President Donald Trump is considering a new order to replace his soon-to-expire travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority countries. The new ban would be tailored on a country-by-country basis to protect the United States from attacks, US officials said on Friday.
With the current ban on people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen due to expire on Sunday, Trump was given recommendations by Elaine Duke, the acting homeland security secretary, but has not yet made a decision on the details of the new order, the officials told reporters.
The officials declined to say which or how many countries would be targeted. However, The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed sources to say the new, more targeted restrictions likely to affect nine countries.
White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters in a conference call that while "we can't get into decision-making", the next step will be a presidential proclamation setting out the new policy. He declined to say when that would come.
Trump's six-nation travel ban was laid out in a 6 March executive order that was blocked by federal courts but later allowed to go into effect with some limits by the US Supreme Court in June.
The expiring ban blocked entry into the United States by people from the six countries and locked out most aspiring refugees for 120 days, purportedly to give Trump's administration time to conduct a worldwide review of US vetting procedures for foreign visitors. The existing refugee ban expires on 24 October.
"We need to know who is coming into our country," Miles Taylor, counsellor to the secretary of homeland security, said. "We should be able to validate their identities and we should be able to confirm that our foreign partners do not have information suggesting such individuals may represent a threat to the United States.
"That is a fundamental obligation of the US government, and it's something that drove this process from start to finish."
Under the recommendations Trump is weighing, there would be restrictions on US entry that differ by nation, based on cooperation with American security mandates, the threat the United States believes each country presents and other variables, the officials said.
Trump, who promised as a candidate to impose "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States", said the ban was needed to protect the United States from terrorism.
The legal question of whether that ban discriminates against Muslims in violation of the US Constitution, as lower courts previously ruled, will be argued before the Supreme Court on 10 October.
The March travel ban and an earlier January one that targeted the same six countries as well as Iraq are some of the most controversial actions taken by Trump since assuming office in January.
The March order was intended to address legal issues raised by his January order, which caused chaos at airports worldwide and prompted protests in major US cities and airports. States, including Hawaii, the American Civil Liberties Union and refugee resettlement agencies challenged the March order in court.
The order took effect on 26 June after the Supreme Court allowed the ban to go into effect for "foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States".