Trump defends executive action: 'This is not a Muslim ban'

President Trump on Sunday released a statement stressing the importance of keeping the country safe and denying that his executive order amounts to a Muslim ban amid protests and backlash from lawmakers.

"America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those feeling oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border," Trump said in the statement.

"We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say."

Trump said his policy is similar to what former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaNational security leaders: Trump's Iran strategy could spark war The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states MORE did in 2011, when he "banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months."

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Trump also pointed to the Obama administration for identifying the seven countries included in Trump's executive order.

"To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe," he said.

"There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order."

Trump said America will be issuing visas again to all countries once "we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days."

Trump on Friday signed an executive order calling for a 90-day ban on nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. The order also includes a 120-day halt on admitting refugees and an indefinite pause on admitting refugees from Syria.

"I have a tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria," he said.

"My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering."

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.
 
Protests broke out across the country on Saturday and Sunday to protest the president's executive order and to call for the U.S. to welcome immigrants and refugees.