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US Officials: New Travel Restrictions May Be on Horizon


The top homeland security official in the United States has suggested to President Donald Trump new standards for visitors and immigrants applying to enter the country.

With less than two full days before temporary restrictions on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries are set to expire Sunday, the president has not yet announced his decision on this new broader policy, which was the result of a mandate by Trump to review other nations' standards for the so-called "vetting" process.

In a call with reporters Friday, officials from the White House and three federal agencies declined to identify how many or name countries that are not in compliance with the new standards despite weeks of discussions with U.S. officials.

"Every country in the world was notified of this new baseline," said Miles Taylor, counselor to the secretary of Homeland Security.

FILE - An international passenger arrives at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia.
FILE - An international passenger arrives at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia.

No specifics

The officials also declined to describe the specifics of the recommended regulations, but characterized the new standards as related to the quality of identity documents and to countries "proactively" sharing information about terrorists.

The officials were not able to provide a timeline for when the president would announce his decision on which countries would be affected and which sanctioning measures they will face for failing to comply.

"The Trump administration will ensure that the people who travel to the United States are properly vetted and those that don't belong here aren't allowed to enter," Jonathan Hoffman, assistant secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, said earlier.

The so-called travel ban was always intended to be temporary, giving the Department of Homeland Security 90 days to gather information and report on screening for foreign travelers. That report was recently submitted to the White House, just as the ban on travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen is set to expire.

Trump recently called in a tweet for a "far larger, tougher and more specific" travel ban.

FILE - Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban, May 15, 2017, outside a federal courthouse in Seattle.
FILE - Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban, May 15, 2017, outside a federal courthouse in Seattle.

Supreme Court limits

When Trump's executive order limiting travel to the U.S. was first rolled out in January, it sparked protests at airports around the country.

A week later, a federal judge blocked the so-called travel ban, sending it on a roller coaster ride through the courts until June, when the Supreme Court said the controversial order could take effect, but travelers from the six banned countries would still be able to enter the U.S. if they had significant family, business or school ties.

"The Supreme Court ultimately ruled it could go into partial effect but not full effect," said David Bier, immigration policy analyst at the CATO Institute. "We're talking about a very small portion of the overall population who was initially the targets of the executive order."

Though a portion of the travel ban is set to expire Sunday, there are 30 days left on the 120-day ban on refugee arrivals.

And before then, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the travel order. New measures restricting travel are likely to affect what the high court does.

Immigration attorney Leon Fresco said the court has a lot of options, ranging from hearing arguments on the current travel ban to only considering whatever new restrictions are introduced. Or the court could dismiss the new measures and let them make their way up through the lower courts.

Fresco said he thinks the notion of a ban may be key to what the court addresses.

"I don't think you can ever have a situation where you say we're just banning everybody from a certain country," he said. "But what you can do is say, 'We are concerned about certain countries that have information-sharing problems that don't have the ability to verify who their human beings are, so we will give more scrutiny to visa applicants from that country.' I think a ban from anywhere is going to be problematic."

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    Aline Barros

    Aline Barros is an immigration reporter for VOA’s News Center in Washington, D.C. Before joining VOA in 2016, Aline worked for the Gazette Newspapers and Channel 21 Montgomery Community Media, both in Montgomery County, Md. She has been published by the Washington Post, G1 Portal Brazilian News, and Fox News Latino. Aline holds a broadcast journalism degree from University of Maryland. Follow her @AlineBarros2.

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