Feb 02, 2017
The Trump travel ban could have far wider effects than previously understood for foreigners who waited years as State Department officials reviewed their immigrant visa applications. The new policy, disclosed yesterday, means that immigrants hoping to join their families in the United States from the affected countries may have to start the lengthy process all over again.
While the president's order suspended the entry of all citizens from seven Muslim majority countries for 90 days, the State Department letter appeared to go much further, taking away visas rather than delaying their use.
"I hereby provisionally revoke all valid nonimmigrant and immigrant visas of nationals of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen," states the letter, which was signed by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Edward Ramotowski.
It's not clear how many people are affected. In addition to immigrants, students as well as workers in the U.S. with long-term visas may also be impacted by the policy. If they travel and their visas have not been reinstated after the ban, they would have to apply again to come back.
Immigration lawyers interviewed by ProPublica were shocked by the letter.
"It's very, very unusual to do a blanket revocation of everyone's visa," said Susan Cohen, an immigration attorney at Mintz Levin in Boston. "The thing that's particularly distressing about this letter is that it doesn't mirror the executive order."
Zachary Nightingale, a San Francisco immigration lawyer said: "If all visas are cancelled then in the future everyone who had one will have to reapply. This is different than 'no one can enter for 90 days.'"
Lawyers around the country are scrambling to get clarification. The confusion centers on what the letter means by the phrase "provisionally revoke."
"Will visas automatically be reinstated? Or do you have to go back to the embassy and re-apply?" asks Denyse Sabagh, the head of the immigration practice at Duane Morris in Washington.
It is not a minor detail. In one case ProPublica reported last week, it took over five years for a young Yemeni girl with U.S. citizen parents to secure an immigrant visa.
The State Department declined our requests to clarify what "provisionally revoke" means. Instead, a spokesperson offered the following statement:
"At the request of the Department of Homeland Security, and in compliance with the President's Executive Order, the Department of State provisionally revoked relevant visas as defined under the EO. Those visas are not valid for travel to the U.S. while the Executive Order is in place."
Marcelo Rochabrun contributed reporting to this story.
We're optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.
We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter counts.
Your contribution supports this new media model—free, independent, and dedicated to uncovering the truth. Stand with us in the fight for social justice, human rights, and equality. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!
Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.