About 60,000 people from seven majority Muslim countries have had their U.S. visas yanked away under President Trump’s travel ban, the State Department admitted Friday.
Officials revealed the figure after a government lawyer cited the number of revoked visas as more than 100,000 at a hearing in court.
The State Department said the disparity was a result of the higher figure including expired visas, as well as diplomatic and other visas that were actually exempted by the travel ban imposed on Jan. 27.
The government lawyer revealed the higher number during a hearing in a Virginia federal court related to a lawsuit filed by lawyers for two Yemeni brothers.
The siblings were put on a flight to Ethiopia after arriving to Dulles International Airport on Saturday.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled that Virginia could join a lawsuit challenging Trump’s ban on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
“This order touched something in the U.S. that I’ve never seen before,” said Brinkema, who presided over the case of Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
Officials revealed the figure after a government lawyer cited the number of revoked visas as more than 100,000.
“People are quite upset.”
Before the State Department clarified the figure, several human rights groups fired off statements repeating their pleas for Congress to intervene.
“President Trump’s cruel and unlawful Muslim ban is causing widespread harm, and that’s why there’s a growing public backlash against it,” said Eric Ferrefo, spokesman for Amnesty International USA.
“Congress must step in immediately to block this ban before it tears even more families apart.”
The judge also ruled that the federal government — which had not previously released information on the amount of people affected — must provide the state of Virginia a complete list of all of the state’s residents who were denied entry to the country or forced to leave because of the ban.
The Department of Homeland Security, in the meantime, tried to “clarify” the extent of the ban on Friday evening after a chaotic first week of implementation.
The DHS put out a statement explicitly saying that the temporary ban on travel from the seven targeted countries does not include lawful permanent residents and diplomats, and that special immigrant visa holders like the Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who had been initially barred from the country can still board flights to the U.S. and receive exemptions from the ban upon arrival.
Will Cocks, a spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, said “fewer than 60,000 individuals’ visas were provisionally revoked to comply with the executive order.”
He said while those people have been “temporarily inconvenienced, while we conduct our review,” it’s a statistically small number of visitors.
“To put that number in context, we issued over 11 million immigrant and nonimmigrant visas in fiscal year 2015,” he said. “As always, national security is our top priority when issuing visas.”
Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said after the hearing that “there is no legal justification to cancel all these visas.”
With News Wire Services