Donald Trump has removed Iraq from a list of countries targeted in a U.S. travel ban, signing a new executive order after his controversial first attempt was blocked in the courts.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters on Monday that the revised order ‘is part of our efforts to eliminate vulnerabilities that radical Islamist terrorists can and will exploit for destructive ends.’
He said it ‘will bolster the security of the united states and her allies.’
The president quietly signed the papers Monday morning out of view of cameras and journalists. His action also revokes the first version, signed in late January.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended Trump’s immigration policies, saying the U.S. Constitution gives him the power ‘to make national security judgments and to enforce our immigration policies in order to safeguard the American public.’
Sessions said ‘this executive order is a proper exercise of that power.’
Trump’s chief counselor Kellyanne Conway said on ‘Fox & Friends’ that the new order ‘has an effective date of March 16th’ – despite Trump’s repeated insistence that the measure is a response to urgent national security threats.
The new executive order will keep a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by citizens of six Muslim-majority nations – Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
It immediately received an endorsement from House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Conway defended shrinking the list of impacted countries by one, saying on the Fox Business Network that ‘Iraq is a very important ally in our fight against ISIS, but also Iraq has improved its screening and reporting procedures in consultation with this administration.’
Iraq was also taken off the list of countries in the original order, issued on Jan. 27, because, Tillerson explained, ‘Iraq is an important ally in the fight to defeat ISIS.’
Thousands of Iraqis have fought alongside U.S. troops for years or worked as translators since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Many have resettled in the United States following threats for working with U.S. troops.
The new executive order also ensures that tens of thousands of legal permanent residents in the United States – or green card holders – from the listed countries would not now be affected by the travel ban.
‘There are the legal permanent residents who were always excluded from it, but that’s made much more clear now,’ Conway said on ‘Fox & Friends.’
‘If you have travel docs, if you actually have a visa, if you are a legal permanent resident, you are not covered under this particular executive action,’ she said.
Conway also said that ‘Syrian refugees are treated the way all refugees are.’
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Monday that ‘nothing in this executive order affects current lawful permanent residents.’
ut he insisted that it will clarify the mission of his department – to enforce existing federal laws that have been treated as guidelines rather than bright lines in the past.
‘We do not make the law, but are sworn to enforce it,’ he said of immigration and border control officers and officials. ‘We have no other option.’
‘We are going to work closely to enforce it humanely, respectfully, and with professionalism, but we will enforce the law.’
The new order was accompanied by a memorandum offering details about how Monday’s reboot will be enforced.
More than two dozen lawsuits were filed in U.S. courts against the original travel ban, and the state of Washington succeeded in having it suspended by the 9th Circuit court of Appeals by arguing that it violated constitutional protections against religious discrimination.
Trump publicly criticized judges who ruled against him and vowed to fight the case in the Supreme Court, but then decided to draw up a new order with changes aimed at making it easier to defend in the courts.
While the first order imposed restrictions immediately, the new directive would have an as-yet undefined implementation delay to limit the disruptions that created havoc for some travelers.
Refugees who are ‘in transit’ and have already been approved would be able to travel to the United States.
Trump’s original order barred travelers from the seven nations from entering for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days. Refugees from Syria were to be banned indefinitely, but under the new order they are not given separate treatment.
‘This executive order has scrapped that division and the indefinite suspension, and has collapsed them into a single category of a 120-day suspension,’ a White House official told Reuters.
During the presidential election campaign last year, Trump called for a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the United States. He said his initial executive order issued just a week after he took office was needed to head off attacks by Islamist militants.
The White House has said the intent of Trump’s orders are not to keep out Muslims. Still, a prominent Islamic group has dubbed the new executive order Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban 2.0.’
‘This executive order, like the last order, is at its core a Muslim ban, which is discriminatory and unconstitutional,’ Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Nihad Awad.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi had a similar reaction.
‘The Trump Administration’s repackaging has done nothing to change the immoral, unconstitutional and dangerous goals of their Muslim and refugee ban,’ she said. ‘This is the same ban, with the same purpose, driven by the same dangerous discrimination that weakens our ability to fight terror.’
However, the White House official said the new order was based on national security considerations and had nothing to do with religion.
‘It is substantially different from the first order yet it will do the same thing in this important way: It will protect the country and keep us safe,’ the official said. The administration would also reset the clock on the 90-day travel ban.
The official said government agencies would determine whether Syria or other nations had made sufficient security improvements to be taken back into the refugee admissions program.
‘This revised executive order advances our shared goal of protecting the homeland. I commend the administration and Secretary Kelly in particular for their hard work on this measure to improve our vetting standards,’ he said. ‘We will continue to work with President Trump to keep our country safe.’
The new order launches a 90-day period for the Department of Homeland Security to define a new series of requirements for countries to have full participation in U.S. entry programs.
For countries that do not comply, the U.S. State Department, the DHS and intelligence agencies can make recommendations on what, if any, restrictions should be imposed.
‘It’s not an all-or-nothing scenario,’ the official said.
The new order spells out detailed categories of people eligible to enter the United States, such as for business or medical travel, or people with family connections or who support the United States.
‘There are a lot of explicit carve-outs for waivers and given on a case-by-case basis,’ the official said.
Many of Trump’s supporters approved of the initial ban but critics said it was unjustified and discriminatory.
U.S. technology firms who had employees affected by the executive order also complained, and some members of Trump’s Cabinet urged him to remove Iraqis and green card holders from the list of those affected.
The White House was widely criticized for not working with the State Department, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and allies in Congress in drawing up the initial ban.
The confusion that caused led to a weekend of chaos, legal wrangling and protests in cities and at major airports across the United States.Dailymailonline