White House: Immigration Order ‘Small Price’ for Safety

January 29, 2017 Updated: January 29, 2017

WASHINGTON—The White House on Sunday downplayed concerns about President Donald Trump’s sweeping immigration order in the face of widespread protests, as some Republicans in Congress urged him to proceed with caution in the face of legal pushback. Top congressional Republicans, however, remain largely behind the new president.

During a round of Sunday show interviews, Trump’s aides stressed that just a small portion of travelers—less than one percent—had been affected by the order, which temporarily bars the citizens of seven majority Muslim nations from entering the country. The aides also said that citizens of those countries who hold permanent U.S. residency “green cards” will not be barred from re-entering the country.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus participates in a Politico Playbook breakfast forum, May 6, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus participates in a Politico Playbook breakfast forum, May 6, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

“I can’t imagine too many people out there watching this right now think it’s unreasonable to ask a few more questions from someone traveling in and out of Libya and Yemen before being let loose in the United States,” insisted Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus. “And that’s all this is.”

As of Sunday afternoon, one legal permanent resident had been denied entry to the country as a result of the order, according to a federal law enforcement official. The official was not permitted to discuss the order’s impact publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The changes, said White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, are “a small price to pay” to keep the nation safe.

She also mentioned to Fox News that the list of seven countries was offered by the previous administration.  

The order also suspends refugee admissions for 120 days and indefinitely bars the processing of refugees from Syria. However, it does not address homegrown extremists already in America, a primary concern of federal law enforcement officials. And the list of countries in Trump’s order doesn’t include Saudi Arabia, where most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were from.

Priebus said that other countries could be added to the list.

The order has sparked widespread protests and denunciations from Democrats and a handful of Republicans. Many have accused the administration of rushing to implement the changes, resulting in panic and confusion at the nation’s airports.

“You have an extreme vetting proposal that didn’t get the vetting it should have had,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who urged the new president to “slow down” and work with lawmakers on how best to tighten screening for foreigners who enter the United States.

The comments came the morning after a federal judge in New York issued an emergency order temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting people from the seven majority Muslim nations subject to Trump’s 90-day travel ban. The judge said the approximately 200 travelers who had been detained had a strong argument that their legal rights had been violated.

The order barred U.S. border agents from removing anyone who had already arrived in the U.S. with a valid visa from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. It also covered anyone with an approved refugee application.

The Department of Homeland Security, however, said Sunday said the court ruling would not affect the overall implementation of the White House order.

“President Trump’s executive orders remain in place—prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety,” the department said in a statement.

Epoch Times contributed to this report.