Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

U.S. Revokes Tens of Thousands of Visas in Trump Travel Ban

  • Jan. 27 executive order sparked protests at U.S. airports
  • Virginia gets ruling allowing challenge to executive order

The U.S. provisionally revoked tens of thousands of visas of people from seven Middle Eastern nations in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which has sparked protests around the nation and prompted dozens of legal challenges.

The number of visas, which are needed for travel to the U.S., was fewer than 60,000, said Will Cocks, spokesman for the State Department’s bureau of consular affairs. He made his comment after Erez Reuveni, a government lawyer, said in federal court on Friday that the number was more than 100,000. When asked about the issue, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said,"I don’t have any details right now."

The lawyer spoke at a hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, where a federal judge ruled that the state can take the lead in a civil lawsuit claiming Trump’s travel ban is unconstitutional and harms state residents and visitors. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema also extended to Feb. 10 a temporary restraining order barring the federal government from enforcing the president’s ban at nearby Dulles International Airport.

President Trump’s edict, signed without advance notice on Jan. 27, threw airports across America into turmoil as travelers from the affected countries who were already en route to the U.S. learned upon deplaning that they couldn’t leave the airport. Some of those people were lawful U.S. residents holding so-called green cards and work visas. Some of the visitors were required to return to their point of origin as spontaneous protests erupted at international terminals.

“I have never had so much public outpouring as I have seen in this case,” Brinkema said. “‘People are really upset.”

Administration Stance

Greg Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Law Association, called the actions "an all-out assault by the Trump administration" on immigration, the first steps in "a massive deportation campaign."

The Trump administration was also sued over the order in Brooklyn, New York, Boston, Seattle and Los Angeles, with judges in those cities also directing the government to halt deportations of people legally in the U.S.

"We recognize that those individuals are temporarily inconvenienced while we conduct our review under the executive order," Cocks said, adding the U.S. issued more than 11 million immigrant and non-immigrant visas in fiscal year 2015. "As always, national security is our top priority when issuing visas.”

A provisional revocation means the U.S. has invalidated a visa for use to travel to the U.S., the state department said. The U.S. may restore the visa’s validity later without requiring a new visa application. The government plans to communicate updates to affected travelers following a 90-day review.

Administration View

The White House has repeatedly downplayed the number of people affected by the order. Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, in a Jan. 30 interview on CBS, scoffed at the “the idea of huge turmoil” in the aftermath of the order.

“We processed 325,000 travelers through our airports in the first 24 hours after the new restrictions were put into place and 109 were detained for additional security screening,” he said. “By any measure, I would describe that as efficient, orderly, enormously successful.”

About 721 travelers out of 1 million people arriving in the U.S. were affected by Trump’s order in the 72 hours after it was signed, according to Customs and Border Protection data. General John F. Kelly, newly installed as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, has said the 90-day decree doesn’t apply to those already granted legal U.S. residency status.

Scott Cooper, a retired U.S. Marine who is Director of National Security Outreach for Human Rights First, said the policy bars war-time allies from the U.S., saying it is "terribly strategically damaging to us."

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Judge Brinkema deferred ruling on Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s request for an order requiring the Trump administration to account for what the Democrat contends was a failure to immediately obey the court ruling putting the measure on hold. The judge directed the government to provide Virginia officials with a list of all lawful state residents denied entry or removed from the U.S. since Trump signed his order. That list is due on Feb. 9.

Brinkema’s Jan. 28 order forbids customs officials from removing brothers Tareq and Ammar Aziz from the country and directed U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials to allow lawyers access to all permanent legal residents being detained at Dulles during the next seven days.

U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly’s Brooklyn federal court order went further, barring federal officials from removing people whose refugee applications had already been approved and anyone else from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, who were legally authorized to enter the country. Her order expires Feb. 21.

Dulles airport customs officials had notice of both of those orders, according to Herring’s filings, which were backed by declaration from Virginia U.S. Representative Donald Beyer, and a pro bono attorney, both of whom claimed detainees were denied access to lawyers.

In Boston, a judge is weighing whether to extend an earlier order blocking the U.S from detaining or removing refugees, visa holders or green-card holders who entered the country from the seven countries. At a hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said the law gives the president broad power over immigration.

“They are reading this as a Muslim ban because that’s what they want to see,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Press told the judge. “There is nothing in here talking about Islam.”

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