Politics

Trump Team Unveils Revised, Strengthened Immigration Order

New temporary travel ban comes as Sessions reveals 300 refugees under current investigation

President Donald Trump on Monday issued his long-anticipated revised temporary travel ban, which removes Iraq for the list of nations whose citizens face restrictions on entry into the United States.

The new order makes clear the restrictions do not apply to lawful permanent residents of the United States and also exempts people who currently have valid visas to travel to America. In addition, the order gives consular authorities the power to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis for travelers who would face hardship by being blocked from coming to the country.

“As threats to our security continue to evolve and change, common sense dictates that we continually re-evaluate and re-assess the systems that we rely upon to protect our country.”

“As threats to our security continue to evolve and change, common sense dictates that we continually re-evaluate and re-assess the systems that we rely upon to protect our country,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters. “While no system can remain completely infallible, the American people can have high confidence we are identifying ways to improve the vetting process ad thus keep terrorists from entering our country.”

Counterterrorism experts said they believe the new order will accomplish many of the goals of the original one.

“That makes sense,” said Kyle Shideler, director of threat information at the Washington-based Center for Security Policy. “As far as I know, they still support the basic message of the original EO.”

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But Shideler added, “I don’t think we’ll see any change in rhetoric from the administration’s opponents.”

Indeed, liberal interest groups were quick Monday to label it another “Muslim ban” and vowed to resist.

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“We will be asking our million members to chip in to the ACLU, Democratic Attorneys General Association, and our grassroots organizing because the courts and protests across the nation will be the front lines against this un-American, hate-filled Muslim ban,” the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said in a prepared statement. “We stand in solidarity with our Muslim and immigrant neighbors against these hateful actions.”

John Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americas Advancing Justice, said in a statement that the revised order “makes minor changes in an attempt to get around the existing court rulings. It continues the administration’s effort to implement xenophobic policies, shut down Muslim immigration, and racially profile Muslim refugees as threats.”

Trump’s new order firmly rejects arguments that the original order discriminated against Muslims. It notes that the provision giving refugee preference to religious minorities applied to the whole world — including countries in which Islam is a minority religion — and not just to the nations targeted for special scrutiny.

Attempting to demonstrate a rational basis for a “needed pause” on refugee relocation, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told reporters that 300 refugees in the United States are under investigation by the FBI.

“Like every nation, the United States has a right to control who enters our country and to keep out those who would do us harm,” he told reporters.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the 9/11 terrorist attacks taught that Americans cannot take security for granted. He reiterated that the new order would not affect current visa holders or permanent residents. But he said the government remains resolute in its commitment to keep the country safe.

“We are going to work closely to implement and enforce it humanely, respectfully, and with professionalism, but we will enforce the law,” he said.

The decision to remove Iraq from the list came after intense lobbying and arguments that lumping Iraq in with Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Sudan would jeopardize joint U.S.-Iraqi efforts to defeat the Islamic State.

Tillerson said the decision to drop Iraq reflects changes made by Iraq to assist U.S. authorities in conducting background checks.

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Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, praised the Trump administration for taking its national security responsibilities seriously. But he wrote in a text message to LifeZette that it would be better to increase scrutiny of travelers based on their ideology. The current approach focuses on geography.

“It categorizes people by country rather than looking at them individually (plenty of Canadians would do us harm and plenty of Iranians wish us well),” he wrote. “And it focuses on violence, ignoring the no less serious problem of lawful Islamism (which seeks to transform our society through legitimate means).”

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