WASHINGTON (CNN) – Trump administration officials are discussing adding more countries to the travel ban list, two sources tell CNN, potentially expanding the controversial ban that has been criticized as discriminating against Muslims.
An inter-agency discussion about imposing travel restrictions on countries that are not compliant with electronic documents and information sharing — a key focus of the administration — is underway, according to a senior administration official. Fewer than five countries are under consideration, the official said.
The goal, the official said, is to “bring governments into compliance by using the power of access to the United States.” The travel restrictions would be tailored to the countries, if they’re added, and not impose a ban on them altogether, the official noted.
The administration has argued that the travel ban is vital to national security and ensures countries are in compliance with security measures. But critics say the restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump’s executive order are an attempt to ban Muslims from entering the United States. It’s unclear which countries are currently under consideration and if they are majority Muslim.
In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the third version of the travel ban after previous bans ricocheted through the courts. The ban restricts entry from seven countries to varying degrees: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with Venezuela and North Korea. Chad was removed from the list last April, after the White House said the country improved security measures.
The third iteration of the travel ban directs the Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with other federal agencies, to assess the list of countries on an ongoing basis and provide a report to the President.
CNN has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment.
As of mid-September, more than 31,000 people have been denied entry to the United States due to Trump’s travel ban, a State Department official testified.
The State Department has also issued more than 7,600 waivers, said Edward Ramotowski, deputy assistant secretary for visa services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs
Democratic lawmakers have continued to denounce the ban and pushed back against the administration’s argument that the ban was for national security purposes.
“The Muslim ban has not made us safer,” Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, said a House hearing on the ban in September. “It has weakened our standing in the world and runs contrary to our country’s moral and philosophical foundation. The United States has always been, and must continue to be, a place that welcomes and embraces people of all religions and nationalities.”
On April 10, Democrats introduced a bill known as the “No Ban Act” in the House and Senate to overturn the ban, but the measure is not expected to pass the GOP-controlled Senate.