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Some countries won't be removed from U.S. travel ban, official says

Some of the seven Muslim-majority countries affected by U.S. President Donald Trump's executive action on immigration will not likely be taken off the list any time soon, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Tuesday.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said some of the seven Muslim-majority countries affected by a recent executive order on immigration will not likely be taken off the list soon. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

Some of the seven Muslim-majority countries affected by U.S. President Donald Trump's executive action on immigration will not likely be taken off the list any time soon, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Tuesday.

Kelly said people from the seven targeted nations who hold dual citizenship will be allowed to enter the United States on the passport of a non-restricted nation.

"I would be less than honest if I told you that some of those countries that are currently on the list may not be taken off the list any time soon. There are countries that are in various states of collapse, as an example. But ultimately we'd like to see all those countries taken off the list," Kelly told reporters.

The new homeland security secretary faced questioning about the executive order Trump signed on Friday that halted travel to the United States by people with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, and stopped the resettlement of refugees for 120 days.

There was widespread confusion at airports around the world as customs officials and airlines struggled to interpret the new rules. Several lawsuits have been filed blocking portions of the order, which drew harsh criticism from Democrats, human rights organizations and some Western U.S. allies.

"I knew he was going to sign an order about a year and a half or two years before he became the president-elect," Kelly said. "From Day 1 in terms of the inauguration … the high-level folks in the government, attorneys as well, were part of that. People on my staff were generally involved. I think we learned [last] Tuesday, Wednesday that it would probably be during the week, that it would be signed out," he added.

The acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, acknowledged that some carriers "over-interpreted" the government's "guidance" when the order went out.

Since the order, 721 travellers from the seven countries were denied entry to the U.S., according to McAleenan.

Kelly said federal immigration and customs officials were in compliance with the court orders on immigration, and no agent knowingly or intentionally violated them.

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