Last Friday, President Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order that dramatically upended US immigration policy and banned both refugees and nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
The effect was immediate and total chaos. That’s mostly because, according to reports, the Trump administration barely consulted with any of the agencies actually tasked with carrying out the order before issuing it, and didn’t issue any sort of guidance to those agencies about how to implement the new policy or explain it publicly.
Now, a full five days after the executive order went into effect, the administration has finally put out guidelines for State Department employees on how to talk about the new executive order.
The question is whether it’s come too late.
As my colleague Zack Beauchamp reported, the days after the executive order’s release were marked by the government’s profound failure to give a coherent sense of who it applied to or how it would work in practice.
Two days after Trump signed it, the websites of almost all the US government agencies involved in immigration and refugee processing still had little or no mention of the policy change and almost no information for the thousands of people potentially affected by the ban. The little information available was vague, confusing, and often contradictory.
This meant different government agencies were left muddling through on their own, which occasionally produced some rather unfortunate public relations snafus. For instance, the Facebook page for the US “Virtual Embassy” to Iran (we don’t have an actual embassy to Iran, because the last time we had one, things didn’t end so well) posted a statement in Farsi outlining the policy changes that basically implied the US government believes Iranians should be considered terrorists until proven otherwise.
This has been a week of mass protests, lawsuits, and congressional fury over the executive order. And there’s no sign that Trump has any plans of changing it. If anything, more countries may get added to the list. But at least State Department personnel will know how to talk about it.
Here is the full text of the memo, issued by Deputy Department Spokesperson Mark Toner, courtesy of BuzzFeed’s Miriam Elder:
Executive Order on ‘Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States’ — January 31, 2017
On January 27, President Trump signed an Executive Order temporarily suspending entry into the United States of foreign nationals from seven countries [Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen] under section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This suspension provided for in the Executive Order will allow the U.S. Government to review current screening procedures, while protecting national security – our top priority when issuing visas.
The Executive Order also calls for the Secretary of State to suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. During the 120-day period, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall review the USRAP application and adjudication process.
Use the topline messages, key quotes, and social media content listed below for government-to-government and public engagement with your host country media.
Follow @WhiteHouse, @DHSgov, @StateDept, and @TravelGov for updates.
President Trump’s Executive Order allows us to review current screening procedures, while protecting national security – our top priority when issuing visas.
The U.S. government’s national security screening and vetting procedures for visitors are constantly reviewed and refined to improve security and more effectively identify individuals who could pose a threat to the United States. We welcome every opportunity to continue to review and improve our systems and procedures.
Working closely with the Department of Homeland Security, we are implementing the Executive Order. We will announce any changes affecting travelers to the United States as soon as that information is available.
This Executive Order does not restrict the travel of dual nationals, so long as they hold the passport of an unrestricted country and possess a valid U.S. visa. They may resume travel to the United States.
Our Embassies and Consulates around the world will process visa applications and issue nonimmigrant and immigrant visas to otherwise eligible visa applicants who apply with a passport from an unrestricted country, even if they hold dual nationality from one of the seven restricted countries.
Under the Executive Order, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, will immediately conduct a review to ensure that the information available from a foreign country to be used in the processing of an application for a visa or other immigration benefit is adequate to uphold the integrity of the process.
To allow for proper review and establishment of standards to prevent terrorist or criminal infiltration by foreign nationals, the Executive Order imposes on nationals of certain designated countries a 90-day bar on entry into the United States. This bar also includes a 90-day prohibition on visa issuance. These countries, as designated by Congress or the Secretary of Homeland Security, are: Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen.
Refugee Resettlement Program
The Department of State is working with the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to implement the President Trump’s January 27 Executive Order, which included a section that affects the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program in several ways.
The admission of refugees through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program has been suspended worldwide per the Executive Order. The Executive Order does provide for the possibility of exemptions to admit refugees when in the national interest and when they do not pose a risk to U.S. security or welfare, including for certain religious minorities and certain refugees in transit.
Pursuant to the exemption authority in the Executive Order, we expect about 900 refugees who were in transit when the Executive Order was released to complete their travel and be admitted to the United States this week. This group does not include individuals who are nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, or Libya.
The Executive Order provides the possibility of exemptions to admit refugees when in the national interest and who do not pose a risk to U.S. security or welfare, including for certain religious minorities.
