In the 2,853-word order issued Friday by President Trump, which bans immigrants for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries, there’s one word that doesn’t appear once: Muslim.
The order does say things like, “Implementing Uniform Screening Standards for All Immigration Programs,” and “Realignment of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Fiscal Year 2017,” and, most notably, “In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.”
But it does not say Muslim anywhere, for one prime reason: The ban is not targeted at Muslims.
Top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway said on Sunday that the contention — pushed by liberal networks and news agencies — that the president is banning those who adhere to the Islam religion is absurd.
“These seven countries — what about the 46 majority Muslim countries that are not included? Right there, it totally undercuts this nonsense that this is a Muslim ban,” Conway said on “Fox News Sunday.” “This is a ban on prospective travel from countries, trying to prevent terrorists in this country, from countries that have a recent history of training and exporting and harboring terrorists.”
While a federal judge in New York on Saturday ordered a temporary hold on the order, a look at the language shows no targeting of a single group, just a ban on those who may “bear hostile attitudes” toward the U.S. What’s more, the order is temporary, giving federal officials time to examine and, if need be, alter immigration procedures.
White House press Secretary Sean Spicer also dismissed the notion that the order is a “Muslim ban,” noting that the seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya — had been collectively singled out by President Obama as potential threats to the homeland.
“The Obama administration put these first and foremost and said that these countries need to have further travel restrictions based on the intelligence that we have,” Spicer said. “Those were identified by the previous administration. There were further travel restrictions already in place from those seven countries.
“What the president did was take the first step through this executive order of insuring that we’re looking at the entire system of who’s coming in, refugees that are coming in, people who are coming in from places that have a history or that our intelligence suggests that we need to have further extreme vetting for,” the spokesman said.
Trump’s WH chief of staff Reince Priebus said on “Meet The Press” that the program worked fairly well for Day One.
“The fact of the matter is that 325,000 people from foreign countries came into the United States yesterday, and 109 people were detained for further questioning. Most of those people were moved out. We’ve got a couple dozen more that remain,” Priebus said. “I would suspect that as long as they are not awful people, they will be moved through today… If they’re folks that shouldn’t be in this country, they’re going to be detained. So we apologize for nothing here.”
Spicer went toe to toe Sunday with Martha Raddatz on “This Week.” Here is a portion of their exchange:
RADDATZ: OK. The executive order also stipulates that after the refugee program is reinstated in 120 days, the government will prioritize religious minorities persecuted in their country. How will you determine what religion people are? How do you vet them?
SPICER: During this 120-day period, we’re going to put a system in place that looks country by country, group by group, and make sure we put appropriate vetting in place. Again —
RADDATZ: A religious test?
SPICER: Hold on, no. What we’re going to do is make sure that people who have been persecuted for either religious or other reasons have an opportunity to apply and go through a vetting system that ensures they’re coming to this country to seek asylum, to seek a new life for themselves or their family, but to do so with peaceful purposes.
RADDATZ: OK, President Trump said during an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network that persecuted Christian refugees should be seen as a priority. Why —
SPICER: Well, in some countries they should.
RADDATZ: Why are Christian refugees — let me finish. Why are Christian refugees more worthy of admission to the United States than Muslims or even Jewish refugees?
SPICER: Well, it’s a question of making sure that in many so of these countries they are the persecuted group. And so it’s just — it’s a fact that when they live in a majority country of another religion, they are a minority being persecuted, not able to practice their religion, in some cases under threat. And so it’s just a fact that they are being persecuted in some of these countries and we need to make sure we recognize them so that they can come to this country and be able to practice their religion in accordance with our laws and our constitution.”