WASHINGTON (AFP, BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON POST) - The United States revoked 60,000 travel visas after President Donald Trump ordered a ban on visitors from seven mainly-Muslim countries, the State Department said Friday (Feb 3).
"Fewer than 60,000 individuals' visas were provisionally revoked to comply with the Executive Order," said Will Cocks, spokesman for the department's bureau of consular affairs. "We recognize that those individuals are temporarily inconvenienced while we conduct our review under the Executive Order," he said. "To put that number in context, we issued over 11 million immigrant and non-immigrant visas in fiscal year 2015," he said, insisting national security remains "top priority."
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 its residents and visitors. US District Judge Leonie Brinkema also extended to Feb. 10 a temporary restraining order barring the federal government from enforcing the president's ban.
Reuveni from the Justice Department's Office of Immigration Litigation, could not say how many people with visas were sent back to their home countries from Dulles International Airport in response to the travel ban.
However, he did say that all people with green cards who came through the airport have been let into the United States.
A week ago, Trump issued an executive order halting arrivals for at least 90 days for the citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
All refugee arrivals from around the world were also halted, in this case for 120 days.
During the 90 day period, the US administration will review visa procedures with a view to introducing what Trump has called "extreme vetting" to weed out extremists.
US officials have denied the ban amounts to an anti-Muslim measure, despite the order saying "religious minorities" in the mainly-Muslim countries will get priority treatment.
Trump said the move is needed to tighten US security against foreign terror threats, citing the September 11, 2001 attacks despite the hijackers having no links to the named countries.
In the days after the move, dozens of visitors with valid visas and many with "Green Card" residency permits were detained on arrival at airports and many were sent back.
The White House has said 109 people were held for questioning upon arrival under Trump's executive order. US media have cited homeland security officials as saying many hundreds were denied boarding to the US as the ban was rolled out.