President Donald Trump doubled down Monday on the most divisive action of his young presidency, signing a new executive order temporarily blocking travel to the United States from countries he says pose a high terrorism risk, NBC News confirmed.
The new measure contains some key differences from the one signed in January that prompted nationwide confusion and was suspended in federal court. It bars travel to the US for 90 days from six predominantly Muslim countries — Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, according to a Department of Homeland Security fact sheet. It excludes Iraq, which was on the original list.
The new US travel ban order, which takes effect March 16, does not restrict legal permanent residents, or green card holders, from re-entering the US, the DHS said. The first measure initially did, on a case-by-case basis. The order will allow people who had visas by Jan. 27, the date the first order was signed, or earlier to enter the US
Trump has argued that the restrictions, which follow on a key campaign pledge for “extreme vetting,” are necessary to prevent attacks on US soil. Critics have contended the measures constitute a religious ban, based on Trump’s campaign rhetoric against Muslims, and could prove counterproductive in fighting terrorism.
The president has berated the judges who suspended the initial order, and the White House crafted Monday’s measure to better stand up to legal scrutiny. It is not yet entirely clear how well the changes will help it do so.
The new order halts all refugee admissions for 120 days. It does not indefinitely suspend the entry of Syrian refugees specifically, as the first measure did.
The DHS said it will carry out a “global, country-by-country review” of “identity and security information” that each country provides to the US for visa programs. The US will give those countries 50 days to improve their standards.
Regardless of the changes, the travel restrictions will likely spark immediate controversy. After the initial order was signed in late January, Democrats, civil rights groups and some Republicans criticised Trump for the measure and its swift implementation. Protests broke out at airports across the country.
DHS Secretary John Kelly said in February he should have “delayed it just a bit” after lawmakers raised concerns that they were left in the dark.
Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are slated to deliver remarks on the travel restrictions at 11:30 am, ET.