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Trump administration to replace travel ban with country-specific restrictions

The Trump administration will unveil more tailored restrictions on travelers from certain countries as a replacement to the controversial travel ban over the weekend, according to senior administration officials.

The new restrictions will vary by country and could include a ban on travel to the United States, or new restrictions on obtaining a visa for citizens of particular countries, the official said. They would replace the ban on entry by citizens of six Muslim-majority nations, which President Donald Trump announced early in his term and later modified.

On a call with reporters Friday, senior Trump administration officials explained that the Department of Homeland Security, working with the State Department and other agencies, recommended to the President that the US restrict travel from certain countries based on how those countries screen their nationals and share terrorist information with the US.

DHS submitted a report to Trump on September 15 with specific recommendations, but the officials declined to provide details on which countries were deemed not in current compliance with US requirements.

The President’s controversial executive order included a 90-day review period, which expires Sunday. The President is expected to sign a proclamation related to the new travel restrictions either before or on Sunday, according to another senior administration official.

Miles Taylor, counselor to the secretary of Homeland Security, told reporters that acting Secretary Elaine Duke has recommended restrictions that are “tough” and “tailored,” but “temporary and may lifted again as circumstances change.”

Countries have been evaluated on how they establish the identity of nationals, whether they issue electronic passports, and whether they share information about terrorist and criminals emanating from their countries.

The White House declined to confirm details about the new measures, but said in a statement earlier Friday: “The Trump administration will ensure we only admit those who can be properly vetted and will not pose a threat to national security or public safety.”

The Wall Street Journal first reported the change.

Despite the 90-day expiration date on the travel ban, its path has been littered with a series of false starts and stops for the last eight months as federal courts have chipped away at its original intent and scope.

President Donald Trump recently suggested on Twitter a “far larger, tougher and more specific” travel ban was needed in the wake of a terror incident in London, saying, “but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!”

Since late June, foreign nationals from Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Syria with no “bona fide relationship” to those in the US have been banned from entering the country.

When Trump signed the original travel ban at the end of his first week in office, he sat flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary James Mattis. He smiled as he held up a copy of the signed order, and after reading its title, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” proclaiming to all: “we all know what that means.”

But after a series of blunt setbacks in courts across the country, he was nowhere to be found when travel ban version 2.0 was released — instead sending his top Cabinet members, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions out to the cameras in March.

And the revised ban was substantively different than its predecessor: the most significant change was exempting green card holders and those with valid visas — the inclusions of which, when combined with a delayed roll-out, avoided any pandemonium at airports.

Many legal experts have questioned whether the litigation over the merits of the travel ban would essentially become “moot” after the 90-day review period expires Sunday.

Will the Supreme Court actually take up the travel ban case on the merits?

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores indicated that the department will continue to defend the President’s actions.

“We are continuing to vigorously defend President’s (executive order), but won’t comment on ongoing litigation, Flores said.”