In several major departures from its earlier travel ban, the Trump administration’s new order issued on Monday temporarily bars citizens of six Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States and allows all those who have valid visas.
The new order also doesn’t indefinitely bar Syrian refugees, as proposed in the earlier one, and, in yet another change, removes a provision prioritising Christians fleeing persecution from Christian-minority parts of the world.
It goes into effect from March 16, not immediately.
President Donald Trump signed the new order in the White House, but without the fanfare, photo-ops and remarks that accompanied the earlier order, which was mired in controversy from the minute it rolled out on January 27.
Details of the new travel ban were announced instead by secretaries of state and homeland security Rex Tillersen and John Kelly and attorney general Jeff Sessions - heads of the departments that will play critical roles in its implementation.
The purpose, as before, was to prevent terrorists — “bad dudes”, Trump has called them — from entering the US.
“This revised order will bolster security of the US and her allies,” Tillersen said in a rare news appearance. “The American people can have confidence we are identifying ways to improve the vetting process; keep terrorists from entering.”
Sessions said, “The majority of people convicted in our courts for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from abroad. We also know that people seeking to support or commit terrorist attacks here will try to enter through our refugee program. In fact, today more than 300 people who came here as refugees are under FBI investigation for potential terrorism-related activities.”
The new order is limited in scope and nature. It applies to six countries, against seven in the earlier order, with Iraq being dropped under pressure from Iraq and the US departments of defense and state, which argued that the country is a crucial ally in the fight against Islamic State.
The new ban applies to all citizens of Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Syria, and will be in effect for 90 days. All refugees will be barred from entering for 120 days, and on resumption, the annual intake will be down to 50,000.
About the decision to drop Iraq, the homeland security said in a factsheet: “On the basis of negotiations that have taken place between the government of Iraq and the US Department of State in the last month, Iraq will increase cooperation with the US government on the vetting of its citizens applying for a visa to travel to the US.”
During the period of the temporary ban, the government will put in place a system of “extreme vetting”, Sessions said at the press appearance, “This executive order protects the American people by putting in place an enhanced screening and vetting process for visitors from six nations.”
The administration has 10 days to implement the new order, unlike the previous one which went into effect immediately, creating chaos and confusion at airports around the US and the world.
That order, which stands revoked, was immediately challenged in courts, and successfully freed up those arrested or detained. A federal bench in Washington state followed up, slapping a country-wide stay that was upheld later by an appeals court.