Another Travel Ban Halted by the Courts

The Trump Administration’s third attempt to ban from the United States foreign nationals from certain countries was halted on October 17, 2017 - a day before it was to take effect. Two federal judges prevented the ban from being implemented nationwide, one in Hawaii issuing a temporary restraining order and the other in Maryland issuing a temporary injunction. The Administration has announced it will appeal the cases to the circuit courts of appeal, and ultimately the Supreme Court will likely hear the cases. (The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments on the second travel ban in October, but remanded the case to the lower court as moot.)

This was third travel ban issued in an executive order by the Administration, and included eight countries (Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela), each with a different restriction.  Unlike the first two bans, this ban was of an indefinite duration. As of this writing (October 20), “Travel Ban 3.0” is only applicable to North Korea and Venezuela because those countries were not included in the lawsuits.

The majority of the countries were included in Travel Ban 3.0 because of their subpar information-sharing capabilities. Others, however, were more focused.  For Venezuela, leading government officials are banned, while North Korean, Syrian, and Somali nationals are subject to a blanket ban. Seven of the eight countries are subject to a complete ban on immigrant visas. The rationale provided by the Administration for the distinction between immigrant and nonimmigrant visas is that individuals awarded immigrant visas enter the U.S. as legal permanent residents and, by virtue of their status, become more difficult to remove. Because the banned countries have substandard information collection and sharing capabilities, the reasoning goes, the U.S. cannot properly vet these foreign nationals before granting them permanent residence. Refugee admissions remain in limbo, banned until the vetting process is further assessed.

In the meantime, the Administration announced that it will reevaluate the list of banned countries every six months to determine if information-sharing and security concerns have been addressed, though the lack of formal relations with Iran or North Korea does not bode well for these countries in the future. Likewise, Somalia has been included in the travel ban — not because its government doesn’t cooperate with the U.S., but simply because the government does not have control over all of the country’s territory. For that reason, it will be difficult for Somalia to get off the list of banned countries any time soon. Chad, an ally of the United States, is a curious inclusion.