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Trump issues revised executive order, removes Iraq from temporary travel ban
By Steve Bittenbender
Editor, Government Security News
More than five weeks after signing his initial executive order, President Donald Trump signed a revised order Monday morning that removes Iraq from the list of countries where visitors are banned, temporarily, from entering the United States.
The order still prohibits travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – with certain exceptions – from entering the country over a 90-day period starting on March 16.
However, opponents still consider the new order to target Muslims specifically and have said they will take the Administration to court again because it continues to be unconstitutional.
In the new order, the President said Iraq presents a special case. While terrorist cells still wage battle in some areas of the country, Trump noted that Iraqi leaders have taken several steps to share information with the U.S. regarding its residents who seek to enter America.
“(T)he close cooperative relationship between the United States and the democratically elected Iraqi government, the strong United States diplomatic presence in Iraq, the significant presence of United States forces in Iraq, and Iraq's commitment to combat ISIS justify different treatment for Iraq,” the new order stated.
Trump’s initial travel ban was struck down by federal judges in the days after it was signed. After the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied to overturn a stay, the President announced he would rescind the order and issue a new one.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which took the President to court after the initial order was implemented, said that while the President admitted defeat over the first order, its replacement is not any better.
“The only way to actually fix the Muslim ban is not to have a Muslim ban,” said Omar Jadwat, the ACLU’s director for its Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Instead, President Trump has recommitted himself to religious discrimination, and he can expect continued disapproval from both the courts and the people.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department would work to defend the order in the court system. Last month, Trump fired the acting Attorney General after she advised lawyers in the department to not defend the initial order after she raised concerns about its legality.
Sessions and other Cabinet members spoke to the press moments after the announcement of the new order.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the new order targets only those individuals who do not have a valid visa. The previous order raised concerns about visa holders from all seven countries, with business and educational leaders voicing concerns about the effect it would have on its employees, professors and students.
“It is important to note that nothing in this executive order affects current lawful permanent residents or persons with current authorization to enter our country,” Kelly said. “If you have a current valid visa to travel, we welcome you. But unregulated, unvetted travel is not a universal privilege, especially when national security is at stake.”
The new order allows Kelly, in working with Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to place additional countries on the travel ban list if those countries do not provide American officials with the information they request regarding potential travelers.
The new order also continues the 120-day ban on accepting refugees, giving U.S. officials time to review the processes in place and determine if any new steps need to be taken to ensure those seeking refugee status do not pose a security threat. It also continues the call for the expedited completion of a biometric system to track travelers.