Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning. One of the Justice Department’s top priorities is to protect the United States from threats to our national security. Therefore, I want to discuss two points: first, the national security basis for this order, and second, our department’s role in defending the lawful orders of the President.
First: As the President noted in his address to Congress, the majority of people convicted in our courts for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from abroad. We also know that people seeking to support or commit terrorist attacks here will try to enter through our refugee program. In fact, today more than 300 people who came here as refugees are under FBI investigation for potential terrorism-related activities.
Like every nation, the United States has the right to control who enters our country, and to keep out those who would do us harm. This executive order protects the American people – as well as lawful permanent residents – by putting in place an enhanced screening and vetting process for visitors from six nations.
Three of these nations are state sponsors of terrorism. The other three have served as safe havens for terrorists – countries where the government has lost control of territory to terrorist groups like ISIL or Al Qaeda and its affiliates. This increases the risk that people admitted here from these countries may belong to terrorist groups, or may have been radicalized by them.
We cannot compromise our nation’s security by allowing visitors entry when their own governments are unable or unwilling to provide the information we need to vet them responsibly – or when those governments actively support terrorism. This executive order provides a needed pause, so we can carefully review how we scrutinize people coming here from these countries of concern.
Second: The Department of Justice believes that this executive order, just as the first, is a lawful and proper exercise of presidential authority. This Department of Justice will defend and enforce lawful orders of the President consistent with core principles of our Constitution. The executive is empowered under the Constitution and by Congress to make national security judgments and to enforce our immigration policies in order to safeguard the American public.
Terrorism is clearly a danger for America and our people. The President gets briefings on these dangers and emerging threats on a regular basis. The federal investigative agencies, the intelligence community, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. military report to the President. Knowing the President would possess such extensive information, our founders wisely gave the executive branch the authority and duty to protect the nation. This executive order is a proper exercise of that power.
Now I will turn things over to Secretary [John] Kelly [of the Department of Homeland Security].