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Is President Trump's Latest Travel Ban a Muslim Ban?

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A group of Muslim protesters gather during a rally against an earlier version of Trump's travel ban at San Diego International Airport on March 6, 2017. (SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump’s revised travel ban announced Sunday affects eight countries, two of which are not majority Muslim, but critics still see it as discriminatory toward immigrants and travelers who are Muslim.

The new rules announced Sunday replace a temporary travel ban that the Trump administration first put in place in late January and then revised in March following legal challenges.

Five of the countries impacted by the ban or restrictions -- Syria, Iran, Libya, Yemen and Somalia -- were part of the original ban. Chad, North Korea and Venezuela were added to the list.

Federal officials said all of these countries were chosen because they don’t cooperate with the United States on security and counterterrorism. They said the decision to include them under the rules was made after a review of nearly 200 countries.

But some critics don’t buy the administration's assertion that security issues landed the countries on the list, pointing to the details of the restrictions that vary by country.


"If you look at the countries that are listed with the new restrictions, a majority of them are Muslim-majority countries," said Farida Chehata, managing attorney for immigrant rights with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Anaheim.

"There are two countries that are obviously not Muslim-majority, and those are North Korea and Venezuela. However, when you look at the restrictions that are placed on them, it clearly indicates that this is still a Muslim ban," she said. Those impacted from North Korea and Venezuela "are very minimal."

Sunday's presidential proclamation suspends immigrant visas for a limited number of Venezuelans, namely government officials and their families. But for the other countries, all immigrant visas are suspended. This includes North Korea, which also will have its non-immigrant travel suspended as well.

North Korea has very strict exit policies. Relatively few North Koreans make it to the United States each year, as immigrants or visitors. According to federal data, the U.S. issued only 55 green cards in 2015, for example, to people born in North Korea.

Chehata said her organization is looking into challenging the latest rules.

Those who side with the Trump administration in its effort to restrict travel from certain countries say the latest limits are not about religion.

“The countries that are on the list, they pose a threat to the national security of the United States, for different reasons," said Peter Núñez, a former U.S. attorney in San Diego and an immigration restriction advocate.

"We did not let Germans come to the United States during the Second World War," Núñez said. "We did not let the Japanese immigrate or enter the United States during the Second World War. We restricted and limited immigration from the Soviet Union, and Red China, and that was never questioned."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has put off hearing arguments on two cases questioning the legality of Trump's travel ban. Arguments were set to be heard next month.

Both sides have been ordered to file new briefs on whether parts of the legal challenges are moot in light of the latest restrictions.

Ahilan Arulanantham, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said the legal challenge of the ban by plaintiffs, including two states, could go in a few different directions.

"It could conceivably get kicked back to the lower courts that had decided the cases that are before the Supreme Court now, which would be Hawaii and Maryland," he said. "Or depending on what the court rules, if the court rules that it is actually moot, then it would require people to bring separate challenges to this order, which we are prepared to do."

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