Trump Signs New Travel Ban on Predominantly Muslim Countries - Excluding Iraq

Under new executive order, citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen are banned from receiving visas to travel to the U.S. for 90 days.

File Photo: U.S. President Donald Trump.
SAUL LOEB/AFP

>> Trump's new travel ban: Read the full executive order <<

President Donald Trump signed a revised travel ban Monday that will temporarily halt entry to the U.S. for people from six Muslim-majority nations who are seeking new visas, though allowing those with current visas to travel freely.

Trump directive aims to address legal issues with the original order, which caused confusion at airports, sparked protests around the country and was ultimately blocked by federal courts. That's according to a fact sheet obtained in advance by The Associated Press.

The revised order is narrower and specifies that a 90-day ban on people from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen does not apply to those who already have valid visas. The White House also dropped Iraq from the list of targeted countries, following pressure from the Pentagon and State Department, which had urged the White House to reconsider given Iraq's role in fighting the Islamic State group.

The fact sheet cites negotiations that resulted in Iraq agreeing to "increase cooperation with the U.S. government on the vetting of its citizens applying for a visa to travel to the United States." An Iraqi spokesman said the change marks a "positive step" and shows the countries have a "real partnership."

The mere existence of the fact sheet signaled that the White House was taking steps to improve the rollout of the reworked directive. The initial measure was hastily signed at the end of Trump's first week in office, and the White House was roundly criticized for not providing lawmakers, Cabinet officials and others with information ahead of the signing.

>> Trump's narrower travel ban doesn't mollify progressive Jewish groups >>

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York issued a statement calling for the executive order to be repealed. "Despite the Administration's changes, this dangerous executive order makes us less safe, not more," he said, adding that it was "un-American."

"I fully expect this executive order to have the same uphill climb in the courts that the previous version had," said Schumer.

Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham praised Trump's new travel ban and said he expected it would survive scrutiny by the courts.
 
"I believe the new order will withstand legal challenges as it's drafted in a fashion as to not be a religious ban, but a ban on individuals coming from compromised governments and failed states. This Executive Order will help achieve President Trump's goal of making us safer," Graham, who has criticized some of Trump's policies, said in a statement.

Trump's first order was seen by opponents as discrimination against Muslims. The White House official said the new order had nothing to do with religion and that the administration would reset the clock on the 90-day travel ban.

But House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said "the Trump administration's repackaging has done nothing to change the immoral, unconstitutional and dangerous goals of their Muslim and refugee ban."

Notably, Trump was not holding a public signing ceremony for the new measure. Instead, several Cabinet secretaries — Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — planned to discuss the order at an event late Monday morning.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer was not scheduled to hold an on-camera briefing Monday either, leading to the appearance that the president was distancing himself from the order, which was a signature issue during his campaign and the first days of his presidency. The order also risks being overshadowed by unsubstantiated accusations the president made over the weekend that former President Barack Obama had ordered the wiretapping of his phone during the campaign.

Iraq welcomed its removal from a revised U.S. travel ban on Monday, calling it a "positive message" at a time when American and Iraqi forces are battling the Islamic State group.

Iraq was among seven Muslim-majority countries whose nationals were temporarily banned from traveling to the United States in an earlier order issued by President Donald Trump in January, which was blocked by the courts.

The White House had said the earlier ban was needed to prevent would-be terrorists from entering the country. It removed Iraq from the list under pressure from the State Department and the Defense Department, which had noted the close cooperation between the two countries in battling ISIS militants in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

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."

Trump administration officials say that even with the changes, the goal of the new order is the same as the first: keeping would-be terrorists out of the United States while the government reviews the vetting system for refugees and visa applicants from certain parts of the world.

According to the fact sheet, the Department of Homeland Security will conduct a country-by-country review of the information the six targeted nations provide to the U.S. for visa and immigration decisions. Those countries will then have 50 days to comply with U.S. government requests to update or improve that information.

Additionally, Trump's order suspends the entire U.S. refugee program for 120 days, though refugees already formally scheduled for travel by the State Department will be allowed entry. When the suspension is lifted, the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. will be capped at 50,000 for fiscal year 2017.

The original order barred refugees from Syria indefinitely but under the new order they are not given separate treatment.

Legal experts say the new order addresses some of the constitutional concerns raised by a federal appeals court about the initial ban, but leaves room for more legal challenges.

"It's much clearer about how it doesn't apply to groups of immigrants with more clearly established constitutional rights," said University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck. "That's a really important step."

Removing language that would give priority to religious minorities helps address concerns that the initial ban was discriminatory, but its continued focus on Muslim-majority countries leaves the appearance that the order is a "Muslim ban," Vladeck said.

"There's still going to be plenty of work for the courts to do," he said.