U.S. judge orders migrant families to be reunited

A Honduran family seeking asylum waits on the Mexican side of the Brownsville & Matamoros International Bridge after being denied entry by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers near Brownsville, Texas, U.S., June 26, 2018. Picture taken June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

By Jonathan Stempel and Doina Chiacu

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge has blocked the Trump administration from separating immigrant parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border, and ordered that those who were separated be reunited within 30 days.

The nationwide injunction issued late Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego will not be the final word on a heated battle over the treatment of immigrant families who cross the border illegally. A government appeal is likely.

Sabraw’s preliminary injunction also requires the government to reunite children under the age of five with their parents within 14 days, and let children talk with their parents within 10 days.

More than 2,300 migrant children were separated from their parents as a result of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that began in early May and sought to prosecute all adults crossing the border without authorization, including those traveling with children.

The separations sparked widespread condemnation in the United States, including from within President Donald Trump’s own Republican Party, and abroad.

Although Trump issued an executive order on June 20 to end the family separations, the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the San Diego case, said it contained “loopholes” and did little to fix the problem. Some 2,000 children remain separated.

Sabraw, an appointee of former Republican President George W. Bush, rebuked the administration.

“The facts set forth before the court portray reactive governance responses to address a chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making,” he wrote. “They belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution.”

The White House had no immediate comment.

LAYING BLAME

In opposing a preliminary injunction, the government had argued that Trump’s executive order “largely” addressed the concerns of the ACLU.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told a Senate hearing earlier on Tuesday that most separated children could not be reunited until the Republican-led Congress passed necessary legislation.

He also laid blame for the problem on the families, saying that “if the parents didn’t bring them across illegally, this would never happen.”

The ACLU hailed Sabraw’s decision.

“This victory will be bring relief to all the parents and children who thought they may never see each other again,” ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said in an email. “It is a complete victory.”

Sabraw ruled several hours after 17 generally Democratic-leaning states and Washington, D.C. sued the Trump administration in Seattle federal court over the family separations, calling them “cruel” and motivated by “animus.”

LEGISLATIVE SOLUTION

After issuing his executive order, Trump called last week on Congress to pass legislation that addressed immigration issues. But although Republicans control Congress, disagreements between moderates and conservatives in the party have impeded a speedy legislative fix to the border crisis.

An immigration bill favored by conservative Republicans failed to pass the House last week. The House planned to vote on Wednesday on a broad immigration bill that would bar the separation of children from their parents at the southern border

In a Twitter post written in capital letters throughout, Trump said House Republicans should pass the bill, even though he said Democrats would stop it from passing in the Senate, where Republicans have a slimmer majority.

“PASSAGE WILL SHOW THAT WE WANT STRONG BORDERS AND SECURITY WHILE THE DEMS WANT OPEN BORDERS = CRIME,” the president wrote on Twitter.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Tuesday he would not rule out the possibility of bringing a vote on a narrower bill addressing only the detention of immigrant families, if the broader bill did not pass.

The ACLU had sued on behalf of a mother and her then 6-year-old daughter, who were separated for four months after entering the country to seek asylum and flee religious persecution in Democratic Republic of Congo.

The ACLU case is Ms. L et al v U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California, No. 18-00428.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Alison Frankel in New York; Yasmeen Abutaleb and Doina Chiacu in Washington, D.C.; Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Trump backs down, signs order to end family separations at U.S. border

U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order on immigration policy in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump backed down on Wednesday on an immigration policy that sparked outrage at home and abroad, signing an executive order to end the separation of children from their parents when immigrant families are caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

The order requires that immigrant families be detained together when they are caught entering the country illegally, although it was not immediately clear for how long.

It also moves parents with children to the front of the line for immigration proceedings. The order does not end a “zero tolerance” policy that calls for criminal prosecution of immigrants crossing the border illegally.

“It’s about keeping families together while at the same time making sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border,” Trump said as he signed the order in a hastily arranged Oval Office gathering.

Videos of youngsters in cages and an audiotape of wailing children had sparked anger in the United States from groups ranging from clergy to influential business leaders, as well as condemnation from abroad, including Pope Francis.

Trump, a frequent viewer of cable television newscasts, had recognized the family separation issue was a growing political problem, White House sources said. First lady Melania Trump, in private conversations with the president, urged him to do something, a White House official said.

