President Donald Trump says his executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States “is not about religion,” amid protests and backlash in the country and around the world.
"America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those feeling oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border," the president said in a statement Sunday.
"We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say."
Trump rejected criticism suggesting his executive order amounts to the "Muslim ban" he proposed as a presidential candidate.
"To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting," he said. "This is not about religion -- this is about terror and keeping our country safe."
On Friday, Trump signed an executive order that imposes a 90-day entry ban for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia, blocks refugees from Syria indefinitely, and suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days.
Trump said the US would "again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days."
Tens of thousands of protesters have rallied in US cities and at major airports over Trump’s executive order.
The order also sparked a global backlash, including from American allies that view the restrictions as divisive and discriminatory.
Governments from London and Berlin to Jakarta spoke out against Trump’s executive order.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the global fight against terrorism did not justify "putting people of a specific background or faith under general suspicion.”
Merkel expressed her concerns to the US president during a phone call and reminded him that the Geneva Conventions require the international community to accept war refugees on humanitarian grounds, her spokesman said.
Meanwhile, attorneys general from 15 states and Washington, DC, issued a statement condemning Trump's "dangerous" and "unconstitutional" immigration policy and pledged to fight it.
Muslims living in the United State were involved in only one-third of 1 percent of all murders in the country in 2016, according to a new study by Duke University, contradicting Trump’s policy of portraying Muslims as dangerous and banning them from entering the US.