U.S. President Donald Trump signed a new travel ban on Monday, nearly a month after a federal appeals court refused to reinstate his first executive order that blocked travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries and suspended entry to refugees.
The initial ban, issued by executive order just one week after Trump's inauguration, caused confusion at the airports and led to a battle in the courts. Critics said the roll-out of the order was rushed and discriminatory.
The White House stood firm in its first major legal battle, saying the ban was crucial to preserve national security. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson repeated that assertion at a news conference.
"While no system can be made completely infallible, the American people can have high confidence we are identifying ways to improve the vetting process and thus keep terrorists from entering our country," he said.What's in the new order?
Under the new ban, visa processing for travellers from Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya will be suspended for 90 days. Under the original order, citizens of Iraq were also blocked. The order will go into effect on March 16 at 12:01 a.m. ET.
Iraq is no longer one of the countries identified in the new executive order. Tillerson, at a news conference Monday, said Iraq is a key ally in the fight against ISIS. Iraq has also introduced new vetting procedures, including data sharing and visa screening.
The new order will honour all existing visas and valid green cards.
Syrian refugees will no longer be blocked indefinitely, as they were in the previous order. Instead, they will face the same 120-day suspension applied to all refugees. Refugees who had already been approved to come the U.S. by the State Department will be granted entry.
When the suspension is lifted, the number of refugees will be capped at 50,000. Former president Barack Obama set a goal of settling 110,000 refugees in 2017.
Language that appeared to give preference to Christians over Muslims was also cut from the new executive order.Why did Trump introduce the ban?
Trump said the original order, signed on Jan. 27, was issued as a national security measure.
"I'm establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America," Trump said as he signed the order. "We don't want 'em here."
Critics immediately said the action was discriminatory and demonstrators flocked to airports to protest.
"Tears are running down the cheeks of the Statue of Liberty tonight as a grand tradition of America, welcoming immigrants, that has existed since America was founded, has been stomped upon," said Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.
But a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken in January found that roughly one in two Americans support the ban while 31 per cent of respondents said it made them feel safer. The poll was conducted online in English in all 50 states. It gathered poll responses from 1,201 people including 453 Democrats and 478 Republicans.
Is there proof to support Trump's claims?
A draft document prepared by analysts at the Department of Homeland Security suggests that citizenship is an "unlikely indicator" of terror threats to the U.S. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the report that suggested few people from the countries named in the travel ban have been involved in terror attacks in the U.S. since 2011.Why was it blocked?
U.S. District Court Judge James Robart on Feb. 3 temporarily suspended parts of Trump's first executive order, after the attorneys general of Washington state and Minnesota put forward a legal challenge. Robart said the order was not "rationally based."
Trump immediately responded on Twitter, saying, "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system."
The White House then filed an emergency request to resume the ban, but it was rejected by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal appeals court based in San Francisco.
"On the one hand, the public has a powerful interest in national security and in the ability of an elected president to enact policies," the judges wrote in their decision. "And on the other, the public also has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination."