Trump’s Order Prioritizes Refugee Admissions for Persecuted Religious Minorities

Terence P. Jeffrey | January 30, 2017 | 5:26pm EST
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A member of the Islamic State removes the cross from atop a Christian church in Mosul, Iraq, in 2015. (AP Photo)

( - The executive order President Donald Trump issued Friday that temporarily suspends entry into the United States for most nationals from seven nations the Obama administration had already designated as potential sources for terrorists traveling here also calls for prioritizing persecuted religious minorities for admission to the United States as refugees.

“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting,” Trump said in a statement released Sunday.

The order does not single out or specify any religion. It does not call for either advantageous or disadvantageous treatment of individuals belonging to any particular religious sect or denomination when the seek U.S. visas or admission as refugees.

But it does call for prioritizing refugee status for adherents of any religion that is a persecuted minority in their home country. And it does suspend the U.S. Refugee Admission Program (USRAP) for 120 days.

During that time, the secretaries of State and Homeland Security, consulting with Director of National Intelligence, are charged with reviewing the admissions process for refugees “to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States and shall implement such additional procedures.”

The order says:

“Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality.  Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization.”

The order further says:

"(e) Notwithstanding the temporary suspension imposed pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may jointly determine to admit individuals to the United States as refugees on a case-by-case basis, in their discretion, but only so long as they determine that the admission of such individuals as refugees is in the national interest -- including when the person is a religious minority in his country of nationality facing religious persecution, when admitting the person would enable the United States to conform its conduct to a preexisting international agreement, or when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship -- and it would not pose a risk to the security or welfare of the United States.

"(f)  The Secretary of State shall submit to the President an initial report on the progress of the directive in subsection (b) of this section regarding prioritization of claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution within 100 days of the date of this order and shall submit a second report within 200 days of the date of this order.

Trump's Sunday statement countered reports that suggested his order aimed at a particular religion.

“The seven countries named in the executive order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror,” Trump said in his statement.

“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting,” Trump said.

“This is not about religion--this is about terror and keeping our country safe,” Trump said. “There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days. I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.”

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