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High court delays travel ban hearing

Updated: 
September 26, 2017 - 12:05am

ATLANTA — The U.S. Supreme Court has canceled next month’s oral arguments concerning President Donald Trump’s travel ban, citing the new travel restrictions he issued by proclamation Sunday.

The high court isn’t disposing of the case. Rather, it is asking both sides to file briefs by Oct. 5, showing whether the case is now moot, given the new proclamation.

Meanwhile, Chad, Iran and Venezuela are reacting angrily to their inclusion on Trump’s new travel ban list. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blasted the new directive Sunday on Twitter.

“Trump’s fake empathy for Iranians rings ever more hollow, with his new and even more offensive travel ban against such outstanding citizens,” he tweeted.

And Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called the development a form of “political and psychological terrorism,” The Associated Press reported. His Foreign Ministry issued a statement Monday saying Trump’s proclamation violates the values of the United Nations charter and international law, and is part of a continuing effort by the U.S. to oust Maduro from power.

Chad’s government, the AP reported, issued a statement expressing its incomprehension about the “official reasons for this decision; which contrasts with Chad’s constant efforts and commitments in the fight against terrorism at regional and global levels.”

Trump’s new directive restricts travel from five of the Muslim-majority nations covered by his original March 6 travel ban: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. And it adds Chad, North Korea and Venezuela. Sudan, which was on the original list, is cooperating more with the U.S. government and is no longer facing the same restrictions.

The president’s critics say his latest directive is an extension of what they derisively call his “Muslim ban.” They noted Chad is also a Muslim-majority country. And they pointed out that few North Koreans travel to the United States, while the ban on Venezuela narrowly applies to government officials and their relatives.

“What remains the same is the discriminatory core of these bans, which were always designed to ban Muslims from entering the United States,” Avideh Moussavian, a senior policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center in Washington, told reporters in a conference call Monday.

“The attempts to distract us by adding different countries doesn’t get around that fundamental truth. It only inflicts more harm and shows just how far this administration is willing to go to defend its unconstitutional targeting of Muslims.”

A senior Trump administration official — talking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak — told reporters in a conference call Sunday that the government’s travel restrictions were “never, ever based on race, religion or creed.”

The government said it shared its new baseline security requirements with foreign governments in July and warned that those who fail to comply would face restrictions. They were given 50 days to make improvements. Some did. Others refused.

Among other things, the government is requiring other countries to report lost or stolen passports and to share information confirming the identities of their citizens and whether they pose national security threats. In issuing the proclamation, Trump also considered whether the nations are known as safe havens for terrorists and whether they are regularly refusing to receive their own nationals who have been ordered deported from the United States.

Countries can be taken off the travel ban list if they make improvements. Meanwhile, others can be added if they stop cooperating. Visas that have already been issued will not be revoked and no visa appointments will be canceled as part of the new proclamation.

Here are some highlights from that proclamation:

Chad: Not adequately sharing public safety and terrorism-related information. Several terrorist groups are active there. Chadian nationals will be indefinitely barred from entering the United States, starting Oct. 18.

Iran: Not cooperating with the U.S. government. The U.S. State Department has designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. Iranian nationals are indefinitely barred from entering the United States. There will be exceptions for those with valid student and exchange visitor visas, though they will face additional screening requirements.

Iraq: Not meeting all the new security requirements, yet its nationals will not be barred from coming here because it is a “vital counterterrorism and regional ally” and is working with the U.S. government to boost security. But travelers from Iraq will face additional scrutiny.

Libya: Has challenges sharing public safety and terrorism-related information, and its “identify-management protocols” are inadequate. There is also a “substantial terrorist presence” there. Libyan nationals are indefinitely barred from entering the United States.

North Korea: Not cooperating with the U.S. government “in any respect, and fails to satisfy all information-sharing requirements.” North Korean nationals will be indefinitely barred from entering the United States, starting Oct. 18.

Somalia: Has “significant identity-management deficiencies.” The U.S. government has identified Somalia as a safe haven for terrorists. Somali nationals are indefinitely barred from immigrating to the United States. Those applying for U.S. visas will face additional scrutiny.

Syria: Regularly fails to cooperate in identifying security risks and has been designated by the U.S. State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism. Syrian nationals are indefinitely barred from entering the United States.

Venezuela: Not cooperating in verifying whether its citizens pose national security threats. Venezuelan government officials involved in screening procedures and those officials’ families will be indefinitely barred from coming to the United States, starting Oct. 18. Other Venezuelan nationals traveling to the U.S. could face additional security measures.

Yemen: Does not share public safety and terrorism-related information adequately. Yemeni nationals are indefinitely barred from entering the United States.

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