True to his election pledge, US President Donald Trump on Friday put a four-month hold on refugees entering the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries, in what he said, is a move to protect Americans from terrorist attacks.
Under the presidential order signed a weak after taking office, President Donald Trump put on hold the entry of travelers from Syria and six other nations for at least 90 days, ahead of introducing a stringent screening processes for refugees, immigrants and visitors.
Trump's anti-immigrant stance tries to exploit American fears about Islamic State militants and the possible threat that the flood of migrants into Europe from war-torn Syria could be a "Trojan horse" letting attackers inside the United States.
"I'm establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. Don't want them here," Trump said earlier on Friday at the Pentagon.
"We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people," he said.
The order seeks to prioritise refugees fleeing religious persecution, especially aimed at helping Christians in Syria, a move that experts say could be unconstitutional.
One group said it would announce a court challenge on Monday. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said the order targets Muslims because of their faith, contravening the US Constitutional right to freedom of religion.
"President Trump has cloaked what is a discriminatory ban against nationals of Muslim countries under the banner of national security," said Greg Chen of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
The bans, which took effect immediately, caused confusion for would-be travelers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and those who work with Muslim immigrants and refugees.
Even legal permanent residents - people with "green cards" allowing them to live and work in the United States - were being advised to consult immigration lawyers before traveling outside the country, or trying to return.
Trump's order also suspends the Syrian refugee programme until further notice, and will eventually give priority to minority religious groups fleeing persecution.
Trump said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that the exception would help Syrian Christians fleeing the civil war there.
Legal experts were divided on whether this order would be constitutional.
"If they are thinking about an exception for Christians, in almost any other legal context discriminating in favour of one religion and against another religion could violate the constitution," said Stephen Legomsky, a former chief counsel at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Obama administration.
But Peter Spiro, a professor at Temple University Beasley School of Law, said Trump's action would likely be constitutional because the president and Congress are allowed considerable deference when it comes to asylum decisions.
"It's a completely plausible prioritisation, to the extent this group is actually being persecuted," Spiro said.
The order may also affect special refugee programs for Iraqis who worked for the US government as translators after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.