U.S. President Donald Trump has defended his executive order to temporarily halt travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, insisting it was "not a Muslim ban."
Trump said on January 29 that the United States would resume issuing visas to all countries once "the most secure policies" were in place.
Vowing to protect the country from "foreign terrorists," Trump signed an executive order on January 27 halting the entire U.S. refugee program for 120 days, indefinitely banning Syrian refugees, and suspending all immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days.
The move led to protests across the United States and abroad, with a number of U.S. lawmakers joining the chorus against the measures.
Several federal judges have temporarily halted the deportation of visa holders and 16 U.S. state attorneys-general vowed to fight the order as unconstitutional.
"America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave," Trump said in an official written statement.
"To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion -- this is about terror and keeping our country safe," he added, noting that more 40 Muslim countries were not affected by the order.
Trump’s order led to demonstrations at airports around the United States. And on January 29, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the White House, many chanting, "Let them in! Let them in!"
But White House chief of staff Reince Preibus denied that there had been chaos at airports.
He told NBC television on January 29 that of the 325,000 people who entered the country January 28, 109 were detained.
The order affected up to 200 people detained at U.S. airports or who were in transit, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
"Most of those people were moved out. We've got a couple dozen more that remain and I would suspect that as long as they're not awful people that they will move through before another half a day today," Preibus said.
WATCH: Protests Across U.S. At Travel Ban
The seven countries involved in Trump’s order were Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen.
But underscoring some of the confusion that accompanied Trump’s order, Preibus also said foreigners from those countries who are legal permanent U.S. residents -- known informally as green-card holders -- would in fact be allowed back into the United States, but only on a case-by-case basis.
That appeared to contradict the wording of the order, which suggested even green-card holders were affected.
Late January 28, a federal judge in New York temporarily halted the deportation of people holding valid visas or refugees stranded at airports. Judges in at least four other states -- California, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington state -- issued similar orders.
Meanwhile, attorneys-general from California, New York, 13 other states, and Washington D.C., pledged to fight what they called Trump's "dangerous" and "unconstitutional" order.
A growing number of Democratic lawmakers in Congress spoke out against the order, and at least three Republicans also criticized its breadth and how it was being implemented.
Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham -- both of whom routinely criticize Trump -- called the rollout hasty.
“Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism," the senators said in a joint statement.
Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the executive order had not been properly put into effect.
"We all share a desire to protect the American people, but this executive order has been poorly implemented, especially with respect to green-card holders," Corker said in a statement.
'Gift To Extremists'
The order was also criticized by the countries involved and some of America's closest allies, including Britain and Germany.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said she does "not agree" with the restrictions and will appeal to the United States if it affects British nationals.
In Berlin, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she believes the fight against terrorism "doesn't justify putting people of a particular origin or particular faith under general suspicion."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a January 28 Twitter post that Canadians welcome "those fleeing persecution, terror & war" regardless of their faith.
In Tehran, Iran summoned Switzerland's ambassador, who represents Washington's interests, to protest the Trump оrder.
The Foreign Ministry earlier announced it would reciprocate with a ban on U.S. citizens entering the country, but Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the restrictions would not apply to Americans who already have a valid visa.
Zarif also wrote on Twitter late on January 28 that Trump's decision was "a great gift to extremists," saying "collective discrimination aids terrorist recruitment by deepening fault-lines exploited by extremist demagogues to swell their ranks."
The Iraqi parliament's foreign affairs committee said on January 29 that the U.S. travel curbs imposed on Iraqis were "unfair" and asked the government in Baghdad to "reciprocate" the American decision. Later on January 29, parliament reported reportedly passed a measure that called for blocking all visas to U.S. citizens, which would affect some military and civilian contractors and journalists.
Sudan’s Foreign Ministry called Trump's order "very unfortunate" after Washington lifted sanctions on the country just weeks ago for cooperation on combating terrorism.
The world's largest body of Islamic nations also expressed "grave concern" Trump’s travel ban.
The 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said on January 30 that "many of those fleeing war and persecution have been adversely and unjustly affected" by the order.
"Such selective and discriminatory acts will only serve to embolden the radical narratives of extremists," a statement said.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa