The State Department and Department of Homeland Security have cleared the way for 872 refugees to enter the United States this week, despite President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees from any country from coming to America, internal DHS documents obtained by Reuters reveal.
According to the documents, the State Department and DHS granted the waivers because the refugees were “considered in transit” and were already cleared to travel to the U.S. at the time Trump signed his executive order last Friday.
In addition, the documents revealed that the refugees were screened under procedures used by the Obama administration, which the Trump administration has said were not “adequate.” The Obama administration vetting procedures for refugees typically took 18-24 months of screening, and included security checks, medical checks, record checks, several interviews and was generally regarded as a tough process.
The waivers come amid a wave of protests over the weekend as the effects of Trump’s executive order, which also blocks visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the U.S. for 90 days, were immediately felt early Saturday when refugees were being detained at U.S. ports of entry.
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The internal DHS document said that between late Friday and early Monday 348 visa holders were prevented from boarding U.S.-bound flights. In addition, more than 200 people landed in the United States but were denied entry, the document showed.
More than 735 people were pulled aside for questioning by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in airports, including 394 legal permanent U.S. residents holding green cards, over the same time period.
According to the DHS documents, people from the list of seven Muslim-majority "countries of concern" — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya — could also be granted a waiver and allowed into the U.S. on a case-by-case basis.
Controversy surrounding the executive order heated up again late Monday when acting Attorney General Sally Yates, an appointee of former President Barack Obama who was holding the position until Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) could be confirmed by the Senate, instructed Justice Department lawyers to not defend Trump's executive order, saying that it violated the Constitution.
Within hours, Yates was fired by the Trump administration and replaced with Dana Boente, who said he would defend Trump's executive action.