Politico is reporting that President Donald Trump may expand his controversial travel ban with an announcement expected as early as Monday, the three-year anniversary of the original order, which targeted several majority-Muslim nations.
The list of countries is not yet final and could be changed, “but nations under consideration for new restrictions include Belarus, Myanmar (also known as Burma), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania, according to two people familiar with the matter”.
“A draft being considered by the Trump administration would place immigration restrictions on the additional seven countries, but not necessarily completely ban all citizens of those nations from entering the United States. The restrictions could apply only to certain government officials, for instance, or certain types of visas.
Nonetheless, any new restrictions are likely to strain ties with the affected countries, some of which assist the U.S. on issues like fighting terrorism, and some of which Washington has been trying to court for strategic reasons.
Trump confirmed Tuesday in an interview with The Wall Street Journal from Davos that he is trying to add additional nations to the travel ban, but declined to list the countries.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley declined to confirm any details about plans to expand the travel ban, but defended the original order in a statement.
“The travel ban has been profoundly successful in protecting our country and raising the security baseline around the world,” he said. “While there are no new announcements at this time, common sense and national security both dictate that if a country wants to fully participate in U.S. immigration programs, they should also comply with all security and counter-terrorism measures — because we do not want to import terrorism or any other national security threat into the United States.”
Trump signed the original travel ban on Jan. 27, 2017, just a week into his tenure. The order initially denied visas to citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries, though it was later modified as it went through a series of court challenges.
Meanwhile, this is not the first time the United States is considering placing Nigeria lists – earlier in the month, the US placed Nigeria on its Special Watch List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.
Nigeria joins Russia, Cuba, Sudan, and Uzbekistan on the list. According to a statement signed and released by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo on Friday, it appears Nigeria is on the list due to Boko Haram activities in the north-east.
Pompeo said Boko Haram was designated as “Entities of Particular Concern.”
“These designations underscore the United States’ commitment to protect those who seek to exercise their freedom of religion or belief,” Pompeo added.
“We believe that everyone, everywhere, at all times, should have the right to live according to the dictates of their conscience. We will continue to challenge state and non-state entities that seek to infringe upon those fundamental rights and to ensure they are held to account for their actions.”
Nigeria, is a U.S. counter-terrorism partner and there is a large Nigerian diaspora community in the United States. At the same time, Trump has in the past referred to African nations as “shithole” countries whose citizens he did not want coming to the United States.