WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump plans to replace his contentious travel ban on entries from six Muslim-majority countries with much tighter, “tailored” limits on visitors from countries that he believes have not done enough to keep terrorists out of the U.S., administration officials said Friday.
The revised travel ban, which could be released as early as Sunday, drew swift condemnation from immigrant and civil rights organizations.
Administration officials, speaking to reporters during a conference call, would not say which countries will be targeted.
The move comes just before the U.S. Supreme Court is to hear oral arguments Oct. 10 on whether Trump violated the Constitution or exceeded his executive authority in imposing the ban in early March.
Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, which is challenging the travel ban in the Supreme Court, noted the Trump administration revised its original travel ban, imposed by executive order a week after the president took office, after legal challenges.
“The devil is in the details, and we are watching with great skepticism,” Romero said. “This looks to be the Trump administration’s third try to make good on an unconstitutional campaign promise to ban Muslims from the United States. This is an apparent effort to paper over the original sin of the Muslim ban.”
And the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) took aim at Trump’s plan to issue a new travel ban.
“However it is retooled, revamped or refurbished — a Muslim ban is a Muslim ban is a Muslim ban,” said CAIR’s executive director, Nihad Awad. “It remains the same rotten fruit from a poisonous tree.
“The reiteration of this unconstitutional targeting of Muslims, if adopted, would show once again that President Trump is determined to pursue divisive discriminatory policies that appeal to Islamophobic and anti-immigrant extremists, but does nothing to enhance our nation’s security.”
Awad pledged to “challenge this new Muslim ban with every tool at our disposal — in the courts, at airports and border crossings and in the public arena.”
CAIR, joined by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, argued in a “friend-of-the-court” brief with the U.S. Supreme Court last week that Muslims in the U.S. “have seen increased discrimination, hate speech and threats of violence as a result of the anti-Muslim animus that underpins” the Muslim ban.
In the 42-page amicus brief, CAIR and other Muslim organizations argued the ban causes “irreparable harm” to Muslims and violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which forbids the government from favoring any religion over another.
The Trump administration’s plan to issue a revised travel ban “tailored” to individual countries drew fierce criticism Friday from the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization.
The Department of Homeland Security, working with the State Department and other agencies, drafted new entry restrictions and visa requirements based on information each country has provided the U.S., administration officials said. The information includes assessments from the countries on the risk of terrorists entering the U.S., criminal records of the countries’ citizens and passport security.
Administration officials said countries had to meet a deadline to comply with standards on sharing information about terrorist networks, provide passport information and verify the identifications of people seeking to travel to the U.S.
With the current ban set to expire Sunday, administration officials said Friday the president is weighing the new screening rules and that new restrictions could be announced this weekend.
“Quite frankly the screening and vetting status quo is no longer adequate. We need to know who is coming into our country,” said Miles Taylor, legal counsel to Elaine Duke, acting secretary of Homeland Security.
“We should be able to validate their identity, and should be able to confirm that our foreign partners do not have information that they represent a threat to the U.S,” Taylor said. “[Duke] has recommended actions that are tough and that are tailored, including travel restrictions and enhanced screening for certain countries.”
Duke, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, White House Counsel Don McGahn and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats briefed Trump on the revised travel ban Friday, White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said.
Consular offices in affected countries will receive specifics on the revised ban next week, said Carl Risch, assistant secretary for consular affairs at the State Department.
The current ban, imposed by Trump in a March 6 executive order, bars for 90 days entries Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan Yemen and Syria and suspends refugee admissions until Oct. 24.
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Oct. 10 as it considers the constitutionality of Trump’s travel ban.
But new restrictions could lead the justices to cancel the oral arguments on the travel ban Trump imposed in March.
Trump pointed to the London terror attack last week as evidence that the U.S. needs tougher restrictions on foreign travel to the country.
“The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific,” Trump tweeted Sept. 15, hours after a homemade bomb on a city subway injured dozens. “But stupidly, that would not be politically correct!”
In late June, the Supreme Court allowed the revised March 6 executive order imposing the travel ban to partially take effect, but ruled it could apply only to those who lack a “bona fide” relationship with a person or organization in the U.S.
Trump declared the unanimous Supreme Court decision “a clear victory for our national security.”
The president had issued his initial travel ban executive order a week into his presidency, unleashing chaos at airports, mass protests in the U.S. and worldwide, condemnation from a broad spectrum of international leaders — and Trump’s unprecedented attacks on the federal judiciary after judges blocked his travel ban.
The revised travel ban, the White House has said, took into account judges’ cited reasons for putting the original ban on hold, and have predicted it would pass constitutional muster.
Federal appeals court judges in Maryland and Hawaii had blocked the travel ban.