The Guardian: More than 100,000 visas revoked when Trump signed travel ban, says DoJ

2017-02-03 22:20:35

The Department of Justice attorney revealed this number during a hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, for a lawsuit involving two Yemeni brothers who were sent back to Ethiopia after arriving in Washington DC on Saturday.

Later the State Department contradicted the attorney’s figure, saying that fewer than 60,000 visas had been cancelled under Donald Trump’s order. It said the higher figure includes diplomatic and other visas that were actually exempted by the travel ban, as well as expired visas.

The brothers, Tareq and Ammar Aqel Mohammad, were forced to turn over their visas to homeland security officials upon arrival at Dulles international airport, according to the suit.

Last Friday, Trump signed the executive order, which affects people holding passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and also halts temporarily the entry of refugees into the country.

The White House contends the moves are necessary for national security. Democratic attorneys generals in several states have called them unconstitutional.

The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, was asked about the 100,000 revoked visas during a press conference on Friday afternoon.

“I’ll have to get back to you on that,” Spicer said. “I don’t have all the details right now.”

It is estimated that 100 to 200 people were detained at US airports or in transit because of the order.

One day after the order was announced, a federal judge in New York ordered a stay on the deportations for people with valid visas. A judge extended the order – which was set to expire on 11 February – to 21 February on Thursday, but the justice department said it will ask for the case to be thrown out.

Meanwhile in a separate case, a federal judge in Detroit ruled that US green card holders should not be affected by Trump’s travel ban following a suit by the Arab-American Civil Rights League. The nonprofit argued in US district court that the president’s executive action is unconstitutional and targets immigrant communities.

A restraining order released on Friday from Judge Victoria Roberts covers legal permanent residents, not some others that also are part of the lawsuit. She said lawyers for the government clarified to her that the ban did not apply to “lawful” permanent residents.

Roberts issued the order on Thursday in response to a motion filed with the US district court for the eastern district of Michigan seeking a permanent injunction “that prohibits the denial of entry into the United States of legal permanent residents and those with valid immigrant visas” under Trump’s 27 January order.

Green card holders were initially covered by the travel ban, but on Sunday the homeland security secretary, John Kelly, released a statement saying that they were not subject to the restrictions.

Justice department lawyers across the US were on Friday defending Trump’s order temporarily banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the country, a directive some attorney generals say is unconstitutional.

Federal judges in Boston, Seattle and Virginia are weighing lawsuits filed by different states and advocacy groups challenging Trump’s order. In Seattle, the states of Washington and Minnesota are together asking a judge to suspend the entire policy nationwide, which would represent the broadest ruling to date against Trump’s directive.

Should the judge rule that Washington and Minnesota have legal standing to sue, it could help Democratic attorney generals take on Trump in court on issues beyond immigration.

In a filing late on Thursday, justice department lawyers argued that Trump was well within his authority to issue the immigration restrictions.

Also on Thursday, fifty American Civil Liberties Union chapters filed Freedom of Information Act (Foia) requests for details on how US Customs and Border Protection implemented Trump’s order after federal courts issued orders instructing the government to stop carrying out the administration’s plan.

Massachusetts, anti-poverty group Oxfam and seven Iranian nationals will ask a Boston judge to extend an order issued on Sunday barring the detention or removal of approved refugees, visa holders and permanent US residents who entered from the seven countries.

Analysis Is this a Muslim ban? Trump's executive order explained

The immediate consequences have been dire for many, including valid visa holders and legal residents, and lawsuits have already begun – but the order’s vagueness leaves much up in the air

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“If an executive order looks like a Muslim ban, acts like a Muslim ban, and has been talked about as a Muslim ban, then it’s probably a Muslim ban,” the plaintiffs said in a court filing.

During his campaign, Trump discussed the idea of banning Muslims from entering the country to protect against terrorist threats, and on Thursday he defended the restrictions as necessary to protect religious liberty.

“There are those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence, or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle – not right,” he told a Washington prayer breakfast.

In addition to blocking people from the seven countries from entering the US, Trump’s executive order also barred resettlement of refugees for 120 days and indefinitely banned Syrian refugees. In an interview with a Christian broadcaster, Trump said an exception would be made for Christian refugees from Syria.

Judge Leonie Brinkema, who presided over the Virginia case, issued a tough critique of the order’s rollout in court on Friday, according to Buzzfeed.

Brinkema said it was “a real problem” for the US government to vet and approve people for travel in the US and then revoke their right to travel without evidence to show why they should not be allowed in the country. “It has obviously thrown hundreds of thousands of people into states of discomfort,” she said.

That includes lawful permanent residents, some of whom were turned away at the border immediately after the ban was implemented.

The federal judge’s order in Detroit clarified that the travel ban does not apply to lawful permanent residents, including people with green cards.

White House officials had not made it clear to government agencies whether the ban applied to green card holders and permanent residents, leading to confusion across every branch of government and in airports across the globe.

The Detroit order was made in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of four plaintiffs who are US permanent residents.

Three other plaintiffs in the case are seeking additional relief not covered by Judge Roberts’s order. Those plaintiffs are a US citizen whose nine-year-old son was denied entry into the US, an immigrant with a visa to enter the US and the Arab American Civil Rights League, a Dearborn, Michigan-based nonprofit which filed the suit on Tuesday.