President Donald Trump rolled out the latest, most sweeping version of his notorious travel ban late Sunday night, indefinitely banning almost all travelers from a total of seven countries. Six of those countries are Muslim-majority.
The new executive order bans most citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States. Certain Venezuelan government officials and their families are also banned. Unlike the previous ban, which made exceptions for individuals with “bona fide” or pre-existing relationships with family members or institutions in the United States, the new ban removes those exceptions on October 18, when the new order takes effect. The latest ban is also indefinite — it is not a simple 90-day suspension, as before.
Of the seven countries included in the ban, six have Muslim-majority populations. The ban effectively targets about 150 million Muslims.
The Trump administration is sure to sell the latest ban, and the additions of North Korea and Venezuela in particular, as a sign that this ban isn’t discriminatory in nature. Trump’s previous bans — one signed in January, and the other in March — both faced legal challenges for this reason. These legal challenges hinged on the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another. The Supreme Court was due to rule on whether Trump’s previous ban violated the First Amendment, based in large part on whether Trump’s intent behind the order matters — that is, whether he was trying to specifically target Muslims. An example of intent could be Trump’s repeated call to ban Muslims from the United States, or his advisors calling the original ban a Muslim ban, for example.
Trump’s third attempt at the ban aims to neutralize much of that controversy, and the White House says it is simply targeting countries that do not share vetting information with the U.S. government.
“[A] small number of countries — out of nearly 200 evaluated — remain deficient at this time with respect to their identity-management and information-sharing capabilties, protocols, and practices,” the order reads. “[U]ntil they satisfactorily address the identified inadequacies, I have determined…to impose certain conditional restrictions and limitations.”
Countries that meet the information-sharing protocols — like Sudan, which was on the earlier version of Trump’s ban — will be removed from the list of targeted countries.
By making the ban conditional on security information, the Trump administration seeks to sidestep constitutional protections against religious bias. The symbolic inclusion of North Korea — a long-isolated nation, which already severely restricts the travel of its own citizens — also seemingly aims to provide cover for what is still largely a Muslim ban. Already, very few North Koreans travel to the United States, so its inclusion in the ban doesn’t mean much.
“The administration is once again making cosmetic adjustments to the Muslim ban in hopes that it will pass the barest possible definition of anything else; but they’ve failed again,” the legal advocacy organization Muslim Advocates said in a statement.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) executive director Anthony D. Romero shared the sentiment. “President Trump’s original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list,” his statement reads.
Both Muslim Advocates and the ACLU have brought separate suits against previous iterations of the travel ban.
This post was updated to include Yemen in the list of banned countries.