President Donald Trump has signed a new executive order barring people from six mainly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days.
After Iraq had agreed on additional visa vetting measures, it was removed from the list of countries in the new travel ban. It was previously one of the seven nations in the initial order.
The latest order takes effect on March 16; it also includes a 120-day ban on all refugees.
The previous order led to confusion at airports and mass protests and was eventually blocked by a federal court, and remains on hold.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Department of Homeland Security John Kelly, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson unveiled the new order.
What’s different in the new order?
Citizens from the six nations in the original January 27 order, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, would be subject to a further 90-day travel ban.
Iraq has been taken off from the list since its government boosted data sharing and visa screening, according to the White House officials.
The new order says that the refugees who are already approved by the State Department can enter the U.S. The indefinite ban on all Syrian refugees has also been lifted.
A significant change is that green card holders (permanent legal residents of the U.S.) from the listed six countries would not be affected.
Unlike the previous directive, the new order does not give priority to religious minorities.
Trump faced criticism that the original order was unlawful as it showed preference to Christian refugees.
What does the administration say?
The three cabinet secretaries held a joint news conference to discuss the new directive on Monday morning.
Rex Tillerson said the order was meant to “eliminate vulnerabilities that radical Islamic terrorists can and will exploit for destructive ends.”
Mr. Sessions, while justifying the refugee ban, said that more than 300 refugees were under investigation for potential terror offenses, but didn’t provide any further details. He also said that three countries in the order were state sponsors of terrorism, while the other three had lost control of its territory to militants such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State group.
Mr. Kelly stated that unvetted and unregulated travel was putting national security at risk. “U.S. can’t tolerate malevolent actors using our immigration system to take American lives,” he added.
After the press conference, none of the cabinet secretaries took any questions.
Why Delayed Implementation?
A 10-days’ notice would help avoid chaotic scenes at the airport that ensued after the January 27 travel ban. Even travelers with a valid visa were detained by border officials on arrival; they were aboard while the order was signed.
Mr. Trump has defended the lack of notice in a tweet. He said that “if the ban were announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week.”
The new executive order is also expected to face legal challenges. New York’s highest-ranking law enforcement officer, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a statement on Monday that his office was ready to fight Trump administration in court.