US President Donald Trump's executive order limiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries could be extended to other countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said in an interview with NBC News' Meet the Press earlier this week.
When Chuck Todd, the anchor, asked Priebus why countries that are more "terror-prone" — like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan — than the ones that have been banned, were not added to the list, Priebus replied: "perhaps other countries need to be added to an executive order going forward. But for now, immediate steps — pulling the Band-Aid off — is to do further vetting for people traveling in and out of those countries.”
Trump issued an order on Friday that temporarily banned both Syrian refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia — from entering the United States.
“These are countries that have a history of training, harboring, and exporting terrorists … we can't keep pretending and looking the other way," he stated.
A federal judge in Brooklyn issued an emergency stay of Trump's order. The order is still in force, however.
Visa holders from the affected countries landed at US airports and were detained throughout the weekend, while thousands of people protested outside airports like New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport and Dulles Airport in the Washington DC area.
In the interview, Priebus stated that if a person is constantly coming in and out of those seven countries, they are likely to be subjected to more questioning until a better program is put in place.
“This is not a Muslim ban … the reason we chose those seven countries is [because] both the Congress and the Obama administration identified them as the countries that were most identifiable with dangerous terrorism taking place in their country,” Priebus said.
Since the executive order was signed, Trump has come under under fire from foreign leaders, the United Nations, and other international organizations that have condemned Trump's measures against refugees and travellers.
The UN refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration called on the Trump administration to continue offering asylum to people fleeing war and persecution, saying its resettlement programme was vital.
"The needs of refugees and migrants worldwide have never been greater and the US resettlement programme is one of the most important in the world," the two Geneva-based agencies said in a joint statement to condemn the order.
Germany and France also expressed discontent with Trump's measures.
"The reception of refugees fleeing the war, fleeing oppression, is part of our duties," Jean-Marc Ayrault, France's foreign minister, said during a joint news conference with his German counterpart, Sigmar Gabriel.
According to Pew Research Center, Germany has taken in more than one million refugees and migrants, mainly from the Middle East, since 2015.
Trump has pushed back against critics who say the travel ban targets Muslims, justifying the "extreme vetting" as necessary to protect the country and its borders.
Asked repeatedly whether the Trump administration consulted with or notified the US’ Arab allies before signing the order, Priebus didn’t give a straight answer — but said that notifying too many people beforehand would have tipped off potential terrorists and allowed them to get into the country before the deadline.