We take seriously our responsibility to safeguard the American public while remaining committed to assisting the world’s most vulnerable people. The United States continues to be the leader in the provision of humanitarian assistance around the world. We are the largest single donor to UNHCR, to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to the World Food Program (WFP), and to a number of other humanitarian international and nongovernmental partners.
“America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave.” – President Donald J. Trump, January 29, 2017
“We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days. I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.” – President Donald J. Trump, January 29, 2017
“This is not a travel ban, this is a temporary pause that allows us to better review the existing refugee and visa vetting system. Over the next 30 days we will analyze and assess the strengths and the weaknesses of our current immigration system, which is the most generous in the world. We will then provide our foreign partners with 60 days to cooperate with our national security requirements. This way we can ensure the system is doing what it is designed to do, which is protect the American people.” – Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, January 31, 2017
“Furthermore, this is not, I repeat, not, a ban on Muslims. The homeland security mission is to safeguard the American people, our homeland, our values and religious liberty, it is one of our most fundamental and treasured values. It is important to understand that there are terrorists and other bad actors who are seeking to infiltrate our homeland every single day. The seven countries named in the executive order are those designated by congress and the Obama administration as requiring additional security when making decisions about who comes into our homeland.” – Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, January 31, 2017
“We are committed to ensuring that all individuals affected by the EOs, including those affected by the court orders, are being provided all rights afforded under our laws. We are and will continue to enforce President Trump’s executive orders humanely and with professionalism.” – Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, January 31, 2017
“This was a promise that president-elect — President Trump had made. And it’s a promise that he is going to keep. And he’s not willing to be wrong on this subject. We need to do our best to be vigilant and protect Americans. But the truth is, though, we have to protect Americans first. These are countries that harbor and train terrorists. These are countries that we want to know who is coming and going in and out of to prevent calamities from happening in this country. We’re not willing to be wrong on this subject. President Trump is not willing to take chances on this subject. He was elected president in many respects because people knew that he was going to be tough on immigration from countries that harbor terrorists.” – White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” January 29, 2017
“It’s a 90-day ban to ensure that we have further vetting restrictions so that we know who is coming to this country. The safety of the American citizens, the safety of our country has got to be paramount. And that’s what the President did yesterday, is to ensure that the people that we’re letting into our country are coming here with peaceful purposes and not to do us harm.” – White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on ABC’s “This Week,” January 29, 2017
SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT
You can read @POTUS Trump’s Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the US here: http://go.usa.gov/x9HqJ
.@POTUS EO does NOT restrict travel of dual nationals, so long as they hold passport of an unrestricted country and possess valid US visa.
We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we’re sure we’ve reviewed & implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days
“We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days. I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.” – President Donald J. Trump, January 29, 2017 https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/29/president-donald-j-trump-statement-regarding-recent-executive-order
Under the Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals signed on January 27, 2017, visa issuance to nationals of the countries of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has been suspended effective immediately until further notification. We will announce any other changes affecting travelers to the United States as soon as that information is available. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en.html
The Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals signed on January 27, 2017,does NOT restrict the travel of dual nationals from ANY country, so long as they hold the passport of an unrestricted country and possess a valid U.S. visa. They may resume travel to the United States. Go to https://travel.state.gov for more information.
Want to know more about visas or entering and departing the United States?@TravelGov has the answers to your frequently asked questions. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/frequently-asked-questions.html
Follow the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affair’s Facebook page at for more information about travel to the United States. https://www.facebook.com/travelgov/
TRANSCRIPTS, FACT SHEETS, AND OTHER RELEASES
Department of Homeland Security – Transcript of Media Availability on Executive Order with Secretary Kelly and DHS Leadership
White House – President Donald J. Trump Statement Regarding Recent Executive Order Concerning Extreme Vetting (Please note that the President’s statement is available in Arabic, French, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.)
Department of Homeland Security – Fact Sheet: Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry To The United States
Department of Homeland Security – Statement By Secretary John Kelly On The Entry Of Lawful Permanent Residents Into The United States
Department of Homeland Security – Statement On Compliance With Court Orders And The President’s Executive Order
Department of Homeland Security – Press Release on Department Of Homeland Security Response To Recent Litigation
Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs – Urgent Notice: Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals
Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs – Important Announcement on Processing of Immigrant Visa Applications for Individuals who are Nationals or Dual Nationals of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen
Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs – Important Announcement on Processing of Diversity Visa Applications for Individuals who are Nationals or Dual Nationals of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen
The following travel.state.gov web pages have been updated:
This playbook is for the use of posts and senior State Department officials. Please treat this document as you would Daily Press Guidance.