White House press secretary Sean Spicer pushed forcefully Tuesday against the word “ban” as a descriptor of President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting entry by immigrants and other travelers into the United States, although he and Trump have identified the measure in past days as such.
“He’s made very clear that this is not a Muslim ban, it’s not a travel ban,” Spicer told reporters of Trump. “It’s a vetting system to keep America safe. That’s it, plain and simple.”
The press secretary said the fact that travelers ultimately were admitted into the country means the order isn’t a ban.
Trump’s executive order, signed Friday, bars Syrian refugees from the United States indefinitely, suspends entry by all other refugees for 120 days and blocks entry by nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days.
It was met with widespread confusion among immigration officials at airports, mass demonstrations condemning it as a religious test and numerous legal challenges.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday defended the president’s efforts as in the interest of national security.
“We need to pause and we need to make sure that the vetting standards are up to snuff, so we can guarantee the safety and security of our country,” Ryan said.
He said Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly assured him the implementation would be smoother going forward.
“It’s regrettable that there was some confusion with the rollout,” Ryan conceded. “No one wanted to see people with green cards or special immigrant visas like translators get caught up in all of this.”
Similarly, Kelly said the order provides a “temporary pause” and is “not a ban on Muslims.”
Protesters took to the streets over the weekend, including at Kennedy and other airports nationwide, where travelers, including green-card holders, from the Muslim-majority countries were detained for hours.
Kelly ordered Sunday that permanent residents be permitted entry.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations are among the groups that have filed lawsuits against the administration.
Opponents, including lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, labeled Trump’s executive order as unconstitutional, un-American, religious discrimination and, as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) put it, a “self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”
Despite Spicer’s remarks Tuesday, Trump had used the word “ban” in a tweet Monday.
“If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there!” the president wrote.
Spicer used “ban” Monday in remarks at George Washington University, saying the “ban deals with seven countries.”
Spicer said at Tuesday’s news briefing that Trump was using the word because that’s “what the media is calling this.”
Meanwhile, acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said 872 refugees will be granted entry into the country this week, according to The Associated Press.
He said they received waivers permitted under the executive order when the refugees are already in transit and stopping them would cause “undue hardship.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the White House to lift the restrictions, saying, “Blind measures, not based on solid intelligence, tend to be ineffective as they risk being bypassed by what are today sophisticated global terrorist movements,” according to the AP.