President Donald Trump inaccurately and incompletely described his own new travel restrictions on Europe – making two important errors and two important omissions in his prime-time Oval Office address to the nation on Wednesday.
Trump wrongly said he is banning European goods.
Trump said his “prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing.”
Facts First: Trump is not actually banning European trade or cargo. The White House and Trump had to clarify. Trump tweeted after the speech, saying it is “very important for all countries & businesses to know that trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe. The restriction stops people not goods.”
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The text of Trump’s official proclamation says he remains “committed to facilitating trade between our nations.”
Trump wrongly said he was suspending “all travel from Europe”
Trump said during his Oval Office address, “We will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.” The United Kingdom was the only country he identified as exempt.
Facts First: The travel suspension does not apply to all of Europe. The UK is not the only exempt country.
The suspension applies to the 26 countries in the Schengen Area, a European zone in which people can move freely across internal borders without being subjected to border checks.
In addition to the UK, countries that are not in the Schengen Area include Ireland, Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Armenia, Montenegro, Belarus and Russia.
Trump did not make clear that US citizens, permanent residents and some of their family members can come home from Europe
In his address, Trump said: “We will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground. There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings.”
Facts First: Trump created confusion in two ways. First, by referring to “Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings,” he did not make clear that US citizens can return from Europe even if they have not been screened before they take off for the US. The screening comes after they land in the US. Second, Trump did not mention that he is exempting a variety of non-US citizens, including permanent US residents and certain family members of both citizens and permanent residents.
The list of exempted family members of citizens and permanent residents includes spouses, parents and guardians of citizens and permanent residents who are unmarried and under the age of 21, and siblings – if both the sibling and the citizen or permanent resident are under 21. (There are some additional exemptions. You can click here for details.)
The White House sought after the speech to clarify Trump’s comment about the need for “screenings,” tweeting, “Those exempt from these restrictions, such as U.S. citizens, will be directed to limited airports where screening can take place.”
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in his own statement that he would, in the next 48 hours, issue an additional notice requiring people “that have been in the Schengen Area to travel through select airports where the U.S. Government has implemented enhanced screening procedures.”
Trump did not explain that the restrictions affect some people who aren’t coming “from” Europe
Again, Trump said he was suspending travel “from Europe to the United States.”
Facts First: The suspension applies not only to people flying in from Europe but to people “who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.”
That means, for example, that a citizen of India who went to France for a business meeting, went back to India the next day, and then wanted to make a separate trip from New Delhi to New York five days later would not be permitted entry; this person could not enter the US until more than 14 days after they left France.