“The first lady has been making her opinion known to the president for some time now, which was that he needed to do all he could to help families stay together,” an official said.

Wednesday’s move marked a rare instance since Trump took office in January 2017 in which he has changed course on a controversial policy, rather than digging in.

Trump has made a tough stance on immigration central to his presidency. In recent days, the Republican president had insisted his hands were tied by law on the issue of family separations and had sought to blame Democrats, although it was his administration that implemented the policy of strict adherence to immigration law.

The Republican-controlled U.S. Congress is also considering legislation to address the issue. The House of Representatives planned to vote on Thursday on two bills designed to halt the practice of separating families and to address other immigration issues.

But Republicans said they were uncertain if either measure would have enough support to be approved. Trump told House Republicans on Tuesday night he would support either of the immigration bills under consideration but did not give a preference.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Susan Cornwell, Amanda Becker and Mohammad Zargham; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Bill Trott and Frances Kerry)

Trump says will sign something ‘pre-emptive’ on immigration border policy

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a Cabinet meeting, where he discussed immigration policy at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millli

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would sign something “pre-emptive” soon to solve the problem of immigrant families being separated at the U.S. southern border, which has sparked outrage in the United States and abroad.

It was not immediately clear what Trump, who had previously blamed the family separations on Democrats, would sign. An earlier report from Fox News Channel said the Trump administration was considering an executive order that would allow immigrant families who cross the border illegally to stay together longer than is currently permitted.

Videos of youngsters in cages and an audiotape of wailing children have sparked anger at home from groups ranging from clergy to influential business leaders, as well as condemnation from abroad.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said he hoped his measure would be matched with legislation in the U.S. Congress. The House of Representatives was to vote on Thursday on two bills designed to halt the practice of separating families and to address other immigration issues. But Republicans said they were uncertain if either measure would have enough support to be approved.

Trump campaigned on stopping illegal immigration and has fiercely defended his administration’s actions. He had called on Democratic lawmakers to stop the family separations, even though his fellow Republicans control both chambers in Congress and his own administration implemented the current policy.

A Reuters/Ipsos national opinion poll released on Tuesday showed fewer than one in three American adults supporting the policy.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Susan Cornwell, Amanda Becker and Mohammad Zargham; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Will Dunham and Bill Trott)

Trump to order mental health aid to prevent suicide among military veterans

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (L) after signing the Veterans Affairs Choice and Quality Employment Act at Trump's golf estate in Bedminster, New Jersey U.S. August 12, 2017.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday was set to sign an executive order that will direct government departments to try to prevent suicide among military veterans by treating mental health problems before they become more serious.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told reporters on a conference call that Trump wants to address an alarming trend, that of 20 veterans a day taking their own life.

“That is just an unacceptable number and we are focused on doing everything we can to try to prevent these veteran suicides,” Shulkin said.

Trump’s order will direct the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs to develop a plan in 60 days to provide access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources for uniformed service members in the first year following military service.

The new order will cost about $200 million year to implement, money that will be diverted from the agencies’ current budget, a senior administration official said.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by David Gregorio)

Trump scraps key Obamacare subsidies, urges Democrats to fix ‘broken mess’

Trump scraps key Obamacare subsidies, urges Democrats to fix 'broken mess'

By Yasmeen Abutaleb and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday urged Democrats to make a healthcare deal after cutting off Obamacare subsidies to health insurance companies for low-income patients in a forceful move that sparked threats of legal action and concern of chaos in insurance markets.

“ObamaCare is a broken mess,” Trump tweeted early on Friday. “Piece by piece we will now begin the process of giving America the great HealthCare it deserves!”

The decision is the most dramatic action Trump has taken yet to weaken the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, which extended insurance to 20 million Americans.

The move drew swift condemnation from Democrats and threats from state attorneys general in New York and California to file lawsuits. Trump, a Republican, urged opponents to reach out to him.

“The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!” Trump said in another tweet on Friday.

Trump has been frustrated by Republicans’ failure to repeal and replace the law known as Obamacare, thwarting a promise he made during his successful 2016 presidential campaign.

His decision is likely to please those among his political base who detest the Obamacare system, which many Republicans have attacked for years as an unneeded government intrusion in Americans’ healthcare.

