White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Sunday that the president’s executive order temporarily restricting entry to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries won’t affect green card holders.
Priebus said that under the order issued Friday by President Donald Trump, legal U.S. residents from those countries could be subjected to more questioning temporarily. “As far as green card holders moving forward, it doesn’t affect them,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
His comments signal an apparent shift in policy or implementation of the order as security officials detained 109 people at U.S. airports over the weekend, including a Stony Brook University graduate student who was released Sunday afternoon. Other legal residents traveling abroad reported being unable to return to the U.S., including a Yemeni man who lives in Selden.
The executive order suspended U.S. entry for all refugees for 120 days. Syrian refugees are barred indefinitely and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — for 90 days. A series of federal court rulings on Saturday, including from U.S. District Court Judge Ann Donnelly in the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, blocked deportations of individuals in transit or already at U.S. airports.
The Department of Homeland Security in a statement Sunday echoed Priebus, saying “the entry of lawful permanent residents is in the national interest. Accordingly, absent significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations.”
Priebus said Trump didn’t want to tip off terrorists by having a “grace period” to give border security agents better understand how to enforce the order. “People that want to do bad things to Americans just move up their travel date two days in order to get into the country before the grace period’s over,” Priebus said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said Trump gave no guidance to federal employees on the executive order, which de Blasio called “simply un-American.”
Some Republicans also challenged or questioned aspects of the president’s travel ban.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), also appearing on “State of the Union,” called it “an extreme vetting program that did not get the vetting it should have had” and added that he supported Donnelly’s ruling.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told ABC’s “This Week” that “some of our best sources in the war against radical Islamic terrorism are Muslims, both in this country and overseas. . . . I’m opposed to religious tests.”
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said on “Fox News Sunday” that the restrictions were a small price to pay for stronger borders and the reality of people being separated from their families is temporary.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the order as a means to prevent terror attacks, telling ABC’s “This Week” that it sends a message to the world that “we’re going to protect our country and our people.”