President Donald Trump's new executive order signed on Monday (6 March) that will temporarily ban entry to the US for people from six predominately Muslim countries has drawn wide criticism, with many saying that the new executive order is just a rewritten version of the first one that was thrown out by the courts.

The new travel ban which covers Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, excludes Iraq, which was included in a previous version, and allows entry of permanent residents from those countries as well as those with valid visas to the US.

Many in the Trump administration defended the president's ban while Democrats, celebrities and several organisations slammed the order as illegal and discriminatory.

Executive order protecting Americans

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended Trump's executive order in a joint appearance with Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building on Monday, the New York Times reported.

Kelly said the ban "will make America safer, and address long-overdue concerns about the security of our immigration system. We must undertake a rigorous review of our visa and refugee vetting programmes to increase our confidence in the entry decisions we make for visitors and immigrants to the United States. We cannot risk the prospect of malevolent actors using our immigration system to take American lives."

Tillerson echoed Kelly's remarks and said the president was "exercising his rightful authority to keep our people safe" by signing the executive order. "While no system can be made completely infallible, the American people can have high confidence we are identifying ways to improve the vetting process and thus keeping terrorists from entering our country," he said.

Critics remain unimpressed

Revisions to the ban did little to assuage the concerns and criticisms of Democrats, immigration rights activists and many celebrities.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) called the new order a "watered-down ban" that remained "meanspirited and un-American," the Times reported. "Americans need to know that this latest Exec Order has absolutely nothing to do with national security. It is still a ban," Schumer also tweeted.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) agreed with Schumer in a statement released on Twitter. "The Trump Administration's repackaging has done nothing to change the immoral, unconstitutional and dangerous goals of their Muslim and refugee ban. This is the same ban, with the same purpose, driven by the same dangerous discrimination that weakens our ability to fight terror," Pelosi said.

Other lawmakers also took to Twitter to reject the travel ban.

The American Civil Liberties Unions blasted the new order in a series of tweets, noting that "Prejudice rewritten is still prejudice."

Actor George Takei claimed Trump only issued a new order "because he can't stand that he lost on the old one. This is about his ego, not about our security." Meanwhile, fellow actor Misha Collins called the travel ban a distraction. "Today Trump released a new Muslim ban & plan to uninsure America 2 distract from Putin scandal. Can't trick us. 3 wrongs don't make a right," he tweeted.

The new travel ban will be phased in over the next two weeks to avoid the rushed execution of the first travel ban released in January, the Times reported.