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Donald Trump remains defiant over Muslim travel ban

US president defends measure despite court rulings, protests and international criticism

People praying in a baggage hall at Fort Worth airport in Dallas, Texas, in protest at the travel ban imposed by US president Donald Trump. Photograph: Reuters/Laura Buckman

US president Donald Trump has defended his ban on refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the face of court rulings, mass protests and international condemnation.

Mr Trump posted messages on social media standing behind the order he signed on Friday that halted the entire US refugee programme for 120 days, indefinitely banned refugees from Syria, and blocked entry for 90 days for citizens from seven mostly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

“Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, now. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the word – a horrible mess,” he tweeted on Sunday morning.

The Trump ban has raised concerns at senior levels for the Irish Government, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny is facing increasing pressure to reject Mr Trump’s invitation to visit the White House on St Patrick’s Day.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has ordered a review to be carried out by a legal expert to assess whether Mr Trump’s policies are in breach of the Irish Constitution.

Expressing deep concern that people would face discrimination at Dublin and Shannon airports, she said if the review concluded constitutional breaches then US immigration pre-clearance should end.


Ms Zappone is expected to be supported by Minister for Transport Shane Ross and Minister of State Finian McGrath, who intend to raise concerns about the policy at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Demonstrations

Separately, Minister of State for Jobs John Halligan said Mr Kenny should not meet with the US president, describing Mr Trump as “close to being a fascist’’.

Enforcement of the US president’s order sparked demonstrations at the country’s largest airports over the weekend as the new rules were chaotically introduced, blocking legal residents with valid US visas or other immigration permits from family members, work or study, and throwing travel plans into disarray.

Mr Trump justified the draconian measures – acting on his promised Muslim ban on his seventh day in office – as necessary to protect the US from violent extremism.

“Christians in the Middle East have been executed in large numbers. We cannot allow this horror to continue!” he tweeted on Sunday.

Hundreds of protesters gathered at airports including JFK in New York, Dulles outside Washington, O’Hare in Chicago and in San Francisco to voice their outrage.

Lawyers rushed to help family and friends seek the release of relatives, and to file legal proceedings to halt the new administration’s actions.

Demonstrations continued in cities across the US, including outside the White House.

Stay on deportations

The Trump administration was dealt a significant blow within hours of the new rules coming into force.

New York judge Ann Marie Donnelly, an appointee of president Barack Obama, granted a stay on deportations for people who arrived in the US with valid visas but were detained on entry.

Federal judges in Virginia, Massachusetts and Washington later made similar emergency rulings.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said that the fight against terrorism “does not justify placing people of a certain origin or belief under general suspicion”.

Senior Trump officials attempted to play down the consequences of the ban. Kellyanne Conway, one of his top aides, said the 1 per cent detained under the order was “a small price to pay” to protect the country.