The United States will impose draconian new “extreme vetting” measures for people entering the country, as part of an attempt by president Donald Trump to “keep radical Islamic terrorists out”.
“We are establishing new vetting measures, to keep radical islamic terrorists out of the United States of America,” the president said on Friday, during a visit to the Department of Defense. “We don’t want ‘em here. We want to ensure we aren’t admitting into our country the very threats that our men and women are fighting overseas.”
Trump gave no further details on the executive action, titled “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals”, which he announced and signed on Friday. However, it has been widely reported that the order would enact a temporary ban on refugees and suspend visas to immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
This would fulfil his vow to limit Muslim immigration to the United States, which he made while campaigning for the White House.
A draft of the Trump administration’s executive order reviewed by the Guardian on Wednesday, characterized its purpose as “[to] prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit the United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes”.
The draft included a 120-day ban on refugees being resettled in the US and an indefinite ban on the resettlement of Syrian refugees. It would also cap the total number of refugees entering the US in 2017 to 50,000 – more than half the previous year’s figure of 117,000.
But an analysis of terrorist attacks on US soil between 1975 and 2015, published by the Cato Institute, found that foreign nationals from those seven countries named in Trump’s draft executive order have killed zero Americans.
As a candidate, Trump repeatedly vowed to bar entry to refugees fleeing war-torn Iraq and Syria. He also called for “a total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration to the US, a proposal that was met with widespread condemnation from both political parties.
Trump administration officials have continued to insisted that his actions are not targeted at Muslims or any one faith. The president has himself said non-Muslim religious minorities would be prioritized for entry to the US. During an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network on Friday, Trump said his administration would place an emphasis on helping persecuted Christians in the Middle East and North Africa.
“They’ve been horribly treated,”, Trump said. “Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States?”
“If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible, and the reason that was so unfair,”, he added, falsely asserted.
“Everybody was persecuted in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody, but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair”.
Although Isis has targeted members of religious minorities in Syria and Iraq, including Christians and Yazidis, the vast majority of their victims have been Muslim.
The president also signed an executive order he said would begin the rebuilding of the US military by “developing a plan for new planes, new ships, new resources and new tools for our men and women in uniform.”