US President Donald Trump signed a revised ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority nations Monday, scaling back the order to exempt Iraqis and permanent US residents.
With his first attempt frozen by federal courts, Trump signed a second order halting new visas for Syrians, Iranians, Libyans, Somalis, Yemenis and Sudanese citizens.
The White House said Trump — who is embroiled in controversy over his aides’ links to Russia — signed the order behind closed doors Monday morning.
The new order is meant to address legal problems. It explicitly exempts Iraqis, legal permanent residents and valid visa holders.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, one of three cabinet members rolled out to present the order in Trump’s absence, described it as “a vital measure” for strengthening national security.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions added that it “provides a needed pause” allowing a review of how America deals with travelers from “countries of concern.”
“Three of these nations are state sponsors of terrorism,” Sessions said, referring to Iran, Sudan and Syria.
He added that others had served as “safe havens” for terror operatives.
Critics questioned the composition of the list, which includes citizens from countries that have never been involved in terror attacks in the United States.
They accused Trump of covertly pursuing his controversial and possibly illegal campaign promise of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
The question of Trump’s intent is likely to dominate new legal challenges that are already being flagged by organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union.
“President Trump has recommitted himself to religious discrimination, and he can expect continued disapproval from both the courts and the people,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the measure should be repealed, adding: “A watered down ban is still a ban.”