Demonstrators hold signs while protesting outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg)  

Who’s Welcome (and Not) in the U.S. After Trump’s Travel Ban Was Upheld 

(Bloomberg) -- When Donald Trump was running for president in 2016, one of his central campaign promises was for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." Shortly after he took office, he issued an executive order that was quickly dubbed the "travel ban,” triggering months of court cases and a series of amended orders. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Trump’s third version of the policy, which generally makes the U.S. off-limits to residents of six countries, five of which are mostly Muslim. Though the legal debate may be over, the political battle over the travel ban will surely continue.

1. Who’s banned from entering the U.S.?

Generally, citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Yemen are barred from entering the U.S. under the last iteration of the ban, issued through a presidential proclamation on Sept. 24, 2017. Exceptions are made for students, although not in the cases of North Korea and Syria, and for permanent residents of the U.S. Also barred from entry are Venezuelan officials responsible for vetting applicants for U.S. visas.

2. For how long?

Indefinitely, though U.S. officials are required to recommend to the president every 180 days whether the restrictions should be continued, changed or ended.

3. Why those countries?

According to the White House, a review of the ability of foreign governments "to assess adequately whether their nationals seeking to enter the United States pose a security or safety threat" concluded that the seven countries were deficient. In the case of Venezuelans, the review determined that alternative sources of information were sufficient for vetting visa applicants. Certain Venezuelan security officials are barred from entering the U.S. in an effort to encourage better collaboration from them.

4. Is there any way around the ban?

Trump’s order leaves room for "case by-case waivers," to be granted by customs officials or overseas U.S. consular officers to otherwise banned foreigners who face "undue hardship" at home and whose entry to the U.S. "would be in the national interest." The Trump administration says 430 waivers were issued in the first four months of the ban. But Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, for one, doubts the administration’s seriousness about waivers. In a dissenting opinion, Breyer said he sees no sign that consular officers have received guidance on the waivers, as anticipated in the September order. And he said the 430 number "accounts for a minuscule percentage of those likely eligible for visas."

5. How has the ban changed over time?

The third and final version added two countries -- Venezuela and North Korea -- that, unlike the ones targeted from the start, don’t have Muslim majorities. Trump critics saw the inclusion of those two countries as a strategy to weaken legal challenges that centered on the claim that the ban unlawfully targeted a religious group that Trump had vowed to keep out of the country. Administration officials said the countries were added as the result of the review of foreign governments’ capabilities for vetting visa applicants. Also, the last two versions of the restrictions beefed up exceptions and conditions for granting waivers.

The Reference Shelf

  • The texts of Trump’s first, second and final travel ban orders.
  • A QuickTake explainer on refugees and political asylum.
  • Muslim countries where Trump does business are conveniently left out of the ban, writes Bloomberg Opinion’s Timothy L. O’Brien.
  • A CNN timeline of the travel ban controversy.

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