The Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday it will allow 872 refugees to enter the country after they were initially barred from flying to the U.S. under President Trump’s executive order on immigration.
Homeland Security began detaining immigrants arriving at U.S. airports immediately after Trump signed his order Friday evening. The order temporarily suspended the U.S. refugee program and barred entry to most people coming from seven majority Muslim countries — Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen.
By Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it was detaining 109 people affected by the ban. DHS officials say all those people were cleared — either allowed to enter the country or returned to their home countries — by Sunday night. But civil rights groups and immigration advocates say people remained in custody at U.S. airports through Monday.
On Tuesday, Kevin McAleenan, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), said more than 500,000 foreigners flew into the country in the 72 hours following Trump’s order. He said CBP agents granted waivers to 1,060 green card holders from the countries affected by Trump’s order, allowing them to enter the country after additional screening.
McAleenan said 75 waivers were granted to other visa holders, including people who had special visas intended for translators who have worked with the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he said 721 travelers were stopped from boarding planes in foreign countries headed for the U.S.
McAleenan said some of those people were prevented from boarding U.S.-bound flights because airlines "over-interpreted" CBP orders. He and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly insisted the department was allowed to review drafts of Trump's order ahead of time and were prepared to immediately issue new guidance to its port officers once it was signed.
Kelly denied reports of "chaos" at U.S. airports, arguing that things were running smoothly inside the international inspection areas even as immigrants were detained and thousands of people protested at terminals around the country.
"Our officers who were at the counters … the only chaos they saw was what was taking part at other parts of the airports," Kelly said. "They knew what they were doing."
Kelly said they will continue implementing Trump’s order, but stressed that they are abiding by emergency rulings issued by federal judges over the weekend. “We are and will continue to be in compliance with judicial orders,” Kelly said.
He added that the executive order "is not a ban on Muslims."