WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump was reportedly poised to suspend the US refugee program for four months and to halt visas for travelers from different countries — moves that could come as early as Thursday.
According to a draft executive order published in US media, including the Washington Post, refugees from war-torn Syria will be indefinitely banned.
The broader US refugee admissions program will be suspended for 120 days while senior officials draw up a list of countries deemed not to pose a risk.
It is not clear whether the published draft is the final version, nor when Trump will formally sign it, but it would make good on his campaign promises.
“Look, the president has talked extensively about extreme vetting,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, promising “more action this week.”
Spicer said Trump wanted to ensure travellers were coming to the United States for “the right reasons,” especially if they are from areas of concern.
Spicer would give no details of the order, but the apparent draft reflected his explanation.
No ‘major negative’ in Trump refugee plan
Other former officials, however, were unworried by the pending order — suggesting that, while it has little use as a security measure, anger would blow over.
James Jeffrey, who was deputy national security adviser under former president George W. Bush, said: “I don’t think there’ll be much of a change in anything.”
Jeffrey argued that even under former president Barack Obama, the United States had allowed in very few Syrian refugees — only 18,000 since the war began in 2011.
“So I don’t see a major negative in foreign affairs from this,” said Jeffrey, now a fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“We had a bad reputation no matter what we did even when we were being at our very very tippy-toe best with Barack Obama. It doesn’t matter,” he told AFP.
“In populations there is a great deal of skepticism about the United States. It’s hard-wired, regardless of the president, no matter what we do.”
The possible draft signing on Thursday would be the latest in a daily series of executive orders rolled out by Trump’s administration since he took office on Friday — touching on national security, immigration, and health care.
Also on Thursday, he is to speak before Republican lawmakers at their winter retreat in Philadelphia — an opportunity for him to reassure some of his party faithful about the actions of his provocative first week at the White House.