UPDATE — 1/30, 7:22 p.m. EST: According to a DHS document obtained by Reuters, the Trump administration will grant waivers to 872 refugees considered “in transit” to the U.S. before the president’s executive order was issued Friday temporarily suspending the government’s resettlement program.
The document also showed 348 foreigners with U.S. visas were barred from flights with American destinations between Friday evening and Monday morning and over 200 more were denied entry to the country at various domestic airports.
In two separate executive orders signed at the Pentagon on Friday, President Trump took steps to strengthen U.S. Armed Forces and clamp down on terrorists attempting to gain entry into the country.
Mr. Trump signed both orders following the swearing in of General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense.
Under an executive order titled “The rebuilding of the United States Armed Forces,” Mattis will be charged with overseeing an upgrade of the military including a modernization of both sea and land forces and the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
“As we prepare our budget request for Congress… our military strength will be questioned by no one, but neither will our dedication to peace, we do want peace,” Mr. Trump said after signing the order.
Through this executive order, Secretary Mattis will be tasked with evaluating military readiness over a 30-day period. Once completed, Mattis is required to devise and submit a plan on how to strengthen the military and chart a course on how to revamp America’s nuclear stockpile and missile-defense systems.
Similarly, on Friday, the president signed a second order, titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”
Under this directive, Trump imposed a 90-day ban on all citizens attempting to enter the U.S. from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. Additionally, the president’s order halts the flow of refugees for a period of 120 days and temporarily bans any refugee from Syria.
The order also reduces the number of refugees seeking to gain entry into the U.S. from 117,000 in 2016 to 50,000 for 2017.
The order also calls on the departments of State and Homeland Security to work collaboratively on a fluid list of countries from which citizens should be banned until the U.S. is able to gain information on individuals who pose a threat to national security.
The new order also calls for the institution of new vetting procedures, a redrafting of admissions policy and permits states to refuse to accept the resettlement of refugees.
“We are establishing new vetting measures, to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. We don’t want ‘em here. We want to ensure we aren’t admitting into our country the very threats that our men and women are fighting overseas,” Trump said after signing restrictions on immigration.
Along with job creation, a renegotiation of trade pacts and the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico, immigration was the centerpiece of Mr Trump’s campaign for the White House.
Despite the popularity of his stance and a willingness to fulfill his campaign pledge, Mr. Trump’s orders Friday were met with both praise and criticism, as expected.
An early critic of Mr. Trump’s plan, House Speaker Paul Ryan released a statement offering support which read:
“President Trump is right to make sure we are doing everything possible to know exactly who is entering our country.”
Unsurprisingly, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) called the orders a “Muslim ban,” and the Council on American-Islamic Relations has said it intends to pursue the matter in court.
Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union excoriated Mr. Trump over the language in the order and declared the “extreme vetting” a “euphemism for discriminating against Muslims.”
“Identifying specific countries with Muslim majorities and carving out exceptions for minority religions flies in the face of the constitutional principle that bans the government from either favoring or discriminating against particular religions,” said the ACLU’s Anthony Romero in a statement.
International effects of the move were felt almost immediately as Austrian officials have signaled U.S. closure of its “Lautenberg Program”, which uses the central European country as a temporary holding site for non-Muslim Iranians resettling in America.
No timetable has been set for the 27-year-old program’s reinstitution, originally established for Jews fleeing the former Soviet Union.
[AP] [The Guardian] [BBC] [Photo courtesy NBC News]