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White House Amends Travel Ban To Expand Beyond Muslim-Majority Countries


The Supreme Court has canceled a planned hearing on the merits of President Trump's travel ban. This comes after the White House late last night issued a new version of the order. The ban will now include travelers from more countries, including some that are not predominantly Muslim. Critics have not softened their opposition, though. They say it is still unconstitutional and it singles out Muslims. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: The latest version of the travel ban - version 3.0, if you will - limits travel from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen. The nations of Chad, North Korea and Venezuela have been added. And Sudan, which was part of the original ban, has been dropped. The new rules take effect October 18. And unlike previous versions, the new ban is not temporary. It will remain in place until the affected nations comply with stringent requirements for vetting their citizens before they can receive visas to enter the U.S.

The earlier versions of the travel ban were marked by chaos at airports and protests and had been challenged in court. The Supreme Court was to hear oral arguments next month. Stephen Yale-Loehr is a professor of immigration law at Cornell University. He says the justices were not anxious to get involved in the case.

STEPHEN YALE-LOEHR: I think this case is a political hot potato for the Supreme Court. And I think that if they want to duck having to decide the case on the merits, the new travel ban order issued last night makes it very easy for them to do so.

NAYLOR: The court wants the parties in the case to submit briefs by October 5 as to whether the justices should still rule on the merits of the previous ban. The latest version makes some significant changes to the previous one. And therefore the court may decide a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the previous version is now moot. Yale-Loehr says the court generally tries to avoid immigration matters.

YALE-LOEHR: Courts generally are much more deferential to presidential actions on immigration because immigration touches on national security and sovereignty and foreign relations. And so courts typically like to give the president the benefit of the doubt when it comes to immigration decisions.

NAYLOR: President Trump tweeted on Sunday that, quote, "making America safe is my No. 1 priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet." The new ban does not forbid all people from the affected nations from traveling to the U.S. For instance, Iranian students in an exchange program would be exempted. And the ban on Venezuelan travelers applies only to government officials and their families. Officials hope that the new standards will convince the courts that the order is not an unconstitutional ban on members of one religion. But the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony Romero, says that's just what it is.

ANTHONY ROMERO: We think that even in this new iteration with a ribbon from North Korea and wrapping paper from Venezuela, that what's in the box is still a Muslim ban and should fail because of the constitutionality of it.

NAYLOR: Romero says the ACLU is likely to challenge the new ban when it goes into effect. The new proclamation does not include refugees hoping to relocate to the U.S. who were banned by the previous order. The White House says it will be addressing them in the coming weeks. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.