Donald Trump has slapped new travel restrictions on citizens from North Korea, Venezuela and Chad, expanding his controversial travel ban to eight countries.
Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia remained on the list of affected countries in a proclamation issued by the president on Sunday night, while restrictions on citizens from Sudan were lifted.
Iraqi citizens will not be subject to travel prohibitions but will face enhanced scrutiny or vetting, Reuters reported.
The measures help fulfil a campaign promise Trump made to tighten U.S. immigration procedures and align with his “America First” foreign policy vision.
Unlike the president’s original bans, which had time limits, this one is open-ended.
“Making American Safe is my number one priority,” Trump wrote in a tweet shortly after the proclamation was released.
“We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet.”
The decision to add North Korea to the list of banned countries comes after Trump threatened to “destroy” the country if it attacks the United States or its allies.
Earlier this month, Pyongyang conducted its most powerful nuclear bomb test.
But American officials described the move as the result of a purely objective review, saying it was hard for the US to validate the identity of someone coming from North Korea or to find out if that person was a threat.
“North Korea, quite bluntly, does not cooperate whatsoever,” one official said.
An administration official, briefing reporters on a conference call, acknowledged that the number of North Koreans now traveling to the United States was very low.
Meanwhile, the restrictions on Venezuela focused on Socialist government officials that the Trump administration blamed for the country’s slide into economic disarray, including officials from the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service and their immediate families.
The new restrictions, which are expected to take effect on October 18, come after Trump’s original travel bans sparked international outrage and legal challenges.
With the restrictions affecting those from six majority-Muslim countries, they were quickly dubbed a “Muslim ban”.
However, the addition of North Korea and Venezuela broadens the restrictions from the original, mostly Muslim-majority list.
Rights group Amnesty International USA condemned the measures.
“Just because the original ban was especially outrageous does not mean we should stand for yet another version of government-sanctioned discrimination,” it said in a statement.
“It is senseless and cruel to ban whole nationalities of people who are often fleeing the very same violence that the U.S. government wishes to keep out. This must not be normalised.”
The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement the addition of North Korea and Venezuela “doesn’t obfuscate the real fact that the administration’s order is still a Muslim ban.”
The White House portrayed the restrictions as consequences for countries that did not meet new requirements for vetting of immigrants and issuing of visas.
Those requirements were shared in July with foreign governments, which had 50 days to make improvements if needed, the White House said.
A number of countries made improvements by enhancing the security of travel documents or the reporting of passports that were lost or stolen. Others did not, sparking the restrictions.
The announcement came as the US Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments on October 10 over the legality of Trump’s previous travel ban, including whether it discriminated against Muslims.