Trump signs order to keep out some refugees, prioritize Syrian Christians

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By Emily Stephenson and Mica Rosenberg

<span class="articleLocation”>President Donald Trump on Friday signed an
executive order that will limit immigration and refugees from
some Muslim-majority countries and he separately said he wanted
the United States to give priority to Syrian Christians fleeing
the civil war there.

Trump had promised the measures, called “extreme vetting,”
during last year’s election campaign, saying they would prevent
militants from entering the United States from abroad. But civil
rights groups have condemned the order as harmful and

The details of the order were not immediately available but
were expected to be released by the White House later on Friday.

“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 at the Pentagon.

“We only want to admit those into our country who will
support our country and love deeply our people,” he said.

Separately, Trump said that Syrian Christians will be given
priority when it comes to applying for refugee status, but legal
experts said singling out a particular religion could be
challenged as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

“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, everybody was persecuted in all fairness, but they were
chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians,”
Trump said in an excerpt of an interview with the Christian
Broadcasting Network, discussing the Syrian refugees.

Statistics provided by the Pew Research Center last October
do not support Trump’s argument. Pew research found that 38,901
Muslim refugees entered the United States in fiscal year 2016
from all countries, almost the same number, 37,521, as Christian

Stephen Legomsky, a former Chief Counsel at U.S. Citizenship
and Immigration Services in the Obama administration, said
prioritizing Christians could be unconstitutional.

“If they are thinking about an exception for Christians, in
almost any other legal context discriminating in favor of one
religion and against another religion could violate the
constitution,” he said.

But Peter Spiro, a professor at Temple University Beasley
School of Law, said Trump’s move would likely be constitutional
because the president and Congress are allowed considerable
deference when it comes to asylum decisions.

“It’s a completely plausible prioritization, to the extent
this group is actually being persecuted,” Spiro said. (Additional reporting by Eric Beech and Dan Levine)

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