Tags: Donald Trump | Homeland Security | Immigration | Trump Refugee Ban | War on Terrorism | national | security

Homeland Security Officials Stress National Security Behind Immigration Order

Image: Homeland Security Officials Stress National Security Behind Immigration Order

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly speaks at a Tuesday at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

By    |   Tuesday, 31 Jan 2017 01:09 PM

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said Tuesday the government's immigration order that halts travel from countries with a terror presence is not solely aimed at Muslims.

"This is not a travel ban, this is a temporary clause that allows us to better review the existing refugee and visa vetting system," Kelly said during a press conference in Washington, D.C.

"This is not, I repeat, not, a ban on Muslims. The seven countries named in the executive order are those designated by Congress and the Obama administration as requiring additional security when making decisions about who comes into our homeland."

Last Friday's executive order signed by President Donald Trump put a temporary halt on people coming to the United States from seven countries with a terror presence — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. The order also halted the refugee program from those nations for 120 days and the Syrian refugee program indefinitely.

Officials who spoke at the press conference explained the order is simply a pause in the immigration process from the seven aforementioned countries so an improved vetting process can be put in place.

"This is a pause to take a look at how we collect data and how we are exploited against national security threats," said David Glawe, the acting under secretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

Kelly noted within 72 hours of Trump's order, 1 million people came to America's borders via airplane. Of them, 500,000 were foreign nationals.

"We denied boarding to 721 travelers that had visas from the affected countries, but we actually processed for waivers 1,060 lawful permanent residents of the United States, as well as an additional 75 waivers granted to immigrant visa and nonimmigrant visa holders," said Kevin McAleenan, the acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Kelly said the Department of Homeland Security knew ahead of time the order would be signed. Lawmakers and civilians alike have complained they knew nothing about the directive until it was announced, and after that they said information has been hard to come by.

All of the officials at Tuesday's press conference stressed the order has U.S. national security in mind.

"By preventing terrorists from entering our country, we can stop terror attacks from striking the homeland," Kelly said. "We cannot gamble with American lives. I will not gamble with American lives. These orders are a matter of national security, and it is my sworn responsibility as secretary of Homeland Security to protect and defend the American people."

There were several questions related to the confusion that took place in the hours after Trump's order was put into place — confusion that led to protests in airports across the country. McAleenan said Homeland Security quickly put together a waiver process for lawful permanent residents to follow.

"We were able to delegate the authority to grant a waiver out to the field and were able to clarify with the [airline] carriers that these folks were allowed to board," McAleenan noted.

Kelly said he saw two drafts of the order provided by the administration. He also spoke to the White House early last week about the order and its timing.

The immigration order was several months in the making, as Trump talked about it while he campaigned for president. Democrats like former President Barrack Obama and even some Republicans strongly disagree with the directive, although a Rasmussen poll of likely voters taken last week found the majority of Americans are in favor of the policy.

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Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said Tuesday the government's immigration order that halts travel from countries with a terror presence is not solely aimed at Muslims.
national, security, executive order, John Kelly
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2017-09-31
Tuesday, 31 Jan 2017 01:09 PM
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