Trump: Immigration order is 'not about religion'

Protests have continued in the US following the implementation of the controversial executive order

Trump: Immigration order is 'not about religion'

Demonstrators gather outside Tom Bradley International Terminal during a protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban. Picture by Ryan Kang AP/Press Association Images

Donald Trump has moved to defend his controversial executive order on immigration, saying it "is not about religion".

The order - which was signed on Friday - bans immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days.

It also indefinitely suspends the entry of Syrian refugees into the US, with the order claiming the entry of these refugees is "detrimental to the interests of the United States".

The order makes allowances to prioritise "refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality".

There has been widespread international criticism of the order, which many commentators quickly claimed was effectively a Muslim travel ban on the countries affected.

Major protests took place in the US over the weekend in response to the order. The demonstrations were mostly focused on airports, but protesters also gathered at Copley Square in Boston and the White House itself.

Political opposition to the move also intensified, including from a number of Republican congresspeople.

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham issued a joint statement, saying: "This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”

Chaotic scenes

There were some chaotic scenes at US airports as immigration officials attempted to implement the ban, while several legal challenges were successfully launched on behalf of individuals detained as a result of the order.

Among those barred from the US were some people with green cards, which give the holder the right to reside in America.

Following court orders, the US Department of Homeland Security announced green card holders would be allowed enter the country - saying "lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations".

"We are committed to ensuring that all individuals affected by the executive orders, including those affected by the court orders, are being provided all rights afforded under the law," they added in a statement yesterday.

As White House officials moved to defend the order in the media over the weekend, a statement was issued on President Trump's Facebook page.

He said: "The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror. To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting.

"This is not about religion - this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days."

He added that he has "tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria".

"My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country," he noted. "But as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering."

Additional reporting by IRN