Saturday, January 28, 2017

Trump signs new vetting

Trump signs new vetting measures to keep out 
‘radical Islamic terrorists’
President Donald Trump gestures after signing two executive actions at the Pentagon, as Vice-President Mike Pence, left, and Defence Secretary James Mattis look on. Picture: AP

Malcolm Turnbull is confident Donald Trump’s suspension of refugees introduced today will not scupper a deal he struck with Barack Obama for the US to accept asylum-seekers held on Nauru and Manus Island.

The Prime Minister is due to speak with the US President tomorrow morning Australian time.

“You will have seen the executive order that has been published today and we are very confident and satisfied that the arrangement, the existing arrangements will continue,” Mr Turnbull said today.

Mr Trump earlier today barred all refugees from entering the US for four months - and those from war-ravaged Syria indefinitely - declaring the ban necessary to prevent “radical Islamic terrorists” from entering the nation.

The order immediately suspended a program that last year resettled to the US about 85,000 people displaced by war, political oppression, hunger and religious prejudice.

Trump indefinitely blocked all those fleeing Syria, where a civil war has displaced millions of people, and imposed a 90-day ban on entry to the US from seven Muslim majority nations.


The President’s tough stance on refugees raised speculation he will scrap a deal with Australia to accept asylum-seekers held on Nauru and Manus Island, although his administration is yet to comment publicly on it.

Some of those people are from Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

Mr Turnbull brokered the deal last year with former US president Mr Obama.

The Prime Minister expressed confidence that the deal will stand.

“You will have seen the executive order that has been published today and we are very confident and satisfied that the arrangement, the existing arrangements will continue,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Port Lincoln today.

The 9am AEDT call he is expecting tomorrow is one of a series to foreign leaders from the US President, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande also on the list.

“I have had a very good discussion with him shortly after the election when he was President-elect Trump,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Port Lincoln. “We have a great deal to discuss.”

Australian tourists travelling to the US will largely not be affected by today’s executive order.

Australians, New Zealanders and citizens of 35 other countries allied with the US will still have the simple option of going online and applying for entry to the US if their travel is for business or pleasure and less than 90 days.

There were fears the order, titled The Protection of the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States, could scrap the visa waiver program and force Australians to sit for interviews at US consulates before departing, but that was not the case.


The move was immediately condemned by Democrats, civil rights and aid groups.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, said it would file a federal lawsuit on Monday challenging the constitutionality of the executive order.

“There is no evidence that refugees - the most thoroughly vetted of all people entering our nation - are a threat to national security,” said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena F. Masri. “This is an order that is based on bigotry, not reality.”

During the past budget year, the US accepted 84,995 refugees, including 12,587 people from Syria. President Barack Obama had set the refugee limit for this budget year at 110,000.

Trump, according to the executive order, plans to cut that to 50,000. Refugee processing was suspended in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks and restarted months later.

The President was applauded by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said it was “time to re-evaluate and strengthen the visa-vetting process.”

Many Democrats cast the measures as un-American.

“Tears are running down the cheeks of the Statue of Liberty tonight as a grand tradition of America, welcoming immigrants, that has existed since America was founded has been stomped upon,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

“Taking in immigrants and refugees is not only humanitarian but has also boosted our economy and created jobs decade after decade. This is one of the most backward and nasty executive orders that the president has issued.”

Legal rights groups were also furious.

“President Trump has cloaked what is a discriminatory ban against nationals of Muslim countries under the banner of national security,” said Greg Chen of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Chen said the order will “severely cripple” the US refugee program, leaving desperate people in danger.

“This policy does not make us safer. It shows weakness and withdraws our nation from the position as global leader when so many refugees urgently need protection,” Chen said.

Trump’s order was signed on Holocaust Remembrance Day, which brought to mind the global effort to help refugees during World War II and its aftermath.

Joined earlier in the day at the White House by British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump reaffirmed the United States’ “special relationship” with Great Britain.

But he was also asked about a more contentious issue: his recent statements that torture “does work” in prying information out of terror suspects.

Giving ground, he said his defence secretary’s opposition would override his own belief. Hours later he stood at the Pentagon as Mattis was sworn in as the military’s chief.

But Trump held firm on another controversy - trade and illegal immigration from Mexico.

He told reporters he had a “very good call” with Pena Nieto earlier in the day, but he reaffirmed his belief that Mexico has “outnegotiated and beat us to a pulp” on trade - and that would change.

“We’re no longer going to be the country that doesn’t know what it’s doing,” he declared a day after the Mexican leader canceled his visit to Washington in response to Trump’s plans to build a border wall and have Mexico pay for it.

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