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Trump Signs Revised Order Banning Arrivals From 6 Majority-Muslim Countries


President Trump has signed a new executive order on refugees and travel. Trump's original order temporarily barred visitors from seven majority Muslim countries. It was blocked in court. Now the administration is trying again with a narrower scope. As NPR's Joel Rose reports, critics say it still discriminates against Muslims.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Just over a month ago, Trump held a public signing ceremony for his first travel ban. Today he signed the revised version in private and left the announcement to his Cabinet, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.


REX TILLERSON: With this order, President Trump is exercising his rightful authority to keep our people safe.

ROSE: There are some key differences between Trump's original order and this one. It only applies to people from six majority Muslim countries. Iraq has been dropped from the list. Lawful permanent residents or green card holders are explicitly exempt. So are travelers who already have valid visas. And refugees from Syria are no longer banned indefinitely, though the U.S. refugee program is still suspended for 120 days and the number of refugees admitted this year cut by more than half.

BECCA HELLER: You can dress it up and call it anything you want. It's a Muslim ban.

ROSE: Becca Heller directs the International Refugee Assistance Project which sued to block the earlier executive order and plans to fight this one as well.

HELLER: I think they've gotten a little bit smarter about trying to hide what they're really doing behind more sophisticated legal language but that the net effect is going to be the same.

ROSE: Trump's original travel ban was hit with lawsuits across the country. A federal judge in Washington state blocked the order after just a week, saying the government had offered no proof that national security is at stake. The administration insists that order would ultimately have prevailed in court, but officials say they rushed to craft a new one to keep the country safe.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried again to explain the rationale for the travel ban. He said the six countries are either state sponsors of terrorism or are known to harbor terrorists. And he made this new assertion about refugees.


JEFF SESSIONS: Today, more than 300 people, according to the FBI, who came here as refugees are under an FBI investigation today for potential terrorism-related activities.

ROSE: The Justice Department declined to provide any detail on the nature of those investigations or which countries the people came from. Trump's original order caused widespread confusion at airports when it was signed on a Friday afternoon with little guidance to agencies. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the new order will not take effect until March 16.


TILLERSON: The State Department will coordinate with other federal agencies and implement these temporary restrictions in an orderly manner.

ROSE: That does seem like an improvement to Lee Gelernt with the ACLU, which filed several lawsuits challenging the original order.

LEE GELERNT: The rollout is looking like it's going to be better, and we're happy for that. There certainly shouldn't be anybody who is en route getting trapped like last time.

ROSE: But Gelernt called the new order a tweak around the edges that hasn't fixed the core problem of discrimination. The ACLU and other critics say they'll ask the courts to block this new order before it can even take effect. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.