President Donald Trump signed a revised executive order for a U.S. travel ban on Monday, leaving Iraq off the list of targeted countries, White House Senior Administration Officials said.
This development happened after his controversial first attempt was blocked in the courts.
The officials said that the new order, which the White House said Trump had signed, will keep a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of six Muslim-majority nations, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said earlier that the new order would take effect on March 16.
The new directive delays implementation to limit the disruption that created havoc for some travellers when Trump issued his original order.
Trump had said the restrictive order is necessary to ensure domestic security.
His Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, told reporters “As threats to our security continue to evolve and change, common sense dictates that we continually re-evaluate and reassess the systems we rely upon to protect our country”.
“Iraq was taken off the list in the original order, which was issued on Jan. 27, because the Iraqi government has imposed new vetting procedures.
“This includes heightened visa screening and data sharing, also because of its work with the U.S. in countering Islamic State militants.
“There’s going to be a very orderly process, you should not see any chaos so to speak, or alleged chaos at airports.
“ There are not going to be folks stopped tonight from coming into the country because of this executive order,” a senior official from the Department of Homeland Security said.
Thousands of Iraqis have fought alongside U.S. troops for years or worked as translators since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Many have resettled in the U.S. after being threatened for working with U.S. troops.
The White House official said the new executive order also ensures that tens of thousands of legal permanent residents in the U.S. or green card holders from the listed countries would not be affected by the travel ban.
The new ban however attracted the rage of US Democrats, who described it as illegal and ineffective.
Chuck Schumer, Leader of the left-leaning minority faction in the Senate, said the new measures would have “the same uphill climb in the courts” as Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order.
The order was earlier blocked by a federal judge.
“A watered down ban is still a ban.
“Despite the administration’s changes, this dangerous executive order makes us less safe, not more.
It is mean-spirited and un-American,” Schumer said.
Nancy Pelosi, Leader of the Democratic minority in the lower House of Representatives, ridiculed Trump’s action.
She described it as “dangerous and incompetent actions” and accused the White House of manufacturing “after-the-fact justification for its baldly prejudiced and unconstitutional Muslim and refugee ban.”
She also described the revised order as “repackaging” of “immoral” policies.
“This is the same ban, with the same purpose, driven by the same dangerous discrimination that weakens our ability to fight terror.
“Protecting the American people requires us to be strong and smart, not reckless and rash,” Pelosi said.