JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Supreme Court is dropping, for now, upcoming arguments over President Trump's controversial travel ban. The move comes one day after the White House issued a revised and expanded ban. It restricts travel to the U.S. from eight countries, including five on the original ban, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. New to the list, Chad, North Korea and Venezuela.
For more on the ban and what comes next, we are joined by Yeganeh Torbati. She covers immigration for the Reuters news service.
Yeganeh, welcome back to the program. So, what is mainly different about this one?
YEGANEH TORBATI, Reuters: So, what happened was the administration essentially dropped Sudan from the list of countries that whose citizens can come to the United States.
It added a couple of other countries, Chad, North Korea, and it restricted travel to the United States by certain Venezuelan government officials and their families. But for the five main countries on the travel ban list, the ones you just named, the restrictions are largely still in place, and they're now indefinite. There's no time limit on them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What was the rationale behind this change?
YEGANEH TORBATI: So what the administration said over the past weekend, essentially, Friday and again on Sunday, is that they went through a rigorous process where they engaged with countries around the world to — in order to get more information from them on their citizens and get certain assertions and certain agreements of cooperation, essentially, to help the United States verify their citizens' identity.
And what they have told the public and what they have told us is that those countries that didn't provide that or either were not able to or willing to provide that level of cooperation, those are the countries whose citizens are now basically banned from coming to the United States.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So it's no longer then a Muslim ban, which is what the critics were saying it was, even though the administration denied that?
YEGANEH TORBATI: Right, so the administration denies that.
But what critics of the ban are saying is that throwing in countries like North Korea and Venezuela into this ban doesn't sort of take away from the original intent or what they see as the original intent, which was to ban people from Muslim-majority countries from coming to the United States.
North Korea last year sent about 109 individuals to the United States in the form of immigrants and non-immigrants, a tiny number. The restrictions on Venezuela, another non-Muslim majority country in this new list, are very narrow. It's just certain government officials and their families can't come as tourists to the United States.
Chad is 53 percent Muslim, and so critics still see this as a Muslim-majority — a ban on countries that are Muslim-majority.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, as we reported, the Supreme Court now put off hearing these arguments. What is likely to be the effect? There were lawsuits filed on the basis of this being unconstitutional. Where is all that likely to go?
YEGANEH TORBATI: Right. So, legal experts see the Supreme Court's move today as essentially an indication that it really doesn't want to rule on this case, and that it likely or perhaps will indeed rule it moot.
The Supreme Court has a long-term view and it realizes that President Trump is not going to be the last president. There will be presidents after him, and they don't want to rule on a case related to immigration and national security, areas that are very much the prerogative generally of the executive branch. They don't want to set very far-reaching precedents if in fact the original reason for the case has now expired.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yeganeh Torbati of Reuters, we thank you.
YEGANEH TORBATI: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.