In a nod to that same constituency, the president signed an executive order earlier on Thursday to make it easier for Americans to buy bare-bones health insurance plans exempt from Obamacare requirements.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi derided the subsidies cut-off in a joint statement, saying Trump would single-handedly push Americans’ healthcare premiums higher.

“It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America,” they said. “Make no mistake about it, Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it.”

Insurers and proponents of Obamacare have implored Trump for months to commit to making the payments, which are worth billions of dollars. Several insurers have cited uncertainty over the payments when hiking premiums for 2018 or exiting insurance markets altogether.

Healthcare stocks have edged lower in recent days. Ending the payments could hurt shares of insurers such as Anthem Inc, Molina Healthcare Inc, Cigna Corp and Centene Corp, which are offering plans on Obamacare markets for 2018.

Trump has made the payments, guaranteed to insurers under Obamacare to help lower out-of-pocket medical expenses for low-income consumers, each month since taking office in January. But he has repeatedly threatened to cut them off and disparaged them as a “bailout” for insurance companies.

For Kathryn Haydon and her husband, who bought insurance under the law’s marketplace three years ago as struggling college students in Arkansas, the subsidies reduced the cost of their $310 plan by about $250, leaving them to pay $60 each month.

“If the subsidy was not there, we would have gone without health insurance,” she said. “Our finances were extremely tight at the time for us… we would have just hoped there were no catastrophes.”

LAWSUITS

The White House said late on Thursday that it could not lawfully pay the subsidies anymore.

A White House statement said that based on guidance from the Justice Department, “the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare.”

“In light of this analysis, the Government cannot lawfully make the cost-sharing reduction payments,” it said.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a statement he was prepared to lead other attorneys general in a lawsuit.

“I will not allow President Trump to once again use New York families as political pawns in his dangerous, partisan campaign to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act at any cost,” he wrote.

The payments are the subject of a lawsuit brought by House Republicans against the Obama administration that alleged they were unlawful because they needed to be appropriated by Congress. A judge for the federal district court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Republicans, and the Obama administration appealed the ruling.

The Trump administration took over the lawsuit and had delayed deciding whether to continue the Obama administration’s appeal or terminate the subsidies, but in April Trump began threatening to stop the payments.

That case became more complicated in August when a U.S. appeals court allowed 16 Democratic state attorneys general to defend the payments and have a say in the legal fight.

The political turbulence has affected insurers’ decisions.

Anthem Inc, one of the largest remaining Obamacare insurers, in August scaled back its offerings in Nevada and Georgia and blamed the moves in part on uncertainty over the payments.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina earlier this year raised premiums by more than 20 percent, but said it would have only raised premiums by about 9 percent if Trump agreed to fund the payments.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that cutting off the payments would cause premiums to rise 20 percent in 2018, and that 5 percent of Americans would live in areas that do not have an insurer in the individual market in 2018.

Trump has taken other steps to undermine Obamacare. Last week, his administration allowed businesses and non-profit organizations to seek exemptions from Obamacare’s mandate that employers provide birth control in health insurance with no co-payment.

The administration also slashed the Obamacare advertising and outreach budget and halved the open enrollment period.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Brendan O’Brien and Susan Heavey and; Editing by Michael Perry and Bernadette Baum)

President Trump signs Religious Liberty Executive Order on National Day of Prayer

U.S. President Donald Trump signs an Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty during the National Day of Prayer event at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C., U.S., May 4, 2017.

By Kami Klein

On the National Day of Prayer, President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence signed a new executive order focusing on Religious Liberty.  White House officials declared “it is the policy of the administration to protect and vigorously promote religious liberty.”  Today, President Trump made good on his promise to ease a ban on political activity by churches and other tax-exempt institutions.

Many friends of Morningside were already in Washington D.C. for the National Day of Prayer. Prophetic and influential leaders such as Paula White, Jentezen Franklin, Samuel Rodriguez, Pastor Ramiro Pena, Franklin Graham and Anne Graham were there for this historic moment.  Also in attendance were Alveda King, Ravi Zachariah, Rev. Maldonado, Dr. David Jeremiah, Dr. Jim Garlow and Pastor Frank Amedia.

In a signing ceremony at the White House, President Trump said: “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced any more.”  The President continued by saying, “ No one should be censoring sermons or targeting pastors.”

