Iraqis exempt in new ban,
President Donald Trump’s new executive order on immigration will not include a blanket ban on citizens from Iraq, among a host of revisions meant to allay legal and diplomatic concerns, people familiar
with the matter said. The White House late Tuesday scrapped plans for Trump to sign a revised travel ban Wednesday, a per- son familiar with the matter said, marking the third time the administration has put off the matter since the president said that dangerous people might enter the country without a ban.
But when it is signed, the order is still expected to include a host of signifi- cant changes, people famil- iar with the matter said. The order will exempt current visa holders and legal per- manent residents, and it will not impose a blanket ban on those from Iraq, where U.S. forces are working with the Iraqis to battle the Islamic State. It will not include an exception for religious minorities, which critics had pointed to as evidence it was meant to discriminate against Muslims. And it will not go into effect immediately when it is signed, people familiar with the matter said.
When the initial ban was implemented, some people who were in transit were detained or deported once
they reached U.S. airports, sparking large demonstrations against the order.
The people said the situation remains fluid and changes remain possible. Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria, said he, too, had heard Iraq would not be included in the revised order, though he also had heard the oppo- site. Asked if he had concerns about Iraq’s possible inclu- sion in the new executive order, he praised the country as “our partner and ally.”
“They are protecting us here, and we’re fighting this enemy that threatens all of our countries together,” Townsend said.
Earlier, he had said the Iraqis’ reaction to the first ban was “pretty level-headed and sophisticated,” and that the security forces with whom he dealt — while “relieved when the execu- tive order was suspended” — remained focused on their mission.
“Now they’re waiting to see how that may play out here in the future,” Townsend said.
It was not immediately clear why the White House canceled plans to sign the new executive order, although CNN reported that a White House official said the administration wants the order “to have its own ‘moment.’” A White House spokesman did not immedi- ately return messages.
Trump’s original execu- tive order, now frozen by the courts, had temporar- ily barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen — and all refugees from enter- ing the United States.
Although courts have disagreed, the president has insisted that the ban is necessary for national security reasons. He wrote on Twit- ter that, because a federal judge in Washington state had ordered it frozen, “many very bad and dangerous peo- ple may be pouring into our country.” He also suggested that if something were to happen, the court system would be to blame.
Since then, the Justice Department has asked courts to delay litigation while a new order is drafted. The president said on Feb. 10, a Friday, that he was considering writing a new order and that he probably would take some action the following Monday or Tuesday. He did not write a new order by then, and on Feb. 16, a Thursday, he said he would do so the following week. Again, he did not, and a senior administration official said on Feb. 22 that the order would be delayed another week, as officials worked to make sure it would be implemented smoothly.
How long the latest delay will last is unclear.
The delays a nd the removal of Iraq from the list of blocked countries could undermine the administration’s argument about the necessity of the ban. Judges and others had already been skeptical of the argument that the administration needed to impose a ban for national security reasons, and U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said at a court hearing there was “startling evidence” from national security professionals that the order “may be counterproductive to its stated goal” of keeping the nation safe. A recent Department of Homeland Security report said citizenship is an “unreliable” threat indicator and that people from the seven countries affected by the ban have rarely been implicated in U.S.-based terrorism.
The Justice Department said Wednesday that it had won convictions “against over 500 defendants for terrorism or terrorism-related charges in federal courts,” and a “review of that information revealed that a substantial majority of those convicted were born in foreign countries.” A department spokeswoman declined to provide the raw data.
It was not immediately clear why the White House canceled plans to sign the new executive order.