Posted on January 23, 2020

Trump’s Call to Dramatically Expand the Travel Ban, Explained

Nicole Narea, Vox, January 22, 2020

President Donald Trump is reportedly considering expanding his travel ban to citizens of seven additional countries — Belarus, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania — according to Politico.

The ban would prevent most citizens of those countries from coming to the US, with exceptions for refugees and those who already have US green cards or visas.

The Trump administration sometimes floats plans, especially related to immigration, without ever formally acting on them. But expanding the travel ban has long been rumored to be on the president’s agenda, and Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that he would make an announcement by the end of the month, while also refusing to confirm which countries would be affected.


The expansion of the ban would likely hit Nigeria, the largest African country by population, the hardest of any of the countries under consideration. In 2018, the US granted Nigerians almost 14,000 green cards and 222,000 temporary visas. Citizens from other countries on the list, by comparison, were granted a combined total of fewer than 6,000 green cards and 28,000 temporary visas.

The Supreme Court affirmed that Trump has broad authority to restrict immigration where national security demands it. But it’s not clear whether any of these countries pose a direct threat to the US, since many are dealing with various forms of domestic conflict, including homegrown terrorism.


The version of the ban now in place, which is the third Trump has issued, places restrictions on citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea who seek to enter the US. (Chad was taken off the list of countries subject to the ban last April after it met the Trump administration’s demands to share information with US authorities that could aid in efforts to vet foreigners.)


People with existing visas or green cards, dual US citizens, and refugees seeking to come to the US are not affected. (However, during his time in office Trump has separately slashed the overall number of refugees who can resettle in the US annually, from 110,000 to 18,000.)

Beyond that, the restrictions on travel differ by country. Citizens of all seven countries are barred from obtaining green cards and entering a visa lottery program.


The US currently accepts relatively high numbers of refugees from several of the countries being considered for the travel ban’s expansion.

Of the 30,000 refugees who resettled in the US from October 2018 to October 2019, 4,932 came from Myanmar, which has engaged in a large-scale ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims since 2017, forcing more than 671,000 to flee to Bangladesh. The US also accepted 1,757 citizens from Eritrea, where a decades-long totalitarian regime has driven out about 480,000 people. Refugee admissions aren’t expected to stop under the new ban.