Federal officials said Friday that tens of thousands of travel visas have been canceled by the U.S. Government in the week since President Trump signed a controversial immigration order that limited refugee admissions and visitors from seven specific countries, as the White House again dismissed criticism of the plan, arguing it is central to protecting the U.S. from terrorist attack.
The State Department told reporters that fewer than 60,000 visas were canceled, while a Justice Department lawyer in a federal courtroom told a judge that about 100,000 visas had been revoked.
At the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not have a firm figure to offer, but strongly defended the goal of the Trump Administration.
“I will be very clear that this President’s commitment to rooting out radical Islamic terrorism is something that is at the forefront of his agenda,” Spicer said at the White House.
Earlier in the week, the White House had argued that only 109 people had been slowed down by the immigration order, but that number seems to be much larger.
Mr. Trump’s order bans travel to the United States for people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.
In a federal court in Virginia, Judge Leonie Brinkema extended her temporary order from a week ago, which prohibited federal immigration officials from deporting any lawful permanent residents arriving at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C.
Judge Brinkema also ordered the Trump Administration to give the state of Virginia the names of those who had a lawful reason to be there – but were “denied entry or removed” because of the President’s immigration order.
Meanwhile, the White House has quietly tweaked the contents of that original Executive Order, making clear that “Lawful Permanent Residents” – those who hold Green Cards – should not be subjected to additional screening upon arrival.
A federal judge in Michigan on Friday moved to put some additional legal weight behind that change, telling the Trump Administration that Green Card holders cannot be deported under the Trump plan.