Donald Trump

US State Department: Some 60,000 visas cancelled by Trump order

Justice Department lawyer says 100,000 visas were revoked

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 February, 2017, 4:57am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 February, 2017, 4:57am

Up to 60,000 foreigners from seven majority-Muslim countries had their visas cancelled after President Donald Trump’s executive order blocked them from travelling to the US, the State Department said Friday.

That figure contradicts a Justice Department lawyer’s statement Friday during a court hearing in Virginia about the ban. The lawyer in that case said that about 100,000 visas had been revoked.

The State Department clarified that the higher figure includes diplomatic and other visas that were actually exempted from the travel ban, as well as expired visas.

Trump’s order, issued last Friday, temporarily bans travel for people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. It also temporarily halts the US refugee programme.

The hearing was focused on Virginia’s efforts to join a legal challenge from legal permanent residents. Erez Reuveni, a lawyer with the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation, urged US District Judge Leonie Brinkema to keep the lawsuit focused only on lawful permanent residents, who were the subject of the initial lawsuit. Virginia sought to intervene in the case, and expand the case to include other people travelling to the US on visas.

Brinkema asked Reuveni how many people were affected by the executive order. He said the number of cases involving lawful permanent residents is a very small. But including all visas covered by the order, he said, “over 100,000 visas have been revoked.” He did not provide details.

Will Cocks, a spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, clarified the figure after the court hearing.

“Fewer than 60,000 individuals’ visas were provisionally revoked to comply with the executive order,” Cocks said. “We recognise that those individuals are temporarily inconvenienced while we conduct our review under the executive order. To put that number in context, we issued over 11 million immigrant and nonimmigrant visas in fiscal year 2015. 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.”

Separately, a Trump administration aide corrected herself on Friday after being widely criticised for referencing a 2011 “Bowling Green massacre” in Kentucky that never occurred to defend the temporary ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Thursday that Trump’s executive order was justified in part by the “Bowling Green massacre” of 2011. She added, “Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

During the interview Conway told how two Iraqis who came to the United States were radicalised and “were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre.” No such event occurred.

Conway corrected herself on Friday in a post on Twitter, saying, “Honest mistakes abound.”

The phrase “Bowling Green massacre” was the top trending topic on Twitter on Friday morning as thousands of social media users mocked Conway.

In May 2011, two Iraqi men were arrested in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and charged with attempting to send weapons and money to al Qaeda in Iraq. They admitted to using improvised explosive devices against US soldiers in Iraq.