President Donald Trump issued a new open-ended travel ban on Sunday that saw North Korea, Venezuela and Chad among a list of eight countries cited for poor security and lack of cooperation with US authorities.
The new restrictions replace an expiring 90-day measure that had locked Trump in political and legal battles since he took office in January over what critics alleged was an effort to block Muslims from the country.
But the White House stressed that the measure was to protect the United States from terror attacks.
“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.
“We cannot afford to continue the failed policies of the past, which present an unacceptable danger to our country. My highest obligation is to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and in issuing this new travel order, I am fulfilling that sacred obligation.”
– Iraq kept off list –
Sudan, one of the six majority-Muslim countries on the original travel ban, was removed from the list.
The US has recently praised Sudan’s efforts in fighting terrorism ahead of a decision expected in October on whether to lift decades-old sanctions on Khartoum.
Full bans were newly placed on nationals from North Korea and Chad, and extended for five countries on the original list: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
Limited restrictions meanwhile were placed on Venezuela, for officials from government agencies including interior and foreign ministries, the main police and intelligence services, and other agencies. Trump’s order said Caracas was not cooperating on security issues.
Officials speaking on background stressed that the decision was taken after an extensive review of high-risk countries by the Department of Homeland Security, which were all given the opportunity to improve their security standards.
The DHS report also said that Iraq did not meet its baseline security requirements.
But because Baghdad is a close ally and supports the presence of large numbers of US troops and civilians, officials said, the White House opted not to place Iraq on the list. But US-bound travelers there will face much tougher vetting.
“If you can’t screen people effectively to know who’s coming into your country, then you shouldn’t allow people from that country to travel,” said White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
Trump administration officials stressed that…