The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, has defended President Donald Trump's order to temporarily bar citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, as well as all refugees, from entering the United States.
Critics of the January 27 executive order, whose implementation has been halted amid a court challenge, contend -- among other things -- that it targets people based on their religion.
The Trump administration has rejected those accusations, and Ryan said on February 8: "This is not a Muslim ban."
"If it were, I would be opposed to it," the Republican said in an interview with PBS television in Washington. "But the rhetoric surrounding it makes it look like it is a ban on a religion, or a religious test. And I think that rhetoric is inflammatory and does not help us."
Trump has said he wants to put in place controls that will "help ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty and that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination."
The order sought to place a 90-day bar on entry to the United States for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
More than a dozen U.S. states and hundreds of companies obtained a sweeping court block on the order, arguing that it is unconstitutional and has "irreparably harmed" their residents and employees.
Based on reporting by PBS via Reuters and AP