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Trump admin expands travel ban with new restrictions for six countries

The restrictions cover citizens of Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. Five of six have large Muslim populations.
Image: American Flag, White House
A flag is waved outside the White House on Sept. 4, 2017.Carolyn Kaster / AP file

The Trump administration is expanding its travel ban by restricting travel from six countries, citing security risks, the Department of Homeland Security announced Friday.

The countries — Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania — join seven other nations, five with Muslim majorities, that were already part of a Trump administration's travel ban announced in 2017. All of the newly named countries except Myanmar have Muslim populations of 35 percent or more.

The new restrictions only cover some immigrant categories, targeting visa holders who want to live in the U.S. The 2017 travel ban was broader, restricting people who wanted to travel to the U.S. as well as other visa categories.

That ban applied to people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen — all predominantly Muslim countries — as well as North Korea and Venezuela and was held up by the Supreme Court in 2018.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign a presidential proclamation Friday afternoon, which will put the new restrictions into effect at midnight on Feb. 22.

"The new, additional restrictions are not blanket restrictions," said Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. "These tailored restrictions will make the U.S. safer and more secure. And countries that make the necessary improvements will have their restrictions removed accordingly, as was done in 2018."

The security risks cited for the new restrictions differed for each country. The administration cited reasons from poor cooperation with Interpol to bad tracking to "deficiencies" related to transitioning away from military rule.

The new ban will "result in more suffering for untold numbers of families who will be prevented from reuniting," said Mariko Hirose, litigation director for the International Refugee Assistance Project, in response to the announcement. "Many of our clients, who are in extremely vulnerable situations, will once again be harmed by this order, among them Eritrean children trying to reunite with their family members in the United States.”

"We are particularly concerned about Burmese refugees who may see America’s doors closed to them at a time of desperate need — including thousands of ethnic Chin, Karen, and Muslim Rohingya, who have fled severe persecution," said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

The restrictions apply to all immigrants from Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Nigeria, except those with special eligibility because they provided assistance to the United States. Only immigrants with diversity lottery visas from Sudan and Tanzania will be affected. Previously issued visas will remain valid, a DHS spokesperson said. The agency estimated the new restrictions will affect more than 12,000 travelers.