More than 100,000 visas have been revoked as a result of US president Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, according to a lawyer for the US government who was in federal court in Virginia today (Feb. 3) for a hearing about whether the state of Virginia could join a lawsuit challenging the travel ban. (The judge ruled it could.)
But not long after the figure from the US Department of Justice lawyer began circulating in news reports, it was disputed by another federal agency. The confusion is emblematic of the shortage of coordination on the order itself, which closed America’s borders to all refugees, and to travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
.@statedept says visas revoked by immigration EO is <60k, NOT >100k as DoJ lawyer told court. DoJ didn't cull diplomatic and expired visas.— Matt Lee (@APDiploWriter) February 3, 2017
A spokesman in the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs tells Quartz via email that “[f]ewer than 60,000 individuals’ visas were provisionally revoked to comply with the Executive Order. We recognize 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 non-immigrant visas in fiscal year 2015. As always, national security is our top priority when issuing visas.”
The rollout of the travel ban has been chaotic, with people stuck at airports across the country and overseas as the order was challenged in federal courts—and as the administration went back and forth on whether the ban would extend to legal permanent US residents and dual nationals. Exceptions have been carved out for those two categories of travelers, but as The New York Times reported, the revoked visas mean that citizens of those seven countries who already are within the US could not leave the country and come back in.
The hearing in Virginia was to determine whether the state could join a lawsuit against the Trump administration in the case of two Yemeni brothers who were turned back at Dulles International Airport, which serves Washington DC, instead of reuniting with their father, a US citizen. The judge, who ruled that Virginia could join the case, criticized the executive order:
Judge on Trump order: "This order...issued quite quickly. It was not clear at all that thought was put into it as should be. It was chaos."— justin jouvenal (@jjouvenal) February 3, 2017