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Immigration

Nearly 60,000 visas revoked since Trump's immigration order

Protesters rally against President Trump's new travel restrictions on Sunday, January 29 at Los Angeles International Airport. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Protesters rally against President Trump's new travel restrictions on Sunday, January 29 at Los Angeles International Airport. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Nearly 60,000 visas were revoked after President Trump's executive order to suspend refugee resettlements and other admissions from seven predominantly Muslim countries, a government lawyer said in a Virginia federal court Friday.

The revelation came during a hearing on a lawsuit filed against the President's order last week by visa holders prevented from entering the U.S. The suit includes two Yemeni brothers who said they landed at Dulles International Airport but were forced to give up their visas and were put on a flight to Ethiopia.

At the hearing, a Department of Justice lawyer said 100,000 visas were canceled. Afterward, the State Department said number of revoked visas is less than 60,000. That figure doesn't count expired visas or diplomatic visas that are exempt from the President's order. The lower number makes up less than 1 percent of the visas the U.S. issues each year, and the number denied entry into the country since the executive order last week is substantially lower.

"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," said Will Cocks, spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department.

The statements Friday were the first time the government has given detailed counts of canceled visas.

When asked about the visas at a Friday press briefing, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said he didn't "have all the details" and would get back to reporters. A journalist had asked Spicer if the revocations included visas of people already in the U.S. and if the government would "begin finding them and trying to deport them."

At the court hearing in Alexandria, Va., Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said she would allow the state of Virginia to join the court case. That means the legal proceedings could continue even if the situation with the two brothers named in the case, Tareq and Ammar Aqel Mohammed Aziz, ages 21 and 19, and others similarly impacted by the immigration suspension is resolved.

The judge described the outcome of the president's immigration order, where even those with visas or green cards were sometimes detained, sent home or not allowed to board flights to the U.S.--while protests raged outside many international U.S. airports--as "chaos."

She also said it was a "real problem" that people who had been given permission to enter the U.S. were not allowed in.

“This order touched something in the U.S. that I’ve never seen before,” Brinkema said. “People are quite upset.”

The next hearing on the case is scheduled on Feb. 10 at the Federal District Court in Alexandria.

Tracy Wilkinson contributed reporting.

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