Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Tuesday defended the implementation of President Donald Trump's immigration order, saying "we knew it was coming" despite the confusion after its signing.
"It wasn't a surprise that it was coming, so we implemented it," Kelly told reporters, saying he believes that he knew by Thursday that Trump would sign it the next day.
Trump's temporary ban on entry from seven mostly Muslim countries and temporary suspension of the U.S. refugee program sparked immediate confusion and protests around the country and condemnation from lawmakers from both parties. Some lawful permanent residents were detained at U.S. airports, and some reports indicated that the White House did not tell Kelly about the order's specifics before it was signed.
Kelly said Tuesday he had seen at least two drafts of the order but did not give much clarity about how much he knew about the final order before Trump signed it.
Trump signed the order late Friday. It indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from entering the country, suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocks citizens of the seven majority countries from entering the country for 90 days, except for minorities facing persecution. It prompted criticism from lawmakers who said it could hurt rather than help the fight against terrorism.
Kelly played down concerns about how the government rolled out Trump's order. In particular, he said officials are complying with a court order protecting some visa holders from deportation, despite reports that some border agents have not followed it.
"No member of the Homeland Security team ignored the court order nor would they ignore they court order," Kelly said, adding that he had heard the reports and asked for more information on them.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who supports the order, on Tuesday called the confusion over its rollout "regrettable."
Much of the criticism about the order's implementation surrounded lawful permanent residents, or green card holders. Kelly said Sunday he deemed letting permanent lawful residents into the country to be in the national interest, after the administration previously indicated that green card holders could face additional scrutiny on a case-by-case basis.
Acting Customs and Border Protection chief Kevin McAleenan said that in the first 72 hours of the order, 721 people with visas from the affected countries were denied entry to the U.S., while 1,061 were granted waivers.
About 1 million travelers came into the country during that span, including 500,000 foreign nationals, McAleenan said.
Kelly echoed the White House in denying that the order is a Muslim ban. On the campaign trail, Trump once called for a temporary "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" until Washington could figure out how to prevent terrorists from entering. He then changed his rhetoric to the so-called "extreme vetting" procedures he signed last week.
Also on Monday night, Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who refused to defend the order. In a statement, he alleged that she "betrayed" the Department of Justice.