US President Donald Trump has imposed immigration restrictions on people from six more countries, triggering claims from rights groups that he is expanding a controversial policy dubbed the “Muslim ban”.
The Trump administration will bar immigrant visa applications from nationals of Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Nigeria and exclude people from Sudan and Tanzania from the “green card lottery” that offers permanent resident status to applicants from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the US.
Mr Trump has indicated tough immigration policies will be at the heart of his campaign as he seeks re-election at November’s presidential polls.
“These tailored restrictions will make the US safer and more secure,” Chad Wolf, acting homeland security secretary, said in a statement on Friday.
The six countries failed to meet a series of security criteria, according to the department, adding they “could be a risk to the homeland”.
They join seven other countries — Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen — that the Trump administration has already subjected to considerable visa restrictions, a 2017 initiative that prompted a number of legal cases. A 2018 Supreme Court ruling upheld a third version of the restrictions after previous versions were challenged in court.
All six of the countries affected by Friday’s policy extension have significant Muslim populations.
Robert McCaw, government affairs director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, attacked the new restrictions.
“It is based on a discriminatory anti-Muslim campaign pledge and this rollout continues to include Muslim majority nations as well as countries with significant Muslim populations,” he said.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Mr Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”, making reference to Islamist terrorism.
The presidential proclamation said the decision to restrict immigration from the additional six countries did “not reflect animus or bias against any particular country, region, ethnicity, race or religion”, adding that the travel ban could be eased as countries raised their security and information-sharing standards.
“These restrictions are the result of these countries’ unwillingness or inability to adhere to our national identity management, information sharing, national security, and public safety assessment criteria — all of which has been communicated clearly and fully to every country,” said Mr Wolf in a department statement.
Chad was removed from the list of covered countries in 2018 after the Trump administration said it made improvements to meet minimum security standards.