White House Official, in Reversal, Says Green Card Holders Won’t Be Barred
WASHINGTON —(NY Times) – A top White House official appeared to reverse a key part of President Trump’s immigration order on Sunday, saying that people from the affected countries who hold green cards will not be prevented from returning to the United States.
But the official, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, also said that border agents had “discretionary authority” to detain and question suspicious travelers from certain countries. That statement seemed to add to the uncertainty over how the executive order will be interpreted and enforced in the days ahead.
Mr. Priebus defended Mr. Trump’s order on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, saying it had been carried out smoothly and was protecting Americans from terrorist threats. On Saturday, a day after the order was issued, airports were marked by scenes of confusion and protest as officials tried to interpret the order, including how to handle green card holders.
On Sunday, Mr. Priebus appeared to announce a dramatic change in those policies, saying that “as far as green card holders, moving forward, it doesn’t affect them.”
Around the globe on Saturday, legal residents of the United States who hold valid green cards and approved visas were blocked from boarding planes overseas or detained for hours in American airports.
Mr. Priebus said several times during the NBC interview that green card holders would not be subject to the order “going forward.” But he repeatedly suggested that anyone, including American citizens, would be subjected to additional scrutiny if they traveled from any of the seven predominantly Muslim countries identified in the order.
“If you’re an American citizen traveling back and forth to Libya, you are likely to be subjected to further questioning when you come into an airport,” Mr. Priebus said. He added later, “There is discretionary authority that a customs and border patrol agent has when they suspect that someone is up to no good when they travel back and forth to Libya or Yemen.”
Mr. Priebus said that travelers from the seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — would be “subjected, temporarily, with more questioning, until a better system is put in place.”