Around 100 visa waivers granted in early part of Trump travel ban

Around 100 visa waivers granted in early part of Trump travel ban
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

About 100 waivers were granted after thousands of people applying for U.S. visas from countries included in President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE's most recent travel ban between Dec. 8 and Jan. 8.

Reuters reported Tuesday that only 128 out of more than 8,400 applicants from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Venezuela qualified for visas because they met standards for exemption from the ban.

The numbers were disclosed in a letter sent to Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenHillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Democrats raise privacy concerns over Amazon home security system Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE (D-Md.), a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

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Under the travel ban, applicants who do not qualify for exemptions can apply for waivers in certain circumstances. For example, a waiver might be granted if an applicant is in need of urgent medical care in the U.S.

As of Feb. 15, only two applicants from the thousands that applied between Dec. 8 and Jan. 8 were granted waivers, according to data included in the letter. Since then, more than 100 more waivers were granted, the State Department told Reuters, though it's not clear how many went to applicants from the initial month.

Still, out of the 8,406 people to apply for visas in the month after the implementation of the travel ban, 1,723 were rejected for reasons other than the ban itself, according to the letter.

"The Trump administration claims that the waiver system can be used by people who pose no threat to our country. ... But these facts show that system is a farce designed to hide President Trump's true purpose," Van Hollen said in a statement to Reuters.

Trump has repeatedly sought to ban travel to the U.S. from certain countries, most of them with predominantly Muslim residents. Courts rejected the first two iterations of the travel ban, and the Supreme Court is expected to weigh in on the third later this year.

The Trump administration has argued that the travel ban is necessary to safeguard national security and prevent terrorists from entering the country. Critics, however, argue that the ban discriminates against Muslims.