassertion of Trump’s intent to keep large swaths of the world out of the United States.

“There is no light at the end of the tunnel anymore,” Mirriam Seddiq, an immigration lawyer and founder of the American Muslim Women Political Action Committee, said. “Before the argument was, ‘This is only 90 days; why are you freaking out?’”

What we know about this order

“Following an extensive review by the Department of Homeland Security, we are taking action today to protect the safety and security of the American people by establishing a minimum security baseline for entry into the United States,” Trump said in a statement Sunday.

Trump’s order is the policy result of a July report from DHS, the State Department, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said they reviewed the travel security protocols of nearly 200 countries. They concluded that 47 countries did not adequately meet a baseline standard for identity management, like electronic passport data, information sharing, or including criminal history records for travelers, or had fostered a “significant terrorist presence within their territory.”

Trump’s administration is reported to have allowed the countries to meet the above requirements over a 50-day period, resulting in the final list of banned countries — the restrictions for which vary.

Whom it bans

  • For example, nationals of Chad, Yemen, and Libya, including those with business and tourist visas, are banned outright.
  • Iranian citizens, with the exception of those with valid student and visitor visas, are also barred from entry.
  • Somali immigrants are banned from entry, but non-immigrants — those seeking business or tourist visas — must undergo additional screening measures.
  • Venezuelan government officials and their families are banned from entering the United States, while nationals with visas are subjected to additional screening measures.
  • Syrian and North Korean nationals are banned outright — although North Korea also does not allow most of its nationals to leave the country.
President Trump's Revised Travel Ban Goes Into Effect, After Supreme Court Partially Revives It Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Whom it does not ban — yet

  • People with permanent US residency — like a green card — are not subject to this ban.
  • Anyone on a diplomatic visa will be allowed to enter the United States.
  • Those who already have visas will not have them revoked. However, once those visas expire, they will not be able to renew them.
  • Notably this order does not include refugees, for now. Any foreign national who has been granted asylum by the United States and any refugee who has already been admitted to the United States is exempt. However, the administration is expected to release further rules on refugees in the coming days.
  • Nationals from these listed countries that have dual citizenship with another country not included in this travel ban will be able to travel to the United States with a passport from a country not on the ban list.
  • Anyone who receives a waiver from Customs and Border Patrol or one issued by the State Department — a case-by-case process — will be exempt.

This new order could have significant long-term effects on the United States, especially if foreign nationals are not allowed to renew their work visas. It’s a clear articulation of what has been a widely debunked yet established part of the Trump doctrine that immigration hurts the American economy.

This travel ban is more refined — but that doesn’t erase the history of the policy

This travel ban is indefinite, making it more far-reaching than past iterations. And unlike earlier versions, it is more specific in its guidance, clearing up a lot of the gray areas that allowed for chaos and legal holdups in the past — likely by design.

“This breaks up possibility for litigation,” Seddiq said, specifically pointing out that refugees are no longer lumped together with immigrant and non-immigrant foreign nationals. “It’s smart; it lessens the emotional pull of the travel ban.”

But already, immigration advocates and those who were vocal against original iterations of the travel ban — Seddiq included — have pointed out similar flaws in this order as in past ones, namely that the list of targeted nations doesn’t always correlate with the given reasons.

Countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, which have a known terrorist presence, are not included on the list, while nations with more politically contentious relationships with the United States are.

Some of this can be attributed to safety concerns for American troops — like in Iraq, where there is still a strong American military and diplomatic presence that could put American lives at risk.

Adding countries like North Korea and Venezuela to the list might make it easier for the Trump administration to argue against accusations of religious discrimination, but advocates argue that Trump can’t undo the damage already done.

“Six of President Trump's targeted countries are Muslim,” Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said. “The fact that Trump has added North Korea — with few visitors to the US — and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn't obfuscate the real fact that the administration's order is still a Muslim ban. President Trump's original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list.”

Judges from lower courts have already used statements from Trump and his surrogates in their rulings to block the travel ban in the past. Those continue to play a central role in the case against these policies. In light of the Trump administration’s new order, the Supreme Court canceled its oral arguments in the legal challenge against Trump’s previous travel bans, originally scheduled for October 10, allowing both sides to file briefs on the impacts of this new directive.

Regardless, this order is yet another declaration from the Trump administration that it is committed to implementing some kind of travel ban — a campaign promise that resonated with his base, despite its alleged unconstitutionality.