President Donald Trump on Monday signed a revised executive order barring entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries.
The ban, which phases in March 16, affects travelers from Syria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya. It drops Iraq from the original order that was blocked by a federal court and caused panic and protests at airports across the country.
At a briefing announcing the temporary ban, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it is a “vital measure to strengthening our national security. It’s the President’s solemn duty to protect the American people.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the majority of those convicted for terrorist acts since 9/11 came from abroad and more than 300 people, according to the FBI, who came here as refugees are under investigation for potential terrorist activities.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the ban is prospective and “nothing in this existing order affects permanent lawful citizens.” He said he spent the morning explaining the order to leaders of Congress.
Iraqi government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said the revision to the travel ban shows that the two countries have a “real partnership.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Jamal said it “reinforces the strategic alliance between Baghdad and Washington in many areas in the forefront in the fight against terrorism.”
Tillerson called Iraq an “important ally” in the fight against the Islamic State terror group.
A CNN report citing a senior U.S. official says Iraq was removed after “intensive lobbying for the Iraqi government at the highest levels,” including a phone call between Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Feb. 10 and an in-person meeting between Vice President Mike Pence and Abadi on Feb. 18. Since then, Iraq provided more details on how it screens travelers.
Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, criticized the new order in a statement, saying it amounts to “religious discrimination.”
“The Trump administration has conceded the its original Muslim ban was indefensible. Unfortunately, it has replaced it with a scaled-back version that shares the same fatal flaws. The only way to fix the Muslim ban is to not have a Muslim ban. Instead, President Trump has recommitted himself to religious discrimination , and he can expect continued disapproval from both the courts and the people.”
The new order has been in the works since shortly after Trump’s initial effort was blocked, but the administration has repeatedly pushed back the signing as it has worked to better coordinate with the agencies that it will need to implement the ban.
Trump administration officials have said the new order aims to overcome legal challenges to the first.