US government denies 100,000 visas revoked over travel ban

The 100,000 figure was revealed by a US government attorney during an immigration hearing in Washington on Friday

US government denies 100,000 visas revoked over travel ban

Demonstrators gather to protest President Donald Trump's immigration order, 02-Feb-2017. Image: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Updated 19:30

The US State Department has moved to deny reports that more 100,000 US visas have been revoked in the week since Donald Trump signed an executive order banning citizens of certain countries from entering the US. 

The Washington Post reported that the figure was revealed by a US government attorney during a hearing for two Yemeni brothers who were turned back from Dulles International Airport in Washington DC last Saturday. 

The brothers allege they were coerced into giving up their legal resident visas and put on a return flight to Ethiopia.

Attorney, Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg - who is representing the brothers - told the newspaper the “number 100,000 sucked the air out of my lungs” after it was revealed by the US government lawyer on Friday. 

However, the US State Department has release a statement this evening insisting the number is actually fewer than 60,000.

The Department said the higher figure quoted by the government attorney included diplomatic and other visas that were exempt from the ban.

Trump travel ban

US President Donald Trump signed the executive order - placing a 90-day ban on citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the US - on Friday 27th January.

The countries affected by the ban are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The order also suspends the entire US Refugee Admissions Programme for 120 days and bans Syrian refugees indefinitely. 

Meanwhile in a separate case, a federal judge in Detroit has reportedly ruled that US green card holders should not be affected by the ban - following a suit by the Arab-American Civil Rights League.

Green card holders were initially included in the ban, however the Department of Homeland Security secretary, John Kelly, announced last Sunday that they were not subject to the restrictions.

White House Visit

Meanwhile the Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the EU is committed to doing business with the US administration and has re-affirmed his commitment to visiting the White House on St Patrick's Day.

Speaking at the European Summit in Malta, Mr Kenny said he will consider whether to invite President Trump to Ireland when he arrives in Washington in March.

He said the US President's regular use of Twitter as a mode of communication was "unusual to put it mildly" but added that his latest orders are in line with what he said during his election campaign.

"He is issuing executive orders on the basis of things that he did say as a candidate that he would implement when he became president," he said.

"Clearly they were all arranged and planned as part of a strategy."

Legal challenges

President Trump has claimed the ban is intended to protect Americans from terrorism, however the order has been greeted with outrage worldwide.

A number of high-profile American lawmakers have labeled the order unconstitutional and federal judges in Boston, Seattle and Virginia are considering lawsuits challenging it.

Should the Seattle action prove successful the judge will be asked to suspend the entire policy nationwide.

In a filing late on Thursday evening, US Justice Department lawyers said President Trump was well within his authority to issue the immigration restrictions.