The State Department and a lawyer for the Justice Department are providing contradicting numbers on how many visas have been revoked since President Trump’s travel order.
USA TODAY NETWORK
The State Department said Friday fewer than 60,000 visas were revoked in the week since President Trump suspended travel arrivals for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.
The figure contradicted a Justice Department lawyer, who said in U.S. District Court on Friday that 100,000 visas were revoked, according to news reports from CNN and The Washington Post.
The department clarified that the higher figure used by the Justice Department lawyer included diplomatic and other visas that were exempted by the travel ban, as well as expired visas.
The revocation number was revealed Friday in a court case in Virginia involving two Yemeni brothers denied entry when they arrived at Virginia’s Dulles International Airport following Trump’s Jan. 27 order. The executive action barred travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Attorneys general from several states, including Hawaii, Massachusetts, Washington and New York have challenged the order.
Later, Friday, U.S. District Judge James Robart in Washington state issued a nationwide restraining order blocking the travel ban. In issuing his decision, Robart was siding with Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who argued the order is causing significant harm to residents and effectively mandates discrimination. Minnesota joined the suit.
Before the clarification in the Virginia case, Justice Department lawyer Erez Reuveni told Judge Leonie Brinkema that 100,000 visas had been rejected, according to CNN and the Post. Visas are temporary permits to enter the U.S. Reuveni said no legal permanent residents, or green-card holders, have been denied entry.
“The number 100,000 sucked the air out of my lungs,” Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg of the Legal Aid Justice Center told The Washington Post.
Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, when asked about the case during his daily briefing, said he had no information about it.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked the secretaries of State and Homeland Security to provide details by Feb. 10 about how visa revocations and how many travelers have been denied entry.
“The executive order has caused widespread confusion and created uncertainty for countless refugees, asylum seekers, and others who currently possess or were approved for visas,” Leahy wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. “This uncertainty threatens to put men, women, and children fleeing war, violence, and persecution at risk of death and injury.”
Attorneys general in 16 states and the District of Columbia issued a statement condemning Trump’s order. The states are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
“As the chief legal officers for over 130 million Americans and foreign residents of our states, we condemn President Trump’s unconstitutional, un-American and unlawful executive order and will work together to ensure the federal government obeys the Constitution, respects our history as a nation of immigrants, and does not unlawfully target anyone because of their national origin or faith,” the statement said.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who won approval from the court on Friday to participate in the case, said he would argue at a hearing Feb. 10 for an injunction against Trump’s order. Brinkema ordered the government to provide all the names of Virginia residents denied entry or removed because of the order, Herring said.
Eric Ferrero, spokesman for Amnesty International USA, urged Congress to revoke the travel order “before it tears even more families apart.”
“President Trump’s cruel and unlawful Muslim ban is causing widespread harm, and that’s why there’s a growing public backlash against it,” Ferrero said.
Administration officials have said the 90-day pause in arrivals from those countries is necessary to review and perhaps tighten the visa vetting process. But the order sparked protests at airports across the country and opposition from corporate leaders who said it would hurt their businesses.
The State Department last year issued more than 600,000 immigrant visas last year, including visas for 7,727 to Iranians, 3,660 to Iraqis, 383 to Libyans, 1,797 to Somalians, 2,606 to Sudanese, 2,633 to Syrians and 12,998 to Yemenis.
Those visas were the subject of a lawsuit filed Saturday by two Iraqis who were initially denied entry at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. District Court Judge Ann Donnelly temporarily blocked the order in that case, pending a full hearing.
The State Department also granted nearly 11 million non-immigrant visas in 2015, the most recent year available, including visas for 29,007 Iranians, 11,399 Iraqis, 1,613 Libyans, 219 Somalians, 4,354 Sudanese, 9,003 Syrians and 3,787 Yemenis.
Reports: Trump travel order revoked tens of thousands of visas – USA TODAY