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Sweet Clarity

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly clears U.S. green card holders for travel to U.S.

When President Trump signed an executive order Friday evening suspending all travel to the U.S. by refugees and visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries, it appears to have caught just about everyone outside a tight circle of advisers in the White House by surprise. On Sunday night, there still seemed to be confusion among Border and Customs Patrol agents at various airports around the country, with the White House giving shifting directives, federal judges putting holds on parts of Trump's executive order, and the White House insisting that the judicial orders don't affect the executive order. "It is clear from the confusion at airports across our nation that President Trump's executive order was not properly vetted," said Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday afternoon.

Guidance on how to process permanent legal residents — those with green cards — was particularly fluid, with some green-card holders blocked from boarding flights and others detained once arriving at U.S. airports. On Saturday, an unidentified senior administration official said that green card holders from the seven targeted countries would have to receive waivers before returning home or traveling abroad, but on Sunday morning, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said "the executive order doesn't affect green card holders moving forward."

Finally, on Sunday night, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly stepped in, ordering that — pursuant to the authority granted him in Trump's executive order — "I hereby deem the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest," and so the default will be allowing all green card holders in unless there is "significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare."

The same anonymous senior administration official told reporters on Sunday night that "nothing has changed" from the statement he'd issued on Saturday about needing a "waiver," blaming the confusion on "a semantic debate about the meaning of the word 'exemption,'" fed by CNN. "It really is a massive success story in terms of implementation on every single level," the senior administration official said of the executive order.