WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) -- President Donald Trump issued a statement Sunday afternoon saying his travel ban is not a "Muslim ban" and saying the only purpose is to keep America safe.
Trump said in the statement that his executive order, which suspends the nation's refugee program and temporarily bans those coming from countries with terrorism concerns, also is not targeting immigrants.
"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," Trump said in the statement. "We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say."
Trump said his policy was "similar" to a six-month ban on refugees from Iraq that was put in place by President Barack Obama in 2011. He added that the seven countries he named in the executive order were "the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror."
"To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting," Trump said in the statement. "This is not about religion - this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order."
Trump added that the federal government will resume 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," Trump said in the statement. "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."
As CBS2's Dave Carlin reported, White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus also defended the order on CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday.
"It's a promise he's going to keep, and he's not willing to be wrong on this subject," Priebus said. "We need to be vigilant and protect Americans."
New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the ban amounted to "the exact opposite of what I believe."
Cuomo blasted the order as un-American and pledged to help detainees.
"My lawyers in the Governor's Counsel's office will serve as counsel for any detainee who needs legal assistance," he said.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said they will try to overturn the order with legislation, but it will require Republican support.
Wanting the order to remain exactly the way President Trump signed it is U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who told CBS2 by phone that it is essential to national security and not anti-immigrant.
"No one's being persecuted. No one's being harassed," King said. "It's common sense."
Republicans in Congress praised Trump for the extreme vetting, but some of them worry the order is too broad. Those in the GOP who say it may need to be revised include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and senators John McCain (R-Arizona), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), and Bob Corker (R-Tennessee).
Trump's executive order bans refugees and immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia.
On Saturday, a federal judge in Brooklyn issued an order temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting people from those nations, but the Department of Homeland Security said the order would not affect the overall implementation of the White House executive action.
The agency said the court order affected a relatively small number of travelers who were inconvenienced by security procedures upon their return.
Meanwhile, thousands gathered in protest in the Battery on Sunday afternoon to speak out against President Donald Trump's executive order suspending the nation's refugee program and temporarily banning those coming from countries with terrorism concerns.
It was the second day of protests after demonstrators gathered at John F. Kennedy International Airport a day earlier
As legal challenges move forward, the Department of Homeland Security released a statement about how it will proceed. It reads, "prohibited travel will remain prohibited," adding the department will also "comply with judicial orders."
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