WASHINGTON (AFP) - Arrivals in the United States from the six mostly Muslim countries in President Donald Trump's travel ban have plunged despite a legal freeze on the ban's implementation.
Government data received on Thursday (June 8) showed that arrivals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen were down by nearly half in March and April from a year ago - 6,372 for the two months compared to 12,100 in 2016.
Arrivals were little changed in the first month after the rollout of the original Jan 27 travel ban, which also included Iraq.
That ban was quickly blocked in a legal challenge by immigration rights advocates that was supported on appeal. The courts ruled that in its focus on Muslim-majority countries, the Trump administration was violating the Constitution's ban on religious discrimination.
At the time, however, many in those countries with legal US travel documents rushed to travel or return to the US in fear that a revised ban would pass the courts and they would be locked out.
The result was 4,277 arrivals from the six countries in February, slightly slower than a year before, according to the Customs and Border Patrol data. Iraq data was not immediately available.
On March 6, a new version of the travel ban was announced, with Iraq removed. Again implementation was blocked by two court orders, which the Trump administration last week said it will appeal to the Supreme Court.
But in the meantime visa processing in the six countries has slowed and arrivals have fallen sharply: 3,462 in March and just 2,910 in April, mostly from Iran and Syria.