This executive order will allow non-profit organizations, hospitals, educational institutions and businesses to deny certain health coverage for religious reasons.  An example of this would be Christian Groups like Little Sisters of the Poor from being forced to pay for abortion or contraception services.

Under the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law sponsored by Lyndon Johnson, organizations that are non-profit, tax exempt status are not allowed to participate in political campaigning or supporting any one candidate for elective office.   Trump’s order guides the IRS to “alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment.”

A White House official told Fox News, “I think how the President feels about the Johnson amendment is that politicians and unelected bureaucrats shouldn’t have the power to shut up their critics just because they are church leaders or charities.”

“We don’t have any plans to discriminate, we’re about not discriminating against religious organizations!”

The following is the full text of Trump’s Executive Order :  

 

PROMOTING FREE SPEECH AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, in order to guide the executive branch in formulating and implementing policies with implications for the religious liberty of persons and organizations in America, and to further compliance with the Constitution and with applicable statutes and Presidential Directives, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. It shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom. The Founders envisioned a Nation in which religious voices and views were integral to a vibrant public square, and in which religious people and institutions were free to practice their faith without fear of discrimination or retaliation by the Federal Government. For that reason, the United States Constitution enshrines and protects the fundamental right to religious liberty as Americans’ first freedom. Federal law protects the freedom of Americans and their organizations to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life without undue interference by the Federal Government. The executive branch will honor and enforce those protections.

Sec. 2. Respecting Religious and Political Speech. All executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall, to the greatest extent practicable and to the extent permitted by law, respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech. In particular, the Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that the Department of the Treasury does not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective, where speech of similar character has, consistent with law, not ordinarily been treated as participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office by the Department of the Treasury. As used in this section, the term “adverse action” means the imposition of any tax or tax penalty; the delay or denial of tax-exempt status; the disallowance of tax deductions for contributions made to entities exempted from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of title 26, United States Code; or any other action that makes unavailable or denies any tax deduction, exemption, credit, or benefit.

Sec. 3. Conscience Protections with Respect to Preventive-Care Mandate. The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall consider issuing amended regulations, consistent with applicable law, to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate promulgated under section 300gg-13(a)(4) of title 42, United States Code.

Sec. 4. Religious Liberty Guidance. In order to guide all agencies in complying with relevant Federal law, the Attorney General shall, as appropriate, issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law.

Sec. 5. Severability. If any provision of this order, or the application of any provision to any individual or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this order and the application of its other provisions to any other individuals or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.

Sec. 6. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

 

Sources:  Fox news, Reuters, CNN, CNBC, Washington Examiner

Trump signs order to ease ban on political activity by churches

U.S. President Donald Trump signs an Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty during the National Day of Prayer event at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C., U.S., May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order on religious liberties designed to ease a ban on political activity by churches and other tax-exempt institutions.

The order also mandates regulatory relief to religious employers that object to contraception, such as Little Sisters of the Poor.

It does not include provisions to allow government agencies and businesses to deny services to gay people in the name of religious freedom, as was feared by some civil liberties and gay rights groups.

The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement it would file a lawsuit challenging Trump’s order.

Trump, addressing religious leaders in a signing ceremony at the White House, said: “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced any more”.

“No one should be censoring sermons or targeting pastors,” he said.

Trump’s order directs the Internal Revenue Service to “alleviate the burden of the Johnson Amendment,” the White House said in reference to a 1954 law sponsored by Lyndon Johnson, then a Texas senator who later became president.

Under the tax code, organizations that enjoy tax-free status, such as churches, are prohibited from participating in a political campaign or supporting any one candidate for elective office.

This includes a ban on making financial contributions to campaigns and candidates, but the law does allow certain non-partisan political activity such as voter registration or get-out-the-vote drives.

Trump would need Congress to rescind the Johnson Amendment, but he can instruct his administration not to enforce it through executive order.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Susan Heavey and James Dalgleish)

Trump to order a study on abuses of U.S. trade agreements

FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are pictured in Geneva, Switzerland, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on Saturday seeking to identify any problems caused by the nation’s existing trade agreements, including an examination of U.S. involvement in the World Trade Organization, a top trade official said.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said his department would work to issue a report in 180 days outlining challenges with these trade deals and possible solutions.

Ross singled out the World Trade Organization as an entity that may need to make some changes, although he cautioned that the administration had not made any decisions yet.

