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New US travel restrictions are still ‘Muslim ban’: rights groups

Washington, United States | AFP | US rights groups on Monday pledged to keep fighting the new, open-ended version of President Donald Trump’s controversial travel restrictions, insisting they remain a disguised Muslim ban.

Despite the removal of Sudan from the block on travelers from six mainly-Muslim countries, and the addition of Chad, Venezuela and North Korea to the list, activists and legal experts said Trump’s intent remained the same, to sharply cut off the flow of Muslim visitors and immigrants into the United States.

“This ban is not any better than the previous one,” said Zahra Billoo of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“The fact that Trump has added North Korea — with few visitors to the US — and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn’t obfuscate the real fact that the administration’s order is still a Muslim ban,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“President Trump’s original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list.”

– Open-ended ban –

On Sunday, the White House issued a new executive order to replace the expiring 90-day temporary ban on travelers from Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Somalia and Libya.

The White House says the ban is necessary to prevent potential terrorists from entering the United States. The eight countries covered in the new order were chosen based on a Department of Homeland Security review of their immigration vetting and security cooperation, officials said.

The new list places full bans on travelers from North Korea, Chad, Syria, Yemen, and Libya.

For Iran, an exception to a full ban was made for students and exchange visitors.

For Somalia, new immigrants are blocked but visitor visas will be allowed for business, official and personal reasons, though subject to tougher vetting.

With Venezuela, officials from certain key ministries and government agencies, and their families, are banned.

The new ban came after Trump fought for five months to get the temporary ban in place. Immigration advocates were able to block its implementation repeatedly on the grounds that it illegally singled out Muslims, as Trump had promised to do during his election campaign.

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