White House: Trump’s executive order is not a ‘travel ban’

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The White House on Tuesday pushed against criticism that President Donald Trump’s travel ban is targeting Muslims.

President Trump has “made very clear this is not a Muslim ban,” White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said, following a line of questioning by reporters on the ban from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“It’s a vetting system to keep America safe,” Spicer said, adding that it is not a “ban,” but rather a way to ensure “that the people getting in [the U.S.] are vetted properly.”

The executive order, which Trump signed Friday evening, banned travel into the United States for 90 days for people coming from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — not including green card holders. The order also suspended refugee admissions for 120 days, and indefinitely for refugees from Syria.

In a separate press conference earlier on Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly also said the travel ban was not a ban on Muslims.

“The vast majority of the 1.7 billion Muslims that live on this planet, the vast majority of them have, all other things being equal, have access to the United States and a relatively small number right now are being held up for a period of time until we can take a look at what their procedures are,” Kelly said.

“I would be less than honest if I told you that some of those countries that are currently on the list may not be taken off the list anytime soon,” Kelly said. “They’re countries that are in various states of collapse, as an example, but, ultimately, we’d like to see all those countries taken off the list.”

Thousands across the United States have protested the travel ban. Hundreds of career foreign service officers also issued a letter to the State Department’s leadership, criticizing the ban, saying “a policy which closes our doors to over 200 million legitimate travelers in the hopes of preventing a small number of travelers who intend to harm Americans from using the visa system to enter the United States will not achieve its aim of making our country safer.”

“This ban stands in opposition to the core American and constitutional values that we, as federal employees, took an oath to uphold,” the diplomats wrote.