When Donald Trump was running for president in 2016, one of his central campaign promises was to enact “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 upheld Trump’s third version of the policy, issued through a presidential proclamation on Sept. 24, 2017, which made the U.S. off-limits to many or most residents of six countries, five of which are mostly Muslim. Trump is considering expanding the ban to more countries.

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

Citizens of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Yemen are generally barred from entering the U.S., whether they are seeking visas to visit temporarily or to immigrate. (Exceptions are made for students from Iran, Libya and Yemen.) The north African nation of Chad was the sixth nation on the original list but subsequently was dropped. The ban also applies to residents of Somalia who want to immigrate to the U.S., but not those who just want to visit. It also applies to certain Venezuelan security officials.

2. Why those countries?

The Trump administration said they were found to be “deficient” in assessing whether their citizens, when seeking permission to travel to the U.S., “pose a security or safety threat.” The Trump administration directive added, “In some cases, these countries also have a significant terrorist presence within their territory.” The ban on Chad was withdrawn after the Trump administration decided its government had made adequate improvements to “identity-management and information-sharing practices.”

3. What other countries might be added?

Trump is reviewing a Homeland Security Department recommendation that at least some of the visa restrictions be expanded to include Tanzania, Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria and Sudan, Bloomberg News reported. That list of countries was prepared for the White House as part of a worldwide assessment required every six months under the travel ban.

4. How many people are affected?

More than 150 million people live in the countries targeted by the initial ban. As for how many have actually tried and been turned away, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs reported that almost 80,000 visa applications were considered under the terms of Trump’s travel ban in the roughly two years ending Dec. 31, 2019. About 52% of those applications, or more than 42,000, were declared ineligible as a result of the ban. The other applicants received their hoped-for visas under exceptions or waivers to the ban.

5. Why are there waivers?

Trump’s order left 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.” To win the approval of federal courts, the Trump administration strengthened the waiver provision in the travel ban that ultimately was implemented.

6. Does the ban target Muslims?

A major theme of the legal challenge to the Trump policy was that it unlawfully targeted a religious group that Trump had vowed to keep out of the country. The version that won Supreme Court approval added two countries -- Venezuela and North Korea -- that, unlike the ones targeted from the start, don’t have Muslim majorities; Trump critics saw their inclusion as a strategy to make the ban look less Muslim-focused. (Administration officials said the countries were added as a result of the review of foreign governments’ capabilities for vetting visa applicants.) In the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling upholding the travel ban, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that Trump’s comments as a candidate weren’t enough to strike down his policy as president. “The issue before us is not whether to denounce the statements,” Roberts wrote. “It is instead the significance of those statements in reviewing a presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility.”

--With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs and Justin Sink.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laurence Arnold in Washington at larnold4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Leah Harrison Singer at lharrison@bloomberg.net, Lisa Beyer, Justin Blum

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