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WASHINGTON Homeland Security chief John Kelly
told a congressional panel on Tuesday he should have delayed
U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban on people from seven
Muslim-majority countries and on all refugees so he could brief
Congress on the executive order.
The temporary ban ignited international protests as the
United States revoked 60,000 visas and detained some travelers
who landed in the United States unaware the order had been
signed while they were in flight.
“The desire was to get it out quick so that potentially
people that might be coming here to harm us would not take
advantage of some period of time that they could jump on an
airplane and get here,” Kelly told the House of Representatives
Committee on Homeland Security.
Kelly took the blame for not briefing Congress on the order
before it was announced late on Jan. 27.
“This is all on me by the way. I should have delayed it just
a bit so that I could talk to members of Congress,” he said.
Kelly said the confusion at U.S. airports was caused by
court orders challenging the ban that went out the day after it
went into effect, adding that his team at the Department of
Homeland Security acted swiftly to tweak their operations as
The order was signed also with little or no briefing of U.S.
government agents responsible for implementing it, contributing
to the confusion. There was also no agreement within the
administration for several days over whether green card holders
– foreign nationals from the seven targeted countries with
permanent U.S. residency – should be admitted.
The White House reversed itself later and said those with
green cards would be granted waivers to enter the country.
The ban was suspended by a federal judge last Friday,
opening a window for refugees and citizens from Iran, Iraq,
Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to enter the United
States, pending an appeal by the U.S government.
Trump’s executive order temporarily barred travelers from
the seven Muslim-majority countries and all refugees, except
refugees from Syria whom he would ban indefinitely.
The ban, which Trump says is needed to protect the United
States against Islamist militants, sparked condemnation from
critics who said it was discriminatory against Muslims and
questioned its value as a security measure.
All the people who carried out fatal attacks inspired by
Islamist militancy in the United States since the Sept. 11,
2001, attacks were U.S. citizens or legal residents, the New
America think tank says. None came to the United States or were
from a family that emigrated from one of the countries listed in
the travel ban, it said. (bit.ly/2keSmUO)
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco was
due to hear arguments about whether to restore the ban at 3 p.m.
PST (2300 GMT).
KELLY TEMPERS TRUMP IMMIGRATION PROMISES
Kelly defended the order, at the hearing, asserting that the
seven countries on the list were known to have inadequate
systems for sharing information with the United States on their
potentially dangerous citizens.
He said reports circulated last week that 12 countries could
be added to the travel ban were false, adding that no additional
countries were being considered.
Kelly also said that funding to cities that refuse to
cooperate with immigration agents would only be cut on a
Trump had threatened to cut large amounts of federal funding
to about 300 so-called “sanctuary cities” in order to pressure
them to cooperate in the apprehension and deportation of illegal
Kelly said he did not expect to meet Trump’s hiring goals of
5,000 additional U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and
10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents within two
years. Trump did not specify a timeline when he called for the
hiring in his executive action. (Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan)
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