WASHINGTON -- Nearly 900 refugees will be allowed into the United States this week despite President Donald Trump’s order suspending the U.S. refugees program, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.
Kevin McAleenan, acting commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, said 872 refugees would be granted waivers, which he said was allowed for under the order in instances where refugees were ready for travel and stopping them would cause “undue hardship.”
He was speaking at a news conference about the administration’s new immigration restrictions, which also suspend entry by citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations.
Friday’s executive order, which aims to stop terrorist attacks on the U.S., has stoked international outrage and expressions of dissent within the U.S. government. Thousands of protesters descended on international airports around the country, and teams of volunteer lawyers assisted travelers that were being detained.
McAleenan said it was fair to say that communication among government agencies on the order had “not been the best.”
But he said the refugees waivers were being done in concert with the State Department. He said those 872 refugees will be arriving this week and will be processed for waivers through the end of the week.
In addition to the refugees, the agency processed waivers for 1,060 lawful permanent residents and 75 visa-holders, McAleenan said.
At the briefing, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly denied reports that he had been out of the loop in the White House planning for the immigration restrictions.
Kelly told reporters he looked at two drafts of the order before the Friday signing and that high-level government lawyers and agency officials were involved in drafting it. He also said he knew it was coming because Trump had long talked about it as a presidential candidate.
People who know Kelly, however, told The Associated Press that he was not aware of the details in the directive until around the time that Trump signed it.
Trump’s order pauses America’s entire refugee program for four months, indefinitely bans all those from war-ravaged Syria and temporarily freezes immigration from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.