Trump policy has revoked up to 100,000 US visas, court hears

Judge in case involving two Yemini men says US president’s ban is causing chaos

A lawyer for the US government told a federal court in Virginia on Friday that more than 100,000 visas had been revoked as part of President Donald Trump’s policy halting travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, a move a judge said was causing chaos.

While protesters have focused on the executive order stopping foreigners from entering the country, a US State Department memo that was not initially released publicly went much further, cancelling, at least temporarily, almost all visas from the seven countries. The New York Times reported on Thursday that tens of thousands of these visas, for foreigners inside and outside the US, had been revoked without any notice to the visa holders. Had any of them left the US, they would have most likely lost the ability to return.

The 100,000 figure cited in court on Friday represented the first time the government had quantified the number of revoked visas. After the hearing, however, a State Department official provided a lower number, saying it was “fewer than 60,000.”

“To put that number in context, we issued over 11 million immigrant and nonimmigrant visas in fiscal year 2015,” said the official, William Cocks, a spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department. “As always, national security is our top priority when issuing visas.”


In either case, the figures demonstrated how many more people were affected than just those detained or deported amid the confusion at US airports over the weekend. “You could hear the gasps in the courtroom when he said that,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, legal director of an immigrant advocacy centre.

He is a lawyer for two Yemeni brothers who said they had been coerced into signing away their rights to enter the country while in custody at Dulles airport outside Washington.

‘Turned upside down’

"It's more than 100,000 lives turned upside down," Mr Sandoval-Moshenberg said. "For every person not being allowed into the United States right now, there are family members and other people affected by that."

The judge in the case, Leonie M Brinkema, described the Trump administration’s handling of the executive order as causing chaos, the lawyer said. The administration has been criticised for issuing its order without any warning to refugees and visa holders who were on their way to the US. Some arrived at airports for flights and were turned away.

“This order touched something in the US that I’ve never seen before,” Mr Brinkema said, according to the Associated Press. “People are quite upset.”

The order banned immigration for 90 days from seven majority-Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It suspended the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely and all other refugees for 120 days. Mr Trump said the pause was needed so the government could evaluate its vetting procedures to protect against terrorism.

– New York Times service