Trump team unified in defense of immigration order

Members of the Trump administration on Sunday were unified in their support of the president's sweeping executive order that bars refugees and people from seven majority-Muslim nations from entering the U.S.

Top aides to the president denied that the immigration order amounted to a Muslim ban and pointed to the Obama administration for identifying the seven countries included in the order.

The Trump team also defended the executive order's implementation amid backlash from some lawmakers and following protests that broke out Saturday and were planned again for Sunday at airports across the country.

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Trump's top aide Kellyanne Conway on Sunday emphasized the importance of having safe borders, suggesting that the small number of people who were inconvenienced by the order was worth it to keep the country safe.

She said 325,000 people "from overseas came into this country just yesterday through our airports."

"You're talking about 300 and some who have been detained or are prevented from gaining access to an aircraft in their home countries," Conway said on "Fox News Sunday."

"Thats 1 percent. And I think in terms of the upside being greater protection of our borders, of our people, it's a small price to pay."

She also insisted the immigration order was not a Muslim ban, even as some Democratic lawmakers have argued the opposite.

"These seven countries, what about the 46 majority-Muslim countries that are not included? Right there, it totally undercuts this nonsense that this is a Muslim ban," Conway said.

"This is a ban on prospective travel from countries, trying to prevent terrorists in this country, from countries that have a recent history of training and exporting and harboring terrorists."

The list of seven countries included in the order actually came from former President Obama's administration, she said.

In February 2016, the Obama administration added Libya, Yemen and Somalia to a list of "countries of concern" with respect to its visa waiver program. Iran, Syria, Iraq and Sudan were already on the list, according to a release from the Department of Homeland Security.

"These are countries that have a history of training, harboring, exporting terrorists," Conway said.

She added that the president will "certainly keep identifying threats and risks."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also pointed to the Obama administration for initially flagging the seven "countries of particular concern."

"The Obama administration put these first and foremost," he said on ABC's "This Week."

He similarly noted there are 46 other Muslim-majority countries not included in the seven listed.

He also defended the president for following through on the promises he made during his campaign.

"This is nothing new," Spicer said. "President Trump talked about this throughout the campaign and throughout the transition."

The president is just implementing the policies he campaigned on, Spicer said, noting that protecting the nation and its people is the No. 1 priority of the Trump administration.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus again reiterated that the seven countries included in the order were identified by the Obama administration as "the seven most dangerous countries in the world in regard to harboring terrorists and affirmed by Congress multiple times."

Priebus also defended the order's implementation, saying there shouldn't have been a "grace period" put on the order.

"Then, people that want to do bad things to Americans would just move up their travel date two days in order to get into the country before the grace period's over," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"I think it's one of these things that, and if you ask a lot of people at the Customs and Border patrol, would just tell you you got to rip off the band-aid and you have to move forward."

Priebus also attempted to clarify the order, saying it doesn't affect green card holders.

"We didn't overrule the Department of Homeland Security, as far as green card holders moving forward, it doesn't affect them," Priebus said on NBC's "Meet The Press."

But Priebus noted if a person is traveling back and forth to one of the seven countries included in that order, that person is likely to be "subjected temporarily with more questioning until a better program is put in place."

"We don't want people that are traveling back and forth to one of these seven countries that harbor terrorists to be traveling freely back and forth between the United States and those countries," he said.

He clarified that it is up to the "discretionary authority" of a Customs and Border Patrol agent whether people traveling back and forth to these seven countries receive extra questioning.

He also said other countries may need to be added to the executive order in the future.

"But in order to do this in a way that was expeditious, in a way that would pass muster quickly," he said, "we used the 7 countries that have already been codified and identified."

He said the order was "done for the protection of Americans, and waiting another three days, waiting another three weeks is something that we don't want to get wrong."

"President Trump is not willing to get this wrong," he said, "which is why he wants to move forward quickly and protect Americans."

The president on Friday signed an executive order that bars Syrian refugees indefinitely and halts the country's refugee resettlement program for four months.

It also denies entry for 90 days to people from seven majority-Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya.

The president on Saturday denied the executive order was a Muslim ban. He also insisted his new administration was "totally prepared" to carry out the refugee and travel ban.

Hours after Trump signed the order Friday, reports emerged of refugees being detained upon arrival at U.S. airports, and new details continued to emerge about the exact scope of who would be impacted by the order.

The Trump administration sought to clarify the president's controversial action as reports Saturday suggested confusion as officials moved to implement the order.

Protests broke out Saturday at airports across the country as people called for the U.S. to welcome immigrants and refugees.

A federal judge in New York on Saturday night granted an emergency stay, temporarily halting the removal of people detained following Trump's order.

The move appears to mark the first successful legal challenge to the Trump administration and affects those who have arrived in the U.S. with previously approved refugee applications or were in transit with valid visas. Similar rulings were later issued in Virginia, Massachusetts and Washington state.

Still, on Sunday, several Democratic lawmakers continued to raise concerns about the executive order and its impact on the country's policies.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGun proposal picks up GOP support Durbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration MORE (D-Ill.) questioned what it says about the U.S. that it is barring children refugees from war-torn zones from entering the country. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said the order constitutes a Muslim ban and questioned who the government could ban in the future if it is now implementing this ban on Muslims.

Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA's woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDurbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration Overnight Health Care: House passes 20-week abortion ban | GOP gives ground over ObamaCare fix | Price exit sets off speculation over replacement MORE (R-S.C.) raised questions about the order on Sunday in a joint press release.

“It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump’s executive order was not properly vetted. We are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security," they said.

“This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Crying on TV doesn't qualify Kimmel to set nation's gun agenda Trump knocks ‘fake’ news coverage of his trip to Puerto Rico MORE (D-N.Y.) said Sunday in an emotional press conference denouncing the order that Democrats are considering legislation to overturn the president's actions.