U.S. President Donald Trump signed Monday a revised executive order on immigration, dropping Iraq from the list of Muslim-majority nations whose citizens face a travel ban in the United States.
Travelers from the other six of the seven nations initially targeted by the travel ban — Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen — will still face a block on entry to the country for 90 days.
“The Trump administration has conceded that its original Muslim ban was indefensible. Unfortunately, it has replaced it with a scaled-back version that shares the same fatal flaws," said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. "The only way to actually fix the Muslim ban is not to have a Muslim ban. Instead, President Trump has recommitted himself to religious discrimination, and he can expect continued disapproval from both the courts and the people."
Federal judges temporarily blocked the initial executive order, which in January put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the U.S. and temporarily barred travelers from the seven Muslim-majority countries. The revised order is intended to help Trump's controversial travel ban withstand court challenges.
Secretary of State Tillerson, Secretary of Department of Homeland Security John Kelly and Attorney Jeff Sessions unveiled the new restrictions in a press conference Monday.
"This order is part of our efforts to eliminate vulnerabilities," said Tillerson.
Sessions stated that the executive order aims to help the administration "carefully review how we scrutinize people coming here from these countries of concern," adding that "this executive order, just as the first executive order, is a lawful exercise of presidential authority."
Kelly claimed that Trump's order will make the U.S. safer, saying, "We are not immune to terrorist threats and our enemies often use our own freedoms and generosity against us."
The Department of Homeland Security chief added that the travel ban focuses on barring entry of foreign nationals not yet authorized in the United States, and will not affect current lawful residents. The revised measure will exempt green card holders, who were initially affected by Trump's order.
Syrian refugees will also now be treated the same as refugees from other countries. The initial travel ban put a stop to refugee processing for 120 days and banned Syrian refugees indefinitely.
Tillerson, Sessions and Kelly all stressed that the executive order is a "lawful" measure. The three officials did not take questions from media after reading prepared statements during the brief press conference.
Critics argue that the revised measures still do not offer any improvement to U.S. national security, and may even undermine security by complicating diplomacy with the countries targeted by the ban. Many have also pointed out that the six countries have been selected arbitrarily.
It was not immediately clear if the new measures will continue to prioritize Christian refugees.
The new order will go into effect 10 days after the signing, on March 16, rather than immediately.