RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Trump has signed a new executive order this morning, a revised version of the travel ban he put out last month. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are all unveiling the new policy at this moment. Here's what Secretary Tillerson said just moments ago.
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SECRETARY OF STATE REX TILLERSON: It is the president's solemn duty to protect the American people. And with this order, President Trump is exercising his rightful authority to keep our people safe.
MARTIN: President Trump's original directive has been on hold for more than a month after a spate of legal challenges. To talk about what's changed in this new order, we're joined by NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Hi, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MARTIN: So is this new executive order substantively different than the first one, which we all remember caused so much chaos the first time around?
HORSLEY: Well, the administration has taken a number of steps to address that chaos. They've made it clear, for example, that the order does not apply to green card holders or people who already hold valid travel visas. In addition, the new order's not taking effect for about 10 days. The idea here is to avoid the kind of situation we had in late January when you had people getting on airplanes, coming to the United States thinking they'd find an open door, only to land and find a very different sort of welcome.
MARTIN: One of the biggest differences is that the list of seven Muslim majority countries being temporarily banned, that's now gone from seven to six.
HORSLEY: Iraq is no longer on the list. Denying entry to Iraqi travelers was a real friction point with the Iraqi government, which is, after all, a key ally for the U.S. in the fight against ISIS. So there was political pressure to get Iraq off the list. Administration officials also say they've been assured greater cooperation by the government of Iraq, more information sharing, so they'll have an easier time vetting would-be travelers from that country.
MARTIN: So I imagine there will be other countries out there, the other countries that are still on the list, who look at that and say, well, what can we do? Is there - are there steps we can take to - that replicate what Iraq did so we can get off the list?
HORSLEY: Yeah, I mean, that - the whole idea of this 90-day pause in travel was to accommodate that kind of improvement and allow for better vetting of people coming into the country. So in theory, that could happen with the other six countries targeted. With countries like Yemen or Sudan, though, where the basic functions of government are very much in doubt, it's not clear they will be able to do improved vetting, let alone in 90 days. So it's possible in those countries the travel ban could be extended past the three-month mark.
MARTIN: What about refugees? In the original ban, all refugees from all countries were part of the temporary ban. Is that still the case?
HORSLEY: Right, entry by refugees is still going to be suspended for four months. But refugees who already have their paperwork in hand will be allowed in. In addition, an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees has been lifted. So Syrian refugees will be treated the same as refugees from other countries. And the administration has also dropped a preference for religious minorities which was legally suspect. However, a hard cap on the number of refugees remains in place at 50,000. That's down from the 110,000 that the Obama administration planned to take in this year.
MARTIN: We should note critics of this policy say refugees already go through tremendous vetting and that banning them doesn't necessarily improve public safety.
HORSLEY: That's right. The administration pushed back on that a bit today, saying as part of the effort to prevent domestic terrorism, the FBI is currently keeping tabs on some 300 people who came into the U.S. as refugees. That's the kind of sort of factual basis for the ban that was completely missing when the administration first rolled this out in late January.
I should say, though, since 9/11, more than half the people we might call Islamic terrorists who have carried out deadly attacks in the U.S. were born here. So critics say with its focus on foreign infiltration, the administration may be neglecting the challenge of domestic radicalization.
MARTIN: And of course, we don't know how many people on that 300 caseload are from those six countries still on the list of temporary banning. NPR's Scott Horsley. Thanks so much, Scott.
HORSLEY: Good to be with you.
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