“There’s always the potential for amending organization’s charters like the WTO, particularly when you’re in the position we are,” he said. “We’re the number one importer in the whole world.”

Ross raised concerns that the WTO is too bureaucratic and does not hold meetings often enough. He also argued that the WTO has an “institutional bias” in favor of exporters and against countries that are being “beleaguered by inappropriate imports.”

Remaking U.S. trade relations has been a top priority for Trump, who has argued that the United States has been treated unfairly in international trade.

Trump said on Thursday that he had been prepared to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, but backed off after calls from the leaders of those two countries.

The effects of NAFTA on the U.S. economy will also be examined in the new study.

Last month, Trump also issued an order calling for a major review of the causes of all U.S. trade deficits.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Trump to seek changes in visa program to encourage hiring Americans

President Trump waves as he boards Air Force One. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday will sign an executive order directing federal agencies to recommend changes to a temporary visa program used to bring foreign workers to the United States to fill high-skilled jobs.

Two senior Trump administration officials who briefed reporters at the White House said Trump will also use the “buy American and hire American” order to seek changes in government procurement practices to increase the purchase of American products in federal contracts.

Trump is to sign the order when he visits the world headquarters of Snap-On Inc, a tool manufacturer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The order is an attempt by Trump to carry out his “America First” campaign pledges to reform U.S. immigration policies and encourage purchases of American products. As he nears the 100-day benchmark of his presidency, Trump has no major legislative achievements to tout but has used executive orders to seek regulatory changes to help the U.S. economy.

The order he will sign on Tuesday will call for “the strict enforcement of all laws governing entry into the United States of labor from abroad for the stated purpose of creating higher wages and higher employment rates for workers in the United States,” one of the senior officials said.

It will call on the departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security and State to take action to crack down on what the official called “fraud and abuse” in the U.S. immigration system to protect American workers.

The order will call on those four federal departments to propose reforms to ensure H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest paid applicant.

H-1B visas are intended for foreign nationals in “specialty” occupations that generally require higher education, which according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) includes, but is not limited to, scientists, engineers or computer programmers. The government uses a lottery to award 65,000 visas every year and randomly distributes another 20,000 to graduate student workers.

The number of applications for H-1B visas fell to 199,000 this year from 236,000 in 2016, according U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Companies say they use visas to recruit top talent. More than 15 percent of Facebook Inc’s U.S. employees in 2016 used a temporary work visa, according to a Reuters analysis of U.S. Labor Department filings.

Facebook, Microsoft Corp and Apple Inc were not immediately available for a comment outside normal business hours.

A majority of the H-1B visas are, however, awarded to outsourcing firms, sparking criticism by skeptics who say those firms use the visas to fill lower-level information technology jobs. Critics also say the lottery system benefits outsourcing firms that flood the system with mass applications.

The senior official said the end result of how the system currently works is that foreign workers are often brought in at less pay to replace American workers, “violating the principle of the program.”

Indian nationals are by far the largest group of recipients of the H-1B visas issued each year to new applicants.

NASSCOM, the Indian IT service industry’s main lobby group, said it supports efforts to root out any abuses occurring in the H-1B system, but slammed allegations against the sector, saying the idea that H-1B visa holders are cheap labor, is inaccurate and a campaign to discredit the sector.

It warned that any onerous additional restrictions to the visa program would “hurt thousands of U.S. businesses and their efforts to be more competitive,” by hindering access to needed talent. NASSCOM said it would comment further when there are specific proposals under consideration.

The Indian commerce ministry, which has been liaising with the United States on the visa issue, declined to comment. A senior ministry official said it would wait for “actual action” before making any official comment. India had urged the U.S. to be open minded on admitting skilled Indian workers.

India’s No. 2 IT Services firm Infosys has said it is ramping up work on on-site development centers in the United States to train local talent in a bid to address the visa regulation changes under consideration.

Infosys also warned on an investor call last week that its operating margin forecast for fiscal 2018 may get impacted by onerous changes to U.S. visa rules.

Trump’s new executive order will also ask federal agencies to look at how to get rid of loopholes in the government procurement process.

Specifically, the review will take into account whether waivers in free-trade agreements are leading to unfair trade by allowing foreign companies to undercut American companies in the global government procurement market.

“If it turns out America is a net loser because of those free-trade agreement waivers, which apply to almost 60 countries, these waivers may be promptly renegotiated or revoked,” the second official said.

(Writing by Steve Holland and Euan Rocha; Additional reporting by Eric Beech in Washington, David Ingram in San Francisco, Sankalp Phartiyal in Mumbai and Manoj Kumar in New Delhi; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Himani Sarkar)

Trump signs revised travel ban order, leaves Iraq off

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives iin Washington, U.S.,

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives iin Washington, U.S., February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool

By Steve Holland and Julia Edwards Ainsley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump signed a revised executive order on Monday banning citizens from six Muslim-majority nations from traveling to the United States but removing Iraq from the list, after his controversial first attempt was blocked in the courts.

The new order, which the White House said Trump had signed, keeps a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the new order would take effect on March 16. The delay aims to limit the disruption created by the original Jan. 27 order before a U.S. judge suspended it on Feb. 3.

Trump, who first proposed a temporary travel ban on Muslims during his presidential campaign last year, had said his original executive order was a national security measure meant to head off attacks by Islamist militants.

It came only a week after Trump was inaugurated, and it sparked chaos and protests at airports, as well as a wave of criticism from targeted countries, Western allies and some of America’s leading corporations.

“It is the president’s solemn duty to protect the American people,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters after Trump signed the new order. “As threats to our security continue to evolve and change, common sense dictates that we continually re-evaluate and reassess the systems we rely upon to protect our country.”

The leader of the minority Democrats in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said he expected the revised order to have the same uphill battle in the courts as the original version.

“A watered down ban is still a ban,” he said in a statement. “Despite the administration’s changes, this dangerous executive order makes us less safe, not more, it is mean-spirited, and un-American. It must be repealed.”

Trump’s original ban resulted in more than two dozen lawsuits in U.S. courts. Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington state, which succeeded in having the previous ban suspended, said he was “carefully reviewing” the new order.

IRAQ’S NEW VETTING

Iraq was taken off the banned list because the Iraqi government has imposed new vetting procedures, such as heightened visa screening and data sharing, and because of its work with the United States in countering Islamic State militants, a senior White House official said.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who along with several other senior Cabinet members had lobbied for Iraq’s removal, was consulted on the new order and the updated version “does reflect his inputs,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said.

Thousands of Iraqis have fought alongside U.S. troops for years or worked as translators since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Many have resettled in the United States after being threatened for working with U.S. troops.

The White House official said the new executive order also ensures that tens of thousands of legal permanent residents in the United States – or green card holders – from the listed countries would not be affected by the travel ban.

The original order barred travelers from the seven nations from entering for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days. Refugees from Syria were to be banned indefinitely but under the new order they are not given separate treatment.

Trump’s first order was seen by opponents as discrimination against Muslims. The White House official said the new order had nothing to do with religion and that the administration would reset the clock on the 90-day travel ban.

But House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said “the Trump administration’s repackaging has done nothing to change the immoral, unconstitutional and dangerous goals of their Muslim and refugee ban.”

“NO ALLEGED CHAOS”

Trump publicly criticized judges who ruled against him and vowed to fight the case in the Supreme Court, but then decided to draw up a new order with changes aimed at making it easier to defend in the courts.

Refugees who are “in transit” and already have been approved would be able to travel to the United States.

“There’s going to be a very orderly process,” a senior official from the Department of Homeland Security said. “You should not see any chaos so to speak, or alleged chaos at airports. There aren’t going to be folks stopped tonight from coming into the country because of this executive order.”

The FBI is investigating 300 people admitted into the United States as refugees as part of 1,000 counter-terrorism probes involving Islamic State or individuals inspired by the militant group, congressional sources told Reuters on Monday, citing senior administration officials.

An FBI spokeswoman said the agency was consulting its data to confirm the information.

The White House official said U.S. government agencies would determine whether Syria or other nations had made sufficient security improvements to be taken back into the refugee admissions program.

The new order spells out detailed categories of people eligible to enter the United States, such as for business or medical travel, or people with family connections or who support the United States.

“There are a lot of explicit carve-outs for waivers and given on a case-by-case basis,” the official said.

(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Doina Chiacu, Mica Rosenberg, Tim Ahmann and Idrees Ali; Editing by Bill Trott and Nick Tattersall)