(New York, NY) – The Trump administration’s announcement Friday that it will expand its travel ban, placing new visa restrictions on individuals from six additional countries, is a reprehensible blow to the free flow of culture and ideas, and shows clear disdain for the American tradition of open exchange, PEN America said in a statement today.

On Friday, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told reporters that President Donald Trump plans to broaden the government’s restrictive travel ban to include Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, and Nigeria, suspending issuance of visas that can lead to permanent residency for citizens of those countries. In addition, “diversity visas,” or visas given to those from countries with a low rate of immigration to the United States, will no longer be issued to citizens of Sudan and Tanzania. The current travel ban already all but halts immigration from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. If the proposed expansion is implemented, a total of 13 countries would be affected, along with an additional 351 million people. As with the original ban, most of the countries named in the expansion have significant or majority Muslim populations. 

“Over the past three years, we have witnessed the ongoing cruelty and absurdity of the travel ban, which has divided families, impeded cultural exchange, and limited the ability of artists, writers, and thinkers to travel across borders,” said Summer Lopez, senior director of free expression programs at PEN America. “In addition, the ban hampers Americans’ ability to hear from a diversity of global voices at a moment when we need precisely more, not less, dialogue and open discourse. The decision to expand the ban is a reminder that we must continually fight to defend the space for global cultural exchange and creative collaboration.”

“By curbing writers’ and artists’ ability to promote their work, the United States will essentially sanction the silencing of writers and artists who have traditionally looked to the United States as a space to express themselves without fear, to challenge repression, or to fight for social change,” said Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection at PEN America.

PEN America challenged the Trump administration’s original travel ban, leading more than 30 arts organizations in filing a friend of the court brief urging the Supreme Court to find the ban unconstitutional. The amicus brief argued that the travel ban “upends our deeply American commitment to the free and fearless exchange of ideas” and impermissibly burdened citizens’ First Amendment right to receive information This month, PEN America also released a guide for writers and journalists to protect their rights at the U.S. border. 

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, sfee@pen.org, +1 202 309 8892