The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Friday clarified the classes of aliens affected by the 90-day temporary pause on travel, with case-by-base exceptions and waivers, as outlined in the President’s Executive Order, "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States," which was reported on in-depth by Homeland Security Today.
DHS said, “To ensure that the US government can conduct a thorough analysis of the national security risks faced by our immigration system, the Executive Order imposes a 90-day pause on the entry into the United States of nationals from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. This pause does not apply to Lawful Permanent Residents, dual citizens with passports from a country other than the seven listed or those traveling on diplomatic, NATO or UN visas. Special Immigrant Visa holders who are nationals of these seven countries may board US-bound planes and apply for and receive a national interest exception to the pause upon arrival.”
“Importantly,” DHS stated, “these seven countries are the only countries to which the pause on entry applies. No other countries face such treatment. Nor have any other countries been identified as warranting future inclusion at this time, contrary to false reports.”
Disturbingly, during a Virginia court hearing for a lawsuit filed by Yemeni brothers Ammar Aqel Mohammed Aziz and Tareq Aqel Mohammed Aziz, lawful permanent US residents put on a return flight to Ethiopia upon landing at Dulles International Airport when Trump’s Executive Order took effect, a Department of Justice attorney said more than 100,000 visas had been revoked from travelers to the United States since the order was signed. These were individuals with visas from the countries covered by the Executive Order.
The State Department said the number of cancelled visas was actually less than 60,000 and that the Justice Department’s number included diplomatic and other visas exempt from the Executive Order as well as expired visas.
US counterterrorism officials told Homeland Security Today on background that these numbers of people from the countries covered by Trump’s order "could not have been thoroughly vetted, and just shows the importance of [Trump’s] order putting a hold on allowing these people into the US until we have a proper vetting process in place, which the order calls for," as one said.
As former National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States counsel Janice Kephart told Homeland Security Today in 2015, "When you know that 4,000 Italian passport books have disappeared and start turning up with Syrian names and contact information and watch listed, you know there are probably thousands of other passport books out there that have beenlost and stolen and not reported. And it is those that can get through immigration so easily.”
Homeland Security Today earlier reported DHS officials had told Congress that the alarming number of countries that report very little — and in some cases no — lost and stolen passport data to INTERPOL for inclusion in the Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database is “disturbing.”
Kephart said, “INTERPOL has done great work with their SLTD database, but document information requires constant upkeep and more cooperation than they are receiving. Thus, it is inconceivable that a database with other biographic information can solve the problem of the commitment of ISIS to fake identities and fake travel documents.”
Western counterterrorism officials are also "very concerned" about the ability of ISIS and Iran’s capabilities to produce sophisticated passports and other identity documents.
As directed by the Executive Order, DHS continued by stating it “is working with the Department of State and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to conduct a country-by-country review of the information provided by countries in order for their nationals to apply for myriad visas, immigration benefits or otherwise seek admission into the United States. This review is needed to ensure that individuals seeking to enter the US are who they claim to be and do not pose a security or public-safety threat,” which was explicitly spelled out in the Executive Order, which proponents say has been improperly represented by its critics.
DHS said, “The results of this review will be provided to the President within 30 days of the Executive Order’s signing,” as the orderrequires, and that, “This review, conducted in consultation with our interagency partners, will determine which countries do not provide adequate information on their nationals seeking immigration benefits or admission into the United States. Principally, the goal is to ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward the United States and its founding principles.”
Based on that report, spelled out in the President’s Executive Order, “the State Department will ask any foreign governments who were determined to not be supplying adequate information on their nationals to begin providing such information within 60 days,” DHS said.
“In order to protect Americans, and to advance the national interest, the United States must ensure that we have adequate information about individuals seeking to enter this country to ensure that they do not bear malicious intent toward the United States and its people,” DHS stated.
Earlier, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said the order is designed “to address our inadequate immigration vetting procedures. To ensure American safety, the President imposed a temporary travel ban on 7 countries known for training, harboring and export terrorism. One of the major projects being undertaken is improving the vetting process for those entering the United States. This travel ban is not about religion – this is about keeping our country safe.”
CBP explained, “There are over 40 majority Muslim countries worldwide that are not affected by this order. The White House will again be issuing visas to all countries once the administration has reviewed and implemented the more secure policies over the next 90 days,” as the Executive Order requires.
CBP further explained that, “As we worked to implement this Executive Order, a number of court orders were issued based on lawsuits filed in the wake of the order. Upon issuance of the court orders, CBP immediately began taking steps to comply with the orders and did so with professionalism.”
“Concurrently,” CBP said, “the Department of Homeland Security continues to work with our partners in the Departments of Justice and State to implement President Trump’s Executive Order to protect the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States,” adding, “We are committed to ensuring that all individuals affected by the Executive Orders, including those affected by the court orders, are being provided all rights afforded under the law. We are also working closely with airline partners to prevent travelers who would not be granted entry under the Executive Orders from boarding international flights to the United States.”
“In applying the provisions of the President’s Executive Order, the entry of lawful permanent residents is in the national interest. Accordingly, absent significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations,” CBP said, noting, “We are and will continue enforcing President Trump’s Executive Order humanely and with professionalism. We are and will remain in compliance with judicial orders. DHS will continue to protect the homeland.”
Individuals who may be affected by he Executive Order may visit the CBP INFO Center website for additional information. On the webpage, travelers may also request additional guidance by clicking on the “Email us your Question” button. CBP said.
CBP noted that Executive Order Actions taken in accordance with Trump’s Executive Order as of 30, 2017, were 721 persons were recommended denial of boarding; 1,059 were given Legal Permanent Resident waivers; and 75 Visa holders were granted waivers.