For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
WASHINGTON – Today Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly participated in a media availability alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Thomas Homan, and DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) Acting Undersecretary David Glawe to discuss the operational implementation of the president’s executive orders. Following is a transcript of their remarks:
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly:
I’d like to clarify that the most recent executive order what it does and does not mean. 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. This analysis is long overdue and strongly supported by the Department’s career intelligence officials. Acting Undersecretary for DHS Intelligence and Analysis David Glawe will speak to that in more detail shortly.
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. As my predecessor Secretary Johnson liked to say, it is easier to play defense on the 50-yard line then it is on the 1 yard line. By preventing terrorists from entering our country, we can stop terror attacks from striking the homeland. We cannot gamble with American lives. I will not gamble with American lives. These orders are a matter of national security, and it is my sworn responsibility as Secretary of Homeland Security to protect and defend the American people. And I have directed departmental leadership to implement the president’s executive orders professionally, humanely, and in accordance with the law.
Since the court orders related to the executive order were issued over the weekend, CBP immediately began taking immediately began taking steps to be in compliance. We are and will remain in compliance with judicial orders. We have also been working with our partners at the departments of defense, justice, and state. 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. Our job is to protect the homeland, these executive orders help do that. I’m happy to have my colleagues answer any questions, clarify any positions, that may be confusing. We have with us today Acting Commissioner of CBP, Acting Commissioner of ICE, and the department’s intelligence chief. So with that –
Acting Commissioner of CBP Kevin McAleenan:
Good afternoon, Kevin McAleenan from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. I’m here to talk about the implementation of the executive order. Upon receipt of the executive order, CBP took immediate actions to implement the key provisions, calling for suspending entry for 90 days to non -immigrant visa holders and immigrant visa holders from the seven affected countries. We routinely make changes in our systems and our policies for immigration entry at our border, and acted quickly on Friday evening to make the changes with his executive order. First, we made changes in our system to identify those passport holders and visa holders from the affected countries. We had a call with our field leadership, our directors of field operations, to inform them of the executive order and the actions they needed to take. We issued written guidance to our field and we had calls with stakeholders, these are air carriers and airports, starting just a few hours after receiving the order so that they would understand how to operate. We also overnight on Friday and Saturday worked through a process to be able to waive travelers that were in transit or had sensitive cases that should be considered for a waiver in the national interest as the executive order calls for.
To put this in context, in the first 72 hours of the order, 1 million travelers came through our borders by air. Out of those travelers, 500,000 of them were foreign nationals. The people affected by this order, we denied boarding to 721 travelers that had visas from the affected countries, but we actually processed for waivers 1,060 lawful permanent residents of the United States, as well as an additional 75 waivers granted to immigrant visa and nonimmigrant visa holders. To make sure everybody understands how the process is working today, lawful permanent residents and special immigrant visa holders are allowed to board their flights foreign and will be processed for a waiver upon arrival. Again, we have done that over a thousand times so far in this three days of the implementation. Secondly, immigrant visa holders and nonimmigrant visa holders that are covered, they will be denied boarding before they board their aircraft and will be referred to the Department of State for further process. Another question that has come up is whether dual nationals are treated differently. Travelers will be assessed at our border based on the passport they present, not any dual national status. So if you are a citizen of the United Kingdom and you present your United Kingdom passport, the executive order does not apply to you upon arrival.
I also want to talk a little bit about refugees. The executive order calls for refugees that were ready to travel where it would cause undue hardship, that they should be considered for waivers. We have done that in concert with our Department of State colleagues. 872 refugees will be arriving this week and we will be processing them for waivers through the end of the week, and that is fully coordinated. As Secretary Kelly noted, we are responding immediately to any court orders, we did so quickly on Friday night with the Easter District of New York order, and those parties that were affected by that order were processed for a waiver and admitted into the United States. Lastly, I just want to tell you that to increase communications and provide additional information to travelers, we are updating on our web site and it will be there as you login at CBP.gov, a statement about the implementation, FAQs giving information to travelers, the public, and other stakeholders, as well as a link for specific questions affecting individual travelers in a phone number to call. All of that will be on our web site. Thank you.
Acting Director of ICE Thomas Homan Remarks:
Good morning, I’m Thomas Homan, I’m the acting director for ICE. I can tell you it was a great honor to be contacted in the last couple of days and asked step up in this capacity as an acting director. My plans to retire were put on hold, and I did so because I chose to serve my country once again. For those who don’t know me, I have been in immigration enforcement business for 33 years, I started on the front lines in the U.S. Border Patrol and I was in the Office of Homeland Security Investigations for over 20 years and climbed the ranks there. Now I’m on enforcement and removal operations on the back end, arresting, detaining and removing aliens so I certainly know the immigration life cycle and how to enforce immigration laws. I chose to come back and act in this capacity because of my concern for the communities and the safety of our communities. You know, folks, there are jurisdictions across the country where aliens are arrested, criminal aliens convicted of serious crimes that walk out of these jurisdictions without any cooperation with ICE. So they are back in the community, back in our communities. And that causes my officers to once again go out in the community, knock on the door to arrest somebody they should have arrested in county jail. So I’m here to execute a mission within a framework provided me. That framework has changed under the executive orders of President Trump, and the men and women of ICE will execute them perfectly, and we are here to serve as an organization. Thank you very much.
Acting I&A Undersecretary Glawe Remarks:
Thank you. I’m Dave Glawe, I’m the Acting Undersecretary for Intelligence. I just want to echo Secretary Kelly’s remarks, the national security of the United States is of utmost priority. This is the fundamental responsibility of our government to protect the national homeland from nefarious actors trying to come inbound to the United States. What this is is an action for us to take a temporary pause and take a look at how we collect intelligence and run that against databases to identify those nefarious actors. I’m taking a look how law enforcement, the intelligence community, the Department of Defense, our federal, state, local law enforcement organizations share information and how we run those data not just against refugee populations but anyone trying to come inbound to the united states to identify these sophisticated networks that are trying to — potentially trying to come inbound. We’re trying to break down those barriers to share information, continue our automated screening processes and vetting process, to make sure that we, once again, to identify those nefarious actors and nefarious networks that are outside of the United States, that may be potentially trying to threaten the United States. So again, this is a pause to take a look at how we collect data and how we exploit it against national security threats. Thank you.