Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly: Some nations affected by immigration order may stay on list

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nationals from the seven Muslim-majority countries temporarily blocked from entering the United States by President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration may not be granted admission any time soon, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Tuesday.

Under the order released Friday, travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are banned from entering the United States for at least 90 days while Kelly and others determine whether there is enough information available to vet them.

"Some of those countries that are currently on the list may not be taken off the list anytime soon, if they are countries that are in various states of collapse, as an example," Kelly told a press conference.

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Kelly said other countries could be added to the list if it is determined they "could tighten up their procedures" to ensure more secure vetting.

Confusion mounted over the weekend as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, rushed to brief airlines, customs agents and others involved in air travel about how to implement Trump's executive order, which was not explicit about how to handle green card holders and other previously admissible populations.

Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told reporters he had briefed the appropriate parties "within two hours" of the order but did not say he was given advance notice or guidance over how the order should be handled.

Kelly said he did know the executive order was coming and "had people involved in the general drafting of it."

A Department of Homeland Security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers had no advance notice of the order or how they should respond to it.

Kelly also said people from the seven targeted nations who hold dual citizenship will be allowed to enter the United States on the passport of a non-restricted nation.

The executive order also stopped the resettlement of refugees for 120 days.

But the administration granted waivers to 872 refugees "in transit" who will be arriving in the United States this week.

Several lawsuits have been filed blocking portions of the order, which drew harsh criticism from Democrats, human rights organizations and some Western U.S. allies.

Since the order, 721 travelers with visas from the seven countries were denied boarding U.S.-bound flights, according to McAleenan. The department has also processed 1,060 waivers for legal permanent residents, such as green card holders.

Kelly said federal immigration and customs officials were in compliance with the court orders on immigration and no agent knowingly or intentionally violated them.