- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 28, 2017

The U.S. will still be the most open country in the world for foreign visitors even after President Trump’s new executive order hitting pause on the refugee program and the Visa Waiver program and suspending visits from a half-dozen war-torn countries, administration officials insisted Saturday.

Mr. Trump’s order has sparked confusion and fear and even invited an attempted class action lawsuit from civil liberties groups who are trying to force the administration to back down, citing two Iraqi men who were already denied entry despite having obtained visas earlier this month.

A senior administration official, briefing reporters as reports of chaos spread, said one of the two men has already been granted a waiver and the other would soon be approved under the exemptions Mr. Trump wrote into his executive order.

“The exemptions and waiver process that we’ve put in place are already working exactly as intended,” the official said.

The official went on to say that even with the new restrictions and a halt to admissions from a number of countries, the U.S. will still be more open than any other country.

“We’re still admitting and processing more people than any other country in the history of civilization. We’re still letting in more people from more war-torn regions than any country in the history of civilization,” the official said.

Critics have called the new policy a “Muslim ban,” citing the majority religion in the countries now on the list of suspended travel.

“Make no mistake — this is a Muslim ban,” said Sen. Kamala Harris, a freshman Democrat from California. “Broad brush discrimination against refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, most of whom are women and children, runs counter to our national security interests, and will likely be used as a terrorist recruitment tool.”

The White House, though, has bristled at that characterization, pointing to a list of some 25 Muslim-majority countries that are not affected by the ban.

Airports across the globe have reported chaos, saying they were left in the dark and aren’t sure how to handle flights to the U.S. Even at home, officials seemed to struggle with it.

In the lawsuit filed early Saturday on behalf of two men from Iraq who were snared in the ban, one Customs and Border Protection official, after being challenged by lawyers who demanded to know why the men were being held, seemed to acknowledge the confusion.

“Call Mr. Trump,” the CBP official told the lawyers, according to the lawsuit.

The senior officials who briefed reporters Saturday afternoon, nearly 24 hours after the ban went into effect, said in order not to let would-be terrorists exploit the system, they couldn’t tell everyone what their plans were ahead of time.

“Everybody who needed to know was informed. The rest were being informed in an expeditious fashion,” the official said. “It went exactly as it should have gone.”

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