US President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the revocation of an executive measure he signed in January that would have banned all US travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, replacing the text with a revised version that is less restrictive and more specific.
Iraq was removed from the new list “on the basis of negotiations” that took place between Washington and Baghdad over their screening protocols, the Trump administration said. The order, which will go into effect on March 16, still includes Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
“As threats to our security continue to evolve and change, common sense dictates that we continually reevaluate and reassess the systems we rely upon to protect our country,” said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who described the executive order as “a vital measure for strengthening our national security.
“To our allies and partners around the world: Please understand, this order is part of our ongoing efforts to eliminate vulnerabilities that radical Islamist terrorists can and will exploit for destructive ends,” he added.
Trump’s original order, signed on January 27, was far shorter, and prompted confusion among federal agencies and foreign allies as to who was barred from entry at America’s gates. Chaos erupted at US airports as legal permanent residents and visa holders were detained, and a provision which explicitly exempted religious minorities led many to believe the measure amounted to a religious ban.
Two federal courts ordered an immediate halt to its implementation, and the broadest legal protest was upheld on appeal.
Trump’s new order specifies that legal permanent residents, refugees already accepted by the US for asylum and those who obtained valid visas by 5:00 p.m. EST on January 27 will not be affected by the measure. Dual nationals traveling on passports issued from non-designated nations are also exempt from the order.
Despite significant revisions and court battles, the measure also offers a defense of its old language. “Executive Order 13769 did not provide a basis for discriminating for or against members of any particular religion,” it reads. “While that order allowed for prioritization of refugee claims from members of persecuted religious minority groups, that priority applied to refugees from every nation, including those in which Islam is a minority religion, and it applied to minority sects within a religion... That order was not motivated by animus toward any religion.”
The new order, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” offers federal agencies wide authority to grant waivers to foreign nationals who have already spent extensive time in the US for work, study or “other long-term activity,” to those who have “previously established significant contacts” in the US or to those who have medical, business or family obligations here.
Speaking alongside Tillerson and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney- General Jeff Sessions said the order strictly targets nations that are already listed as state sponsors of terrorism or are run by governments that have “lost control” over their respective countries.
The order itself offers brief explanations as to why each nation is listed. Iran, for example, is listed as a state sponsor of terrorism that “continues to support various terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and terrorist groups in Iraq.
“Iran has also been linked to support for al-Qaida and has permitted al-Qaida to transport funds and fighters through Iran to Syria and South Asia,” the order reads. “Iran does not cooperate with the United States in counterterrorism efforts.”
A fact sheet released by the Department of Homeland Security asserts that Trump has the authority to issue such a waiver under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows the president to suspend a class of aliens that he deems “detrimental to the national interest.” The 90-day review period will “allow for proper review and establishment of standards to prevent terrorist or criminal infiltration by foreign nationals,” the document reads.
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