Trump order on refugees creates chaos

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The Trump administration on Saturday sought to clarify one of the president’s most controversial actions yet amid backlash over his executive order banning entry for many refugees and people from several predominantly Muslim nations.

A senior administration official said Saturday that Trump advisers had been in contact with the State Department and Department of Homeland Security for weeks prior to the issuing of his order on Friday evening.

The official argued that several Muslim-majority countries were not included in the ban, claiming that the number of people affected was “relatively” small.

“We’re dealing with a relatively small universe of people,” the official said, according to a pool report. “It’s important to keep in mind that no person living or residing overseas has a right to entry to the U.S.”

But reports Saturday indicated confusion as officials moved to implement Trump’s order and the White House attempted to fend off accusations it was implementing a ban that effectively targeted Muslims.

“It’s not a Muslim ban, but we are totally prepared,” Trump told media gathered in the Oval Office on Saturday afternoon as he signed three new executive orders on lobbying, a plan to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and a reorganization of the National Security Council.

“It’s working out very nicely. You see it in the airports, you see it all over. It’s working out very nicely and we are going to have a very, very strict ban and we are going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years,” Trump said.

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

The American Civil Liberties Union and several other legal groups filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Iraqi refugees who were detained and threatened with deportation at Kennedy International Airport in New York early Saturday morning.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) slammed Trump’s executive order during a press conference outside the airport where she and fellow Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) worked to secure release of the two Iraqi men, calling it “arbitrary” and “unjust.”

“Mr. President, look at us – this is America, what you have done is shameful, it’s un-American and it has created so much confusion, not only among working families and families in America, but it’s also creating confusion among people working in homeland security,” Velázquez said.

“Go and revisit this. It’s ill-advised, it’s mean-spirited, it’s tearing families apart,” she added.

Trump’s order bars Syrian refugees indefinitely and halts all refugee resettlement in the U.S. for 120 days as the administration reviews its vetting process. It also imposes a 90-day ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia.

Senate Democrats raced to oppose the measure shortly after it was signed. Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday in a statement that “there are tears running down the cheeks of the Statue of Liberty tonight.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) insisted the order was nothing short of a Muslim ban, stating, “On Holocaust Memorial Day, Trump restricted refugees from Muslim-majority countries. Make no mistake – this is a Muslim ban.”

The Department of Homeland Security said Saturday that Trump’s order would also apply to green card holders from the seven impacted countries, which serve as proof of an individual’s permanent legal residence in the U.S.

A senior administration official clarified that green card holders from the countries who are currently outside the U.S. will need a case-by-case waiver to return to the U.S. and green card holders in the U.S. would need to meet with a consular officer before leaving the country.

The order also applies to individuals who may originally come from one of the seven banned countries, but have dual nationality elsewhere, according to a State Department statement obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

“Travelers who have nationality or dual nationality of one of these countries will not be permitted for 90 days to enter the United States or be issued an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa,” the statement said.

A chorus of Democrats on Saturday condemned Trump’s order, calling it discriminatory and a departure from the U.S. tradition of accepting refugees. International backlash also emerged, with Iran, one of the seven nations affected, saying it would ban U.S. citizens in response.

Business groups also rebuked the order, with international companies left scrambling to understand how the order would affect their employees.

“It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a memo to employees Friday, according to Bloomberg. Pichai said the order would affect 187 employees.

“We’ve always made our view on immigration issues known publicly and will continue to do so,” he added.

The Internet Association, a coalition of tech companies, offered a rebuke of the policy, saying it limited freedom of movement and the tech industry’s ability to hire talent internationally.

“The internet industry is deeply concerned with the implications of President Trump’s executive order limiting immigration and movement into the United States,” Michael Beckerman, the group’s CEO, said in a statement.

“While this order impacts many companies outside of the tech industry, internet companies in particular thrive in the U.S. because the best and the brightest are able to create innovative products and services right here in America.”

GOP leaders remained mostly silent on the issue Saturday, but an aide to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) denied that Trump’s order amounted to a Muslim ban, something that Trump proposed on the campaign trail in late 2015 that Ryan and other Republican leaders condemned at the time.

“This is not a religious test and it is not a ban on people of any religion,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said Saturday.

But in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network on Friday, Trump said that Christian refugees would be given priority status for resettlement.

“They’ve been horribly treated,” he said. “Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough, to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian it was almost impossible. And the reason that was so unfair – everybody was persecuted, in all fairness – but they were chopping off the heads of everybody, but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.”

According to a Pew Research Center report, of the nearly 85,000 refugees admitted to the U.S. in the 2016 fiscal year, 38,901 were Muslims and 37,521 were Christians – nearly equal numbers.

As a presidential candidate, Trump called for a “total and complete ban on all Muslims entering the United States,” and suggested that he would create a Muslim registry. He also argued that terrorists are using the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq as a way of gaining entrance into the U.S., and called for extreme vetting of incoming refugees.

Under the current refugee resettlement program, refugees looking to come to the U.S. must undergo a rigorous vetting process that typically takes a year and a half to two years, and is conducted before the individual ever arrives in the country.

Updated: 5:55 p.m.

Tags Chuck Schumer Executive Order Muslims Paul Ryan